What Can One Person Do, When Billions Are Frying The Planet?

by Franke James

This visual essay was first published in 2010 as “What Can One Person Do, When 6.8 Billion Are Frying The Planet?” when I lived in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Now, eight years later we have over 7.7 billion on the planet. I moved to the West Coast to Vancouver, B.C. and I just released a song about breaking up with gasoline because the world’s aflame!). Indeed, climate change isn’t going away… the latest U.N. climate report shows civilization is at stake if we don’t act now. Each one of us needs to take action.

photo of 3 dogs being walked by Franke James
frying planet drawing by Franke James
walk and think drawing by Franke James

CO2 rising drawing by Franke James
toast drawing by Franke James
Deepak Chopra drawing by Franke James
Flip worry drawing by Franke James
Woolly Mammoth antique engraving istock
Charles Darwin illustration by Franke James
photo illustration by Franke James

african desert photo by istock, African sculpture photo by Franke James

dinosaur drawing by Franke James with photo by Greenpeace of Tar Sands

cloud type illustration by Franke Jamesphoto of flying north by Franke James
aerial photo of Newark by Franke James, 2010

Franke James drawing

Franke James drawing
Franke James drawing
mammoth superimposed on Franke James road photo
Franke James photo

Franke James photo

Franke James photo

Franke James photo

plan Franke James photo
drawing of Google logo search page by Franke James

City worries too drawing by Franke James features quote from Toronto's 'Ahead of the Storm brochure

photos of Finch Avenue in August 2005 by

Franke James photo

Franke James photo

Franke James photo

Franke James photo

Franke James photo

Franke James photo

Franke James photo

Franke James photo

millions got to work on their plan

How can YOU take action? What’s YOUR plan?

1. DOES YOUR CITY HAVE A PLAN? Use Google to find out if your region has a Mitigation and Adaptation Plan for climate change, like Toronto and New York have. (And if they don’t, then press your local politicians to develop one!)

2. MAKE YOUR OWN PLAN. Develop your own personal Mitigation and Adaptation Plan. There are many actions each of us can take to protect ourselves and our property from floods, heat waves, power shortages, water shortages… etc. See the Resources below for ideas such as this one from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction: Handbook for Reducing Basement Flooding.

3. TAP INTO ENVIRONMENTAL NETWORKS: Get the ball rolling by participating in environmental action, or financially supporting, these environmental organizations and others:






Franke James photo

on 101010

– Take action in your community to build the future you want (not the one you fear).
– Connect with like-minded people. (Twitter can help to connect you.)


Franke James merges science, art and storytelling to inspire people to take action and “do the hardest thing first” for the planet. Franke uses her skills as an artist, photographer and writer to create visual essays on environmental and social issues. She is the author of two award-winning books, Bothered By My Green Conscience and Dear Office-Politics, the game everyone plays.

What Can One Person Do, When 6.8 Billion Are Frying The Planet? © 2010 Franke James

Photographs, illustrations and writing by Franke James, MFA, except as noted below:

“Cruel Irony” illustration features: Tar sands photo by © Greenpeace
Finch Avenue on August 2005: Photos courtesy
Cover: “Ahead of the Storm” City of Toronto climate change brochure
Woolly Mammoth on Road photo-illustration by Franke James, using antique mammoth engraving © istockphotos.
Heat Island graphic by Clean Air Partnership


Franke’s Original Slideshow for 10/10/10 Event:
Download the slide presentation (Adobe Acrobat pdf):

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben

The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet by Heidi Cullen.

TUCCN: Toronto Urban Climate Change Network
Ahead of the Storm: City of Toronto highlights from climate change report
Environment Canada’s Climate Change Hazards by geographic region

Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction:
Handbook for Reducing Basement Flooding (2009)
ICLR Home Builder’s Guide (2009)

New York City Plan for Climate Change

In May 2013, Franke James published this essay, and seven others, in Banned on the Hill. Read more here and buy it below at

Buy Banned on the Hill at


Help support Franke James’ work by donating below…


595 Responses: 70 Comments and 525 Tweets

  • Jamie says:

    Great way of telling a story! And a good story it is too :)


    @BookingAuthors: Great example of action catalyst @FrankeJames at work: What Can 1 Person Do, When 6.8 Billion Are Frying The Planet?

