I remember exactly where I was when the fires in Alberta happened. I was at work and since I work...

I remember exactly where I was when the fires in Alberta happened. I was at work and since I work for TD Bank as a collections officer, I knew this would be bad for business. Although I felt bad for the victims of the fire and I tried to help raise money, I knew that there be thousands of people who would fall past due on their credit card payments and there would be nothing I could do to help them. That being said, reading the graphic story "The Beast" by Dr. Patrick McCurdy brought back a lot of the memories from that time.


For starters, the novel features two main characters, Callum and Mary, who are both environmental photographers, although one is looking for work with an NGO and the other works for an advertising company.​​Throughout the novel, we can see how Callum, the NGO worker, attends various protests campaigning against oil companies but does not have a stable job. This is the first instance where we can see where Calum's moral compass is focused because as the book reveals, he spends all his time trying to do better for the environment, going as far as accepting non-paid jobs taking photographs for NGOs even though he knows he isn't able to pay his bills. This is what brings us to the next character, Mary, who works for an advertising company that highlights the "good" that oil companies do. Mary is a black, LGBTQ+ member who does quite well for herself and this is made evident due to the fact that in the novel, Mary has been covering Callum's portion of the rent for at least 3 months. Additionally, when they go out for drinks or dinner, it is Mary that usually ends up picking the tab even after ordering various rounds.

One of the climaxes in the novel is when Mary is hired for a job where she is asked to photograph oil company workers having a "good time". What the readers can see is that the workers are positioned and placed in locations that seem clean and easy to work in, then told to smile and converse with one another. Essentially, Mary's job consists of framing different people and situations in order to make oil companies appear better than they really are. Callum sees this and questions Mary's moral compass as well as her appreciation of the environment which he claims is not genuine. Mary takes offence to these comments and responds that she needs to make a living especially since that Callum, who does really care about the environment, is unemployed and owes her around $3500 in past due rent. The two make amends but when Mary returns to work, her manager asks her to shoot and film the oil company again yet this time, with a freelancer. The first person who Mary asks is Callum and the two head out to take care of the shoot however, upon returning, Callum shows Mary a video that he took at the site where he has one of the oil company workers state how working there has really affected his health, how a bunch of them got laid off, and how the companies make them pretend to be happy for the cameras. Mary realizes how detrimental this footage could be to her job and she pleads with Callum to not post it anywhere or show anyone to which he reluctantly agrees. 


After a couple fillers, the novel shows Callum and Mary watching the news cover the fires that happened in Fort MacMurray. Mary states, "fuck, this going to be so bad for the business" and by the expression on Callum's face, it appears he doesn't seem to take the comment very well. Following this, he ends up publicizing the video of the worker which results in Mary losing her job however, Mary forgives Callum and ends up moving to Alberta with him to help victims of the fire. In my eyes, this is where Mary finds her moral compass because although she had a great paying job working with the advertising company, she still made amends with Callum and ended up dropping everything to go with him to Alberta. Now, if this novel aimed to shed light on people's disregard towards the environment and on the moralities surrounding capitalism and the environment, to be quite frank, I felt slightly annoyed. 

The author portrayed Callum as a very annoying, "tree-hugging", environmental enthusiast and although there is absolutely nothing wrong with being green, the fact that he made his best friend, who was extremely supportive, lose her job was not okay. Although many people agree that capitalism is ruining our society and our Earth, this doesn't change the fact that it is still very much so implemented into our lives. In fact, during one scene, Mary calls out Callum's friend for being so anti-oil yet having a phone, clothes, and shoes made out of it and he states, "we all have to live in the system. Doesn't mean we should whore ourselves out to it". I felt as though this comment could also apply to Mary because she found a well-paying job in an advertising company which she seemed to enjoy and although it may have not been morally in favour of the environment, it still paid her bills and allowed her to live life stress-free. It appeared that there was a lot of privilege coming into play with Callum being a white male who, even though he didn't work or really do anything, could still take advantage off Mary, a Black member of the LGBT+ community.


That said, the graphic novel was still very entertaining and worth the read. Although I found Callum's character to be quite annoying and I saw myself more in Mary's character, I do think anyone who reads the novel could gain a better insight to Canada's environmental issues. Changes need to made to protect the environment and although I don't think Callum's approach was the best, sometimes taking a radical stance may be the only option, something that was seen during the era of Malcolm X.


This type of novel would probably only be able to resonate with someone whose life was affected by the fires in Alberta or someone who already really cares about the environment. I say this because from what I recall, I was still required to call people who were thousands of dollars in debt in order to ask them to make a minimum payment knowing very well that they had lost their whole life in those fires.