Ricky Gervais Joins 12-Month Global Campaign to Save Species on the Brink

Rewriting Extinction unites NGOs, celebs, and environmental experts.

Ricky Gervais

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

What if you only had one year to protect as many species on the planet as possible? 

Rewriting Extinction, a massive collaboration of over 300 celebrities, experts, activists, artists, writers, and more, is embracing that question with a unique art campaign focused on restoring and protecting ecosystems and environments under threat. In what’s a creative approach from other efforts, the campaign is leveraging original comics and storytelling to help empower, educate, and inspire. 

“We are uniting the most important environmental voices on the planet: from indigenous people to activists, from storytellers to celebrities, and helping them collaborate to craft moving comic stories that give people hope and direction in the fight for our planet,” campaign founder Paul Goodenough said in a release. “Through these stories, we’ll raise the money and awareness we need to save as many species from extinction as humanly possible.”

Notable names that have so far agreed to collaborate include actors Dame Judi Dench, Sir Patrick Stewart, Lucy Lawless, Sir Ian McKellen, singers Peter Gabriel and KT Tunstall, director Taika Waititi, and many more. Each month features a different cause as a theme, with previous comics covering takes on “Hearts and Minds,” “Seas and Oceans,” and “Plastics and Waste.”

polar bear comic for Rewriting Extinction

mxvisoor/Rewriting Extinction

For September, the theme is animal rights—with actor and animal activist Ricky Gervais becoming the latest to unveil his web comic targeting the cruel sport of bullfighting. 

“A beautiful animal, literally tortured to death as entertainment,” said Gervais in an Instagram post for the campaign. “Psychotic. F*&% anyone who enjoys or defends it.”

bullfighting comic
Ricky Gervais' comic against bullfighting.

Rewriting Extinction

The Gervais comic and others are being used to inform and draw attention to Rewriting Extinction’s efforts to raise at least £1m (about $1.4 million USD) to fund seven different global projects. These include campaigns by the group Born Free to protect species like lions and gorillas, biodiversity protection through Rewilding Europe, global ocean protections on behalf of Greenpeace, and a targeted approach by the World Land Trust to preserve Guatemala’s Laguna Grande Reserve. 

In an interview earlier this summer with Tripwire, Goodenough said that while the celebrity support has been valuable, the campaign is by no means only leveraging movie stars to get the word out. 

“We have voices from all over the planet, from climate scientists, to UN ambassadors, to spiritual leaders, to politicians, to those struggling to survive as their climate breaks down,” he said. “All the stories we made are honest collaborations.”

In addition, everyone involved has a direct interest in what they’re speaking to. This is not a campaign for armchair experts. 

“The stars involved were all speaking on subjects they have authority on,” he added. “Things they care about and want the world to know. We undertook a brainstorm for each comic (over a hundred, actually) where we’d get on a Zoom meeting with the stars, experts, writers, and artists, and between us create the core concept, live. Each comic represents what the collective creators wish the world would know and understand about a particular environmental matter or species. But really, really key to this is that our stories are ‘educational’ or ‘worthy’. They’re wonderful, stupid, ridiculous, hilarious, terrifying—all the good things a story should be.”

Despite the initial time-limited, 12-month scope of the campaign, the hope is that Rewriting Extinction could springboard into something much larger. For now, though, the focus is on helping as much as possible and targeting those seven projects that could protect and save the most species. 

An anthology of comics and artworks from the campaign, titled “The Most Important Comic Book on Earth,” will be released on October 28, only days before the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.