  • Mark Gorman says:

    Thanks for sharing your insight, ideas and creative message!

  • Jacob says:

    This is terrific! 10/10/10 is less than a week away. Let’s get to work!

  • Anurag says:

    That was truly entertaining and quite a learning experience! I will show this to my family tonight!


    @NEMWIUpperMiss: Highly recommended art-essay: “What Can One Person Do, When 6.8 Billion Are Frying The Planet?” (from @frankejames)

  • Jim Jenal says:

    Interesting that local elected officials don’t have the luxury of being climate change deniers since they have to deal with what is in front of them. Maybe we need more of their ilk in national legislatures?

    As always, your essay is thought provoking while still demonstrating a fine sense of humor. I will promote this far and wide and I hope lots of people hear what you have to say and take action – on 10/10/10 and thereafter! Nicely done!

  • You did it AGAIN ! Franke, your latest post is another smashing hit ! Thanks for that !

    I will partake in 10/10/10 in Paris as well. First time I ever go to this kind of event. But time to act is now.

    Last year at the same period of the year we were all over Copenhagen. Today, little (and even nothing) is said about Cancun.

    I am seriously afraid we won’t solve the triple crisis… In any case, keep it UP ! :)


    @AFreeMansLife: always brilliant! RT @frankejames My new essay: “What Can One Person Do, When 6.8 Billion Are Frying The Planet?”

  • Lisa Borden says:


    @lisaborden: What Can One Person Do, When 6.8 Billion Are Frying The Planet? <– just INCREDIBLE @frankejames (again)


    @TheEcoist: Terrific new art-essay by @frankejames: What Can One Person Do, When 6.8 Billion Are Frying The Planet? #climate

  • Chris Chopik says:

    I use some of those Finch Avenue 2005 images in my Realtor Training!

    Question for you is – yes we are transforming the city – but how can we influence Rob Ford supporters?

    I have been pushing this messaging for years and there seems a cap – no bridges to unconverted and unaware. Franke – can you think of a way to take us there?



    @NobleFreshEnerg: I love @frankejames cartoon essay dealing with the warming world in Toronto, in her yard, and in her brain.

  • Franke James says:


    Thanks for your comment on my visual essay!

    Last week I spoke in Caledon at the Green T event. The eminent scientist (and Mayor), Don MacIver, spoke about the science of climate change — most particularly adaptation. He shared this amazing resource which shows the climate change hazards by neighbourhood…

    Environment Canada’s Climate Change Hazards by geographic region:

    Couple that environmental risk info with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction’s info and you have an economically persuasive argument. Fear of losing property/infrastructure to climate change is something most people can understand.


  • As always, thought provoking, factual and visually stimulating… not to mention just the bit of Franke that makes me smile ( the lightbulb ooops!)

  • Franke,

    Awesome job. OMG Founders Carter, and his sister Olivia, will be supporting the 10/10/10 initiative as well. They will be hosting a “Water Event” at the Fernbank Museum on Oct 10th, 2010 where we will be discussing the importance of water on all living things and also partnering with an organization called Ryan’s Well which helps build water wells to poor villages around the world to ensure everyone has access to clean drinking water.
    Also on that same day, we will be participating in the celebration the unique date of 10/10/10 at our Sate Capital building (GA) by being part of “Uniting Voices”: An Interfaith Worship Service Calling for Climate Justice, which is an event that hopes to raise awareness to the problems with our climate do to pollution etc.

    Both events will be videoed for inclusion in the “One Day On Earth” video.


  • Sarah Jane Saska says:

    I really love this and I think it’s such a neat form for social and artistic ideas!

  • Garth Moore says:

    I love your work, always interesting, engaging, inspiring, and keeps me scrolling for more. Darwin, mammoths, and mummies, great tie-together. Well done! Consider yourself tweeted and FB’d by 1Sky…. as soon as I ask Alex to mention this.

  • Karen says:

    Absolutely wonderful – great job!!

