Andrew Rae Brings Our Pollutant Monster to Life for The New York Times
In the deluge of news that we all face in this era, some critical stories go underreported, not least of which is our global pollution crisis. We hear a lot about greenhouse gasses, but plastic landfills are overwhelming our ecosystems and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now twice the size of Texas (or about three times the size of France). Some scientists and engineers are on the case, but little will be done until the population calls for it, and the population must be educated. The New York Times is taking that responsibility personally, and they made plastic pollution the cover story for the latest issue of The New York Times For Kids with a massive illustration by Andrew Rae.
“Attack of the Plastic!” the cover proclaims, under Andrew’s threatening, four-armed, wide-mouthed monster made from a pile of plastic waste. The polymer kaiju is threatening enough that it’s devouring the E off the iconic title of the paper, reminding us that no one is safe or out of reach. But Andrew’s contribution didn’t end at the cover. The rest of the insert is filled with kid-friendly characters made from assorted plastic detritus. A toy frog head walks on a series of computer cables, while a rubber duck is chauffeured on a chariot made from a plastic pail and toothbrushes. A pill bottle is lashed to a ketchup bottle by a USB cord, forming a Frankenstein-esque body under a smiling (but spookily apathetic) bear’s head.
Andrew’s illustration is deeply detailed, filled with shopping bags and instruments, bottles for shampoo, and conditional, and creams. There are ice trays and lawn chairs, dolls and cassette tapes, barrels and sleds. And behind every piece of a trash is a human hand that put it there. That’s the final message from this issue of The New York Times For Kids: this is our problem that can only be solved by our solutions. Andrew shows us the Goliath, it’s now up to us to take the mantle of David and defeat the monster of our own making.