Earlier this month I gave a Pecha Kucha talk at the Des Moines Art Center. It was the story of Fatberg – a character I’ve been drawing off and on since 2013. Pecha Kucha works like this: You talk about any topic within the restriction of 20 slides and 20 seconds each. Below are my illustrated slides and some words for explanation.
Something very strange thing is happening below the streets of London. Lots of wet wipes are being flushed down toilets. Cooking fat is being poured down sinks. And it all sticks together big, coagulated lumps in the sewers.
These lumps are called “Fatbergs.” Over time, they grow and grow. In 2013, a bus-sized Fatberg was discovered in the drains beneath London Road in Kingston. In 2014, sanitation workers found one the size of a 747 airplane! It contained food, tennis balls and wood planks and took FOUR DAYS to remove.
It takes a lot of shovels and persistence to break up a Fatberg. Although, I can’t help but feel sorry for these Fatbergs, who made their home in the sewers and are now being exiled. I can’t help but wonder: Do they have feelings?
After getting kicked out of the sewers, where would a Fatberg go? What would a Fatberg do upon experiencing the “above ground” world for the first time in its life? What would it want to take in first?
A Fatberg definitely needs clothes to fit in with modern society. But due to its lumpy, misshapen body, a Fatberg requires a tailored fit. And that takes time. So a hat will have to do for now.
A Fatberg would most certainly take advantage of all the new recreational activities at its disposal. Like going to the movies! (Fatbergs like their popcorn extra salty and extra buttery.)
A Fatberg would also be extremely curious about riding the London Eye Ferris wheel. Not only is it above ground, it’s WAY above ground – an amazing experience for a sewer-dweller.
Fatbergs will want to learn about this above ground world as efficiently as possible, and the best way to do that is to take a double-decker bus sightseeing tour. (Fatbergs are kind of like American tourists, aren’t they?)
Anthropomorphic lumps of fat and wet wipes just need to cool off sometimes, so a pool day is a must for a Fatberg.
Something a Fatberg would learn right away is that humans are really mean – especially human children. They’re just the worst with their pointing and laughing and taunting.
Fatbergs have feelings, too. And they’re very easily hurt. So this Fatberg embarks on a lonely walk through the streets of London, where it encounters a rowdy little Corgi. (Because Corgis are totally the Official Dog Breed of the United Kingdom.)
This Corgi is all like “You’re awesome, Fatberg! You have so much to offer this world and you shouldn’t get down on yourself. But you do need to start making some healthy lifestyle choices!”
And so Fatberg signs up for (AND FINISHES) the London Marathon! Sure, it takes over 8 hours, but it gives this Fatberg an extra boost of confidence. And none of this would have happened without the support and encouragement of his Corgi friend who barked the entire time.
With this new positive outlook on life, Fatberg decides to join the working world. Specifically, a company focused on alternative and sustainable energy technology.
Fatberg quickly goes to work on a project and discovers that “biogas” – an alternative fuel source – can be harnessed from the decomposing organic compounds in HIS OWN BODY.
The experiment works! Fatbergs in sewers across the globe are found to be a completely renewable energy source. The Fatberg that we’ve come to know and love becomes world-famous overnight and is lauded as a national hero.
Fatberg and his Corgi friend live a charmed life, full of international travel, private jets, champagne and celebrities. They even get to meet Al Gore, who says “Hey man, thanks for fixing global warming.”
But as more and more biogas is harnessed from Fatberg, he keeps shrinking. Soon he’s the same size as his Corgi friend. Fatberg says “Don’t worry, furry friend. Soon I’ll be gone, but my energy will live on and power many homes. Homes that have toilets and sinks. Homes that will produce even more Fatbergs!”
And one day Fatberg is gone. The Corgi is sad and misses his best friend. He misses Fatberg’s weird smells and stickyness. But he knows that somewhere out there, under the streets of London…
… waste from hundreds of thousands of humans is building up, sticking together and forming more lumps. Lumps that will one day become Fatbergs.
This was the story of Fatberg. Thanks for looking and reading!