  • Fantastic piece that I am showing my kids and emailing to all my friends. We started our plan years ago – and we tinker and improve it every week. Thanks for a further helping of inspiration!

  • vampdreamer says:

    The kind of thing Governing bodies should be broadcasting on TV’s globally. Simple yet brilliantly effective.

  • AbfabTeena says:

    Excellent story telling Franke!

    My friend Karen in Toronto just sent your link to me in Australia, and now I will forward it to my other friends around the globe.

    One person CAN make a difference, and therfore your story-telling can reach many others.

    Yes, we SHOULD be afraid – but we should also spring into action and each one of us can make a plan to start the change … one baby-step at a time, times a billion people, CAN make a difference!

    Bravo Franke!
    Teena in Sydney

  • Here is one thing you can do. Join the campaign for free public transport.

  • Franke,

    This is brilliant and inspiring, thanks!


  • Blair Palese says:

    Thank so much Franke – this is a great tool to get people thinking and acting!

    Great work! Blair in Sydney

  • Franke, you are harnessing the enormous power of agreement. I am behind you 100% that we can make a difference. We need to work in congruent patterns to multiply our collective results. You go girl!

  • Stefan says:


    I just wanna thank you for this. It´s really inspiring and I´m gonna use this in my course with your permission. I have already linked to you (it´s from a swedish blog for my course). Once again thanks!

    Best Regards/ Stefan from Stockholm

  • Jacqueline Butler says:

    Well done Franke! It really does come down to the point that the federal government is failing us. We have made progress in understanding the science behind climate change and the fact that it is an issue, but there is still a huge gap between knowing and understanding the science and the action required to solve the problem. As long as governments continue to profit from the fossil fuel industry, no one will force ordinary citizens to compromise their lifestyle. It’s up to us to do it for ourselves. Thanks for making that point clear in this piece of work.

  • I was especially moved seeing the woolly mammoth skeleton image on the road. At the Pittsburgh, PA airport there is a reconstructed Tyrannosaurus Rex. It is sobering. Thank you for your imagination in service of the wake up call.

  • […] är en global kampanj för att möta klimatkrisen, ledd av människor världen över. Kampanjen startades 2008 av ungdomar från olika platser i världen och […]

  • caroline nute says:

    I love your visual essay Franke. It condenses what is in the mind of many and points to personal coping strategies.

    We still need to find a way to make that ‘personal action’ more widely instituted and expected and stretch it further by looking at both small and more universal approaches – such as food production within cities, renegation of personal “anti-social” (read environmentally-unfriendly) transportation, within cities, and community assistance for those who are dependent on cars because of having disabilities, elderly parents or young children to care for.

    We must encourage the ‘haves’ to think about the ‘have nots’ in their everyday behaviors so that the car becomes a luxury that is only used when there is REALLY no viable alternative – and not just to take little Sam to his football practice on Saturday or Samantha to her ballet lessons! Or, to pop down to the mall for shopping every other day…usually with only one or 2 persons in the SUV!

  • Francis says:

    Very meaningful and succinct way of telling the story of our climate crisis. Our world leaders definitely need to sit/stand up and take notice of what’s going on rather than just make small talk.

  • […] recommend it. If that’s too much of a commitment, at least check out this cool little illustration. Take the time to check it out, today is 10/10/10, Global Work Party for Climate Solutions, after […]

  • Roberto Villada says:

    We are ONE
    so I am another you
    I want to help
    me/ you/ them/ all

  • Wonderful! Karen Hanrahan linked to you for our green moms carnival on climate change and I found this post through her. Just wonderful. Thank you!

  • Franke, another amazing essay! And a great idea to slide show this on 101010. Looks like I’m 10 days late. Does that make it 10101010? Hmmm. Anyways, your book was talked about (and lent out) at the Victoria event I was part of. More to the point, I’m working at turning down my share of planet-frying gases. It’s painful thinking that I’m still an emitter.

  • Franke James says:


    Thanks for the rave review and news of my book being passed around! No, you’re not late… 10/10/10 was a good start, but just the beginning. I’ll be updating this essay with a new to-do plan for readers.

