Nature comics from the archive.

The decimation of our forests, and nature in general, started entering the broader national psyche during the last quarter of the 19th century. The writings of John Muir, the establishment of the Bureau of Forestry, and the removal of federal forest land from commercial exploitation showed that there was growing concern about protecting the nation’s woodlands. The Sierra Club was founded in 1892, one of the first nonprofit environmental organizations created in response to the devastation of forests and other natural resources for the supposed benefit of the economy. Even with establishment of the National Park System and other early-20th-century forest-friendly efforts, the effectiveness of long-term land management of forests was not a given, an issue front and center on certain cartoonists’ drawing boards. Jay “Ding” Darling, a lifelong Republican, drew a number of environmental cartoons over his 40-year career that started in 1906. He continuously warned about the destruction of our natural resources, and with the support of President Franklin Roosevelt, Darling established the National Wildlife Federation in 1936. Frank King, whose “Gasoline Alley” was one of the most popular comic strips in the United States, showed his protagonist Walt Wallet taking his son Skeezix on yearly jaunts into the wild to extol both nature’s beauty and fragility, making it all too clear that once forests are gone, they are not coming back. With cataclysmic wildfires across the globe consuming hundreds of thousands of acres yearly, coupled with human deforestation occurring in the Amazon and other locations, forests are in a more precarious position than ever, something cartoonists have been warning us about for over 130 years.

Warren Bernard

Jay “Ding” Darling “Yesterday’s Paradise — Tomorrow’s Black Desolation,” Our Great Out-of-Doors (1947)

Joseph Keppler “Preserve Your Forests From Destruction, and Protect Your Country From Floods and Drought,” Puck (January 9, 1884)

Frank King, “Gasoline Alley,” Chicago Tribune (August 7, 1927)

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