It’s just a cartoon, and an old cartoon at that, so I don’t want to overstate the problem: Yet, reading about a re-release of the old eco-cartoon Captain Planet, I’ve got to wonder how much its heroes really ever saved the day to protect the Earth. The Mother Nature Network is bringing the Captain Planet animated TV series back, and describes the show as follows:
“Gaia awakes to find humans are destroying the planet. To save the Earth, she creates five magic rings, each with the power to control an element of nature and one controlling the extra element, heart — and presents the rings to five special young people she selects from across the globe: Kwame from Africa, Wheeler from the United States, Linka from the Soviet Union, Gi from Asia, and Ma-Ti from South America. These are the Planeteers. When they encounter situations they cannot handle alone, they combine and magnify their powers to summon Captain Planet, who possesses all of their powers magnified.”
Using special technology to magnify our power so that we could accomplish tasks more easily – isn’t that what got us into trouble in the first place? We find it slow and tiring to walk a mile, so we magnify our power by driving a car. We get bored entertaining each other, so we magnify our entertainment power with television sets. We can’t clean things without scrubbing, so we magnify our power by using lots of petrochemical soaps. We don’t like to wash dishes and towels, so we magnify our power with disposable plates and paper wipes. Now that Gaia and Captain Nature are getting in on the power magnification act, does it really matter that they love the natural environment?
The trouble is that, although there are some environmental bad guys out there, restoring a balanced relationship with nature can’t be accomplished just by beating those bad guys. More than anything else, we are ourselves to blame for climate change, pollution, and the other environmental problems we face. Protecting what’s left of nature won’t be accomplished if everyone magnifies their power and travels all over the world to physically confront other people, accusing them of wasting energy. It’s not as exciting for a cartoon, but a more effective approach is conservation – the choice to refrain from magnifying our power.