    We’re all emitters — let’s try to do the hardest things first so we can feel a sense of accomplishment (and inspire others to do their own “hardest thing”).



  • Dave says:

    A waterfall starts with one drop! Thank you

  • Karlie Cole says: is a developing social network for people interested in connecting with others in their neighborhoods around moving toward holistic, sustainable communities. Initial launch is in the Twin Cities & surrounding areas of Minnesota. All communities are welcome.

    “Networking, we find each other easily. Together our voice are heard!”

  • Cheryl says:

    Hi there, very impressive so I just linked it up to our Climate Change Australia – Clarence Valley Branch facebook page. It’s just started and I’m hoping seeing what others are doing will inspire our group. Many thanks. My own blog “Scrubby Bush”, is my way of inspiring others to care for the earth via understanding the needs of the animals out there, especially a very special group of kangaroos. Great to know so many are doing something, gives me hope!

  • Saad Hussain says:

    Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! AWESOME :) Really inspiring piece of work, truly remarkable :D

  • Stefano says:

    Delicious. A little masterpiece. Even working as Editor-In-Chief in an Italian network devoted to ecology, I’ve never seen a more intriguing set of rules, more inspiring handbook…

  • Alice Potchen says:

    Artistic Innovative and Superb way to get it out!


  • […] Check out the rest of the series at Franke James’ site […]

  • Evolve Now! says:

    [] Yes, it can seem overwhelming sometimes. But out of this mess, there is actually change coming. I see it everyday. It’s in the little things and the big things. There is no need to give up hope (just) yet. Some little things to spread hope around: Franke James: What Can One Person Do, When 6.8 Billion Are Frying The Planet? []

  • RanJ says:

    All of us can take small steps, use a clothesline/drying rack – you don’t have to give up your gas/electric dryer completely – to dry as much of your laundry using free solar a possible. Switch to CFLs. Grow a little of your own food, maybe just a tomato in a planter or a pot of herbs for starters. Imagine if everyone in N. America just took these three steps now, the change would be noticeable. Take your own bag to the grocery store. Do not buy bottled water, buy a reusable metal water bottle. Small steps – one step every month can make a difference while we wait for our governments to act.

  • kate says:

    thank you!

  • Karen says:

    Thanks for the great message. I, too, am a worrier. So often I have struggled to understand my non-worrier friends who see the very subject of global climate change as too much of a downer to mention. Now I’ll take your advice and look for like-minded folks to organize for a local plan. Anyone out there in Albuquerque, NM ?

  • […] (and not technical, confusing, or jargony) illustration would be over at Franke James blog “What Can One Person Do, When 6.8 Billion Are Frying The Planet?”

    It’s like a picture book walking through the reasons why we should start to care, and […]

  • James Kelly says:

    Greetings, Franke!

    Great site! I love your content and art! I can’t wait to follow your tweets.

    Cordially yours!


  • Glenn says:

    I like your message. I like the ‘can do’ attitude. I like the idea that change happens best at the local and neighborhood and personal level from now on. The more people a government is supposed to represent (state and national) the harder it is for it to act.
    I also think of the phrase “be concerned with” instead of “worry about” because it’s more action oriented, I think.
    I also want to thank everyone here for already doing good things, even if you don’t think it’s “enough” yet. After all, most of us were born after the car, the highway, the air conditioner, the electric stove, the plastic package, and other things were all invented and put into daily use. This was something we grew up with. We thought these things were “normal.” Now, surprise, they’re damaging the planet and damaging us. So, naturally, we’re struggling with tremendous change right now.
    So, I apologize, on behalf of our fore bearers, who were doing their best at the time, struggling through wars, economic collapse, racism, etc. I apologize for not doing more myself. I’m struggling with all this change as well.
    And finally, I invite you to forgive yourself and those around you for where you think you may be falling short. Look, this is hard stuff. You’re doing what you can to get through with it. I wish my house was much better insulated, but it’s expensive, the house was badly constructed for insulation in the first place (it’s 100 years old), and we don’t have enough money right now to do it. So, I’m doing what I can to have a life, make improvements where I can, and sharing thoughts with others.

