During our time in school we were continually educated on ways of being environmentally conscious. We were told to Give a Hoot by not polluting and to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Some of us would even have flushed the toilet a lot less if our parents hadn’t selfishly objected to standing pools of urine and feces in our houses.
Our favorite cartoon characters even got in on our education. I remember reading a book put out by Disney featuring Mickey, Donald and the rest of the Disney cavalcade of stars that gave us small, easy ways to supposedly make a difference in these huge, difficult problems that could at any moment plunge our planet into a fiery hellhole.
In this book one of the suggestions was to not warm up your car in the winter, since it didn’t help the engine perform any better and just wasted gasoline, jettisoning untold volumes of poison into the very air we breathe. Evidently the writers of this book have never spent an entire winter somewhere like South Dakota or Wyoming.
Hint: We don’t warm up our cars so the engine will run better. We warm them up so our hands don’t freeze to the steering wheel.
Environmental activism even got its own TV series: Captain Planet. Captain Planet was some sort of being composed of the elements of nature (plus heart) who was summoned by the Earth spirit Gaia after her nest/cocoon/whatever it might be called was disturbed by earth-hating drilling. (Probably for oil so we could leave our cars running in the winter to warm up the engine…)
Instead of dealing with the problems of pollution and waste and whatnot herself, she sent five rings to five children around the world so they could summon the four elements (plus heart) and with their powers combined bring Captain Planet to life so he could deal with the problem that the children were incapable of handling on their own, even though they could call forth typhoons, earthquakes, firestorms and floods to destroy their enemies.
We were assured in every episode that The Power is Yours! Yeah right, Captain Planet. If the power is ours, why do the kids who have the rings of power have to summon you to clean up their mess in EVERY SINGLE EPISODE?
It would seem that the power is yours, so why the deception? Millions of unsuspecting kids were led to believe that they could make a difference, when that is obviously a lie. We should have known better- after all, we were promised freaking jetpacks.
Nevertheless, as children we were evidently credulous enough to take this all in stride. Consider:
+ That all of Earth’s processes being reduced to four elements (plus heart) meant that our understanding of it regressed about 2500 years? Not a problem.
+ That the mighty earth spirit deflects taking responsibility for her planet? (self?) Not a problem.
+ That children can summon natural disasters with impunity? Not a problem.
+ That the title character is weakened in the very presence of that which he is summoned to destroy? (Analogous to Superman being summoned to fight kryptonite) Not a problem.
+ That one of the elements of the natural world is Heart, when the natural world displays nothing of the sort? (Except when a lion tears out a wildebeast’s heart) Not a problem.
Of course, we were not without our incredulity. The kid with the Heart ring was mocked by us all. After all, his companions can summon the eruption of volcanoes, hurricanes, land mass catastrophes and tsunamis, and he is left to feebly shout Heart! and nothing ever really happens.
I suspect that the other four felt he was more of a fifth wheel.
In the end, about all we took away from the series was the song. Captain Planet, he’s our hero, gonna take pollution down to zero.
Except he didn’t.
Because we didn’t have enough HEART!