Paul Goodenough is a multi-award-winning, double Emmy nominated writer and producer, and the Founder of Rewriting Extinction.
An unprecedented, global and year-long campaign, Rewriting Extinction is uniting 15 leading environmental charities with 300 celebrities, activists, experts and top comic creators. The mission is to raise funds for seven evidence-based, actionable projects that will permanently restore ecosystems across the world. We spoke to Paul to learn more about him and this ambitious global cross-charity project.
1. Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about Rewriting Extinction – what’s your mission?
At Rewriting Extinction, we’re here to save as many species from extinction as humanly possible, through the medium of comics!
2. Why have you chosen to focus on restoring ecosystems?
To be completely frank, because I couldn’t find anyone else focusing on it in a serious, joined-up and ambitious way. And someone needs to. I fully believe that humanity will sort out its carbon usage and systemic issues given time, but while we delay, hundreds of thousands of species will perish.
3. What values are at the core of your work?
- Saving species combats both the biodiversity and climate crisis.
- Educating people through storytelling, not facts.
- Simplifying the environmental charity sector under one apolitical banner.
- No judgement, no BS, just simple easy actions anyone can take.
4. What does an average day look like for you?
Honestly?! Mostly my day is emailing and zoom calls… I’ve sent 22,500 emails and over 2,000 hours on zoom cajoling, begging, pleading, and blackmailing Rewriting Extinction into existence! As you can imagine, with 300 contributors, a range of global charities and a slew of partners, there are never enough hours in the day. So mostly I wake up and go to bed in a cold sweat about all the things I want to do, but can’t.
Sporadically though, I’ll do something really cool – like today I’ve been making a new comic with Dale Vince and Joel Pett (who made the infamous Climate Summit comic back in 2009) – and there’s enough of those to keep pushing me forwards… and tomorrow I’ve got a call about a proposed series of short films, so there’s plenty to get the adrenaline pumping.
5. Tell us about a career-defining moment.
There’s been so many, especially lately. But the one that I remember with the most clarity, was the kindness of Cara Delevingne. When we were at the stage of building the campaign and the credibility needed to work on a global scale, she went out of her way to help, and unlike many others, she followed through on every promise she made.
6. How is what you’re doing inspiring change in others?
In our comics, anthology and social media we tell people exactly what they can do to help restore the planet. It’s astounding the amount of people who message us to say they’ve been moved into planting wildflowers, picking litter, changing eating habits and so much more – all directly from reading our comics – and that’s specifically because we’re using comics which appeals to a time-poor generalist audience who are turned off by science, experts and the usual environmental figureheads. It just works. We’re reaching that under 35 demographic that a lot of the charities are struggling to reach.
I was even stopped in an Apple Store in Edinburgh by people who recognised me from the project which was a rather surreal experience.
7. What is one thing you would like people to know about your area of work?
Everything I’ve done and achieved has centred around storytelling and understanding what excites and motivates people. So whether it’s my work in games, tv, film, media, charity.. it all comes back to harnessing imagination and emotions to engage people.
We hear a lot that people have had enough of experts. I don’t think that’s true. I think people have (sadly) had enough of fact based communication.
I’ll give you an example, if I tell you that billions of creatures die every day from plastic pollution, what do you think? “That’s awful”…. “How sad”… But are you actually moved?? Now read this comic by one of our collaborators, Jenny Jinya:
NOW how do you feel?
8. What is one action you want people reading this to take today to protect people and nature?
Just to not feel anxiety, or fear, or guilt. But to ask yourself what can you do to improve?
For me, being environmentally minded is like losing weight. If you compare yourself to a fitness fanatic, you’ll always feel like a failure – but if you’re doing better than you were yesterday, you’re on your way already.
9. What is your favourite medium for storytelling to inspire positive change?
Four panel comics and webcomics. They’re perfect for time-poor people and Instagram loves them. We’ve had over 100m views of our comics using this very tool.
(For example, film, photography, podcasts, books…)
Any recommendations for the Greenhouse readers?
10. Who is your role model and why?
Like most people, I have a few. But Russell T Davies is a big inspiration to me. Very few people can capture the human spectrum of emotion in such a complete and utterly beautiful way as he does. He blows me away. Other people are the author Joe Abercombie, George Monbiot, Jane Goodall and Taika Waititi… I also need to make a special note of one of the best and most beautifully kind people to have graced this planet, the documentary maker Tom Mustill. He’s just too wholesome for words
I’m super lucky that almost all of them are involved in Rewriting Extinction already – which has been a dream come true for me.
11. What’s on the horizon for you and Rewriting Extinction?
We’ve got a clothing deal with Rapanui/Teemil that I’m super excited about, we’re also in talks about a film season, a little like LOVE, DEATH and ROBOTS, and a whole tonne of live events like the BBC Climate Conference, the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, Thought Bubble and many, many more.
12. Finally, what do you do to re-energise yourself?
Remind myself what we’re fighting for… and that’s for these species who want so little, and from whom we’ve already taken so much.
No matter how tired, sad, frustrated or angry I am, that gets me back in front of my inbox again…
Want to know some more?
– See the website: Rewriting Extinction
– In the news: Comic series curated by celebrities for climate causes – BBC
– You can buy a copy of The Most Important Comic Book on Earth, the anthology of all the comics, which publishes on 28th October. All author royalties will be donated to Rewriting Extinction.