  • […] and author Franke James answers the question”What can one person do, when 6.8 billion people are frying the planet?” with a visual essay that was featured in this week. Here are a few of striking images […]

  • […] The title of Franke’s post is — What can one person do when 6.8 billion are frying the planet?? […]

  • MBUGUA says:

    It starts with me to change

  • Colin says:

    I think the essays you do are very eye opening and I wondered if you know what global dimming is.

  • […] 350 eARTh TweetShare… Six Tools for Climate Change Art […]

  • Franke James says:

    Rise in flood claims tied to climate change

    “Canadian insurance companies are facing unprecedented growth in claims and payouts for water-related home damage, and industry experts lay the blame squarely on climate change.

    In 2009, insurance payouts nationwide totalled $5.3-billion, with more than half of claims being paid for extreme weather events. Heavy rainfall causing flooded basements was the main culprit, costing the insurance industry $1.3-billion in 2009. For many years, fire damage was the most expensive cost for companies, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. But 10 years ago, water damage claims started to increase, until 2005 when they surpassed fire costs. Today, the bureau reports that water damages account for more than half of all insurance claims.”

    ‘For most of the country, the infrastructure is not built for the climate that we are now starting to see.’Brock Carlton, CEO, Federation of Canadian Municipalities

    Read more:

  • […] writing and visual essays. Her book, “Bothered by My Green Conscience” and her visual essay “What Can One Person Do, When 6.8 Billion are Frying the Planet?” have been read by people all over the […]

  • John Bacher says:

    This message is inspirational. It is a relief to see that we have such a committed intellectual who will address clearly the challenges our society faces. I hope this is the start of a new Canadian school of committed artists who will do in our generation what the Group of Seven did for the care of our forests in the early decades of the 20th century.

  • Tom Smarda says:

    Just like the “faceless” individuals who hide behind and use private banks and corporations to impose policies that are destroying the planet; (those who are destroying the planet have names and addresses), likewise, it is heartening to know that there are increasingly more and more millions and millions of compassionate, caring people who are doing everything they can to show their love for Mother Earth; without the pomp and fan-fare of publicity, or broad public ackowledgement.
    They know who they are…. I thank them, and recognise them in myself……

  • […] Oh — and remember that artwork that was destined to go to Europe to tour 20 cities, but got banned? Well, banned art is the perfect backdrop for my Blacklisting Party! Here are two canvases from my story, ‘What can one person do?’ […]

  • […] “Dear Prime Minister: CO2 keeps rising but our leaders keep loafing. Will you take action before we’re all toast?” from my 2010 visual essay, “What Can One Person Do?” […]

  • […] Canadian artist and environmentalist Franke James’ visual essay was shown at Clark last Thursday, hosted by the Worcester Fair Share chapter of the Fair Share Alliance. The visual essay is titled “What Can One Person Do when 6.8 Billion are Frying the Planet?” […]

  • janine says:

    i like your essay, thanks.

    the single most powerful thing we can all do everyday on behalf of the planet and all the beautiful and diverse live she supports, is to stop consuming animals and animal products.

  • ClimateBites says:

    […] artist Franke James gives reign to her inner trickster to produce delightful visual essays that advocate for action to […]

  • […] Franke James » What Can One Person Do, When 7 Billion Are Frying The Planet? This visual essay was first published in 2010 as “What Can One Person Do, When 6.8 Billion Are Frying The Planet?” Now, two years later we have 7 billion on the planet, and the issue of climate change… […]

  • Manuela says:

    Hey! Great site!!!!!!!
    Have you seen the vídeo about Obama’s-Confronting the Growing Threat of Climate Change? After watching the vídeo I felt that some hope was spread in the air.The only thing I got confused with, was about Obama saying that he is doing this to protect this country. I don’t think he can do that, as he said himself that we indeed share the same planet, so the climate change effects is far away from his control. This leaded me to think about how a global goal is importante and how it should be the first big action! Fortunately, the United States is a country that has the power of influence, so that’s why we should still stay positive. Otherwise, we complain, put the guilty on the back of others, and do nothing!
    Best Regards,

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