Knowing Prairies: An Essay in Comic Form


Liz Anna Kozik shares stories of Midwestern landscapes through art, especially comics. Combining environmental history and contemporary ecology through visually-engaging comics, she hopes to inspire public interest and stewardship in these complex landscapes. Find her on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter to see more of her work. Website. Contact

12 Responses

  1. Jane Eagle says:

    Interesting and enjoyable perspective.
    Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, “nativists” want to cut down 400,000 trees currently in East Bay parks and cover the deforestation with herbicides. The goal is to “restore” the grasslands that were here before the Gold Rush, in spite of overwhelming public opposition. Grasslands are the most dangerous landscape in terms of wildfires, which we in California are experiencing more and more often. The deforestation will affect air quality for hundreds of miles around. We are having very little chance to negotiate our relationship with the natural world; local governments are doing their best to shut us out.

  2. Mel Jenkins says:

    As a very aging child of the Virginia-North Carolina Tidewater, now living in Columbia, South Carolina, the encounters with “The Old NorthWest” have been wonderful… full of wonder… understanding expanding.

    Much through my association with the actions and ideas of Aldo Leopold and the many people enhancing his pioneering, I am more and more an advocate of the necessity of promoting the biotic community.

    I’m not sure where the heaviest liftings really are. Here, “Back East,” we look around at land that has been “cultivated’ so long that even imagining what “it was” is a barrier.

    Still, we can all learn from each other.

    I’m learning.

    Now, about “prairies”… I need to experience more… how are we coming on “The Buffalo Commons”?

  3. J Blanton says:

    Always remember: any “restoration” by humans to change the landscape, regardless of purpose or actual result, is reacted to by nature as just another disturbance. Some species will adapt, others will not. Slow change is less impactful than quick change. Work with nature, not against nature. This includes human nature, too. Model the natural process by first making observations before implementing a plan, monitor the implementation for the desired results, and make adjustments when necessary.

    • Mel Jenkins says:

      To J. Blanton,

      Excellent thoughts. Particularly on the nature of “human nature.” We did not get to the places we are in a few centuries.

      Regrettably, we may not have a few centuries to get where we need to be.

  4. Mel Jenkins says:

    Ms. Kozik’s presentation is excellent in message and art.


  5. J Lawrence says:

    This is beautiful. I think you can go further. I would argue that it is not just restored prairie that is a cultural landscape.

    In reality, the prairie ecosystem, bison and people co-evolved after the last Ice Age. Humans were (and are) not separate from nature, they were (and are) part of a complex, interdependent relationship with nature. The prairie was never “pristine wilderness.” It was inhabited, shaping the people who lived here just as much as they shaped it. Neither would have existed in that form without the other.

    There is a fundamental flaw in the thinking that the prairie existed in some pristine state as “untouched wilderness” before humans or separate from humans is a Eurocentric idea. It is a form of the doctrine of terra nullius, Settlers saw the land as empty and wasted, just waiting for humans to put it to use. This idea was used to justify colonization and forcible removal of Indigenous peoples from the land, with devastating effects for both the people and the ecosystem.

    Restorations can help repair and recover our relationship to the land, and if done carefully, respectfully, and in consultation, our relationship with Indigenous peoples. To quote Leopold, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” (Foreword, A Sand County Almanac.) Although the idea of ‘use’ is still Eurocentric, the idea of community is a step in the right direction.

    Restoration is not fake, it is important work. We will never be able to go back to how it was, but we can be more thoughtful about how it will be.

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