AstroNuts Mission Three: The Perfect Planet

Illustrated by Steven Weinberg

“That’s it, Homo Sapiens—the hard and inescapable truth. I am your Perfect Planet. I will take care of you. But you have to take care of me” (229)

AstroNuts Mission Three: The Perfect Planet has the AstroNut team going on a mission like never before.A perfect planet has finally been found, and what do you know? It’s Earth! The AstroNuts (AlphaWolf, SmartHawk, LaserShark, and StinkBug) are going back in time to prevent humans from discovering fire. This way humans can no longer ruin the planet through carbon emissions. Once in the past, the AstroNuts meet the Sapiens family and find out that they’ve arrived just in time for the Survival of the Fittest Olympics. The AstroNuts make it their duty to help the humans win first place. Stinkbug determines that the Sapiens can use hydro, wind, geothermal, and solar energy—but not fire—to win the Olympics and become the dominant species. Unfortunately, the wolves cheat and win all contests. When Sapiens are about to be devoured, they discover fire which scares the wolves away. The Astronuts return to the present to find Earth a perfect planet undergoing the energy transition, with a rapidly growing renewable energy sources replacing fossil fuels.

Book three of the AstroNuts series takes on a slightly different approach than the previous two volumes. The team is no longer searching for the Goldilocks Planet – it’s been Earth all along. This book drives home the key message of the entire series—and the key notion of climate literacy: Earth is the only viable home for humans, so we must take care of it. This care is predicated on recognizing Earth as a complex living system (see Gaia Theory, Earth System Science) whose health depends on a precarious balance of physical, chemical, biological, and human factors (sustainability). Using Earth as the first-person narrator highlights this message: “life is about to get really bad for both of us, if we don’t change how humans are taking care of me” (p. 27).

The Perfect Planet is a perfect book to talk about energy sources and long-term consequences of their use. Like the earlier two books, The Perfect Planet identifies human-caused global warming, especially emissions from burning fossil fuels, as the key threat in the current climate emergency. The plot to stop the human discovery of fire opens a discussion on the affordances of clean, renewable energy sources: solar power, wind power, geothermal power, and hydropower. While they fail as solutions to early Sapiens, these energy sources are shown as central to today’s energy transition process (Green Revolution, Green New Deal). Thus, even though the story takes place in the past, it is really about our potential today to create a brighter, sustainable, and eco-friendly future for the planet. Interestingly, the book does not criticize the use of fire as such but the addiction to fossil fuels. As Earth explains, “fire is nothing new to me. … It has a lot of positives. It has its share of negatives” (196). In the book, fire is representative of human intelligence, ideas, and inventions as a whole. The book likewise makes the point that human beings are not inherently destined to do evil (ecocide) and have the power to change design an ecological civilization: “Humans used their brains to cause Earth’s climate change problems. Now the humans will have to use those same brains to fix the problems” (225). For example, we used our intelligence to create all our industrial carbon-emitting machines, but we can also use our intellect to create efficient, renewable energy sources.

The Perfect Planet highlights the power of collective action. The AstroNuts succeed by working as a team better than ever before. When AlphaWolf steps down as leader, SmartHawk, LaserShark, and StinkBug are all able to shine as valuable group members, with each of their specific roles highlighting their strengths. The early Sapiens family also have a significant role to play, particularly the baby Urp. Through Urp’s discovery of fire, the story places value in the ideas of the youth of today to create solutions for the imminent problems in the world (youth climate activism). While the parents [adults] give up by the end of the competition, the baby acts to save them all. The series closes on a hopeful note, showing renewable energy plants. It is possible to change the future as long as we all work together to make that change possible. As the Earth says, “I love you humans. I really do.  … I will take care of you. But you have to take care of me” (228-9).

©2023 ClimateLit (Alexandra Delacruz with later edits by Kai Resler)

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Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2021

Pages: 240

ISBN: 978-1452171210

Audience: Questers (8-13)

Format: Comics & Graphic Novels

Topics: Carbon Emissions, Climate Change, Climate Emergency, Climate Literacy, Collective Action, Earth Care, Earth System, Earth's Aliveness, Ecocide, Ecological Civilization, Energy, Energy Transition, Fossil Fuels, Gaia, Geothermal Power, Global Warming, Goldilocks Planet, Green New Deal, Green Revolution, Hydropower, Mother Earth, Planetarianism, Renewable Energy, Solar Power, Sustainability, Wind Power, Youth Climate Activism

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