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Author's Note: How the hell do I have Mojo Level 4? I thought I was one of the most hated people on Daily Kos.

We all know it's coming. I mean, seriously, if you can't then you must be willing to close your eyes. In Florida we're seeing beaches disappear. We've got prolonged drought and raging forest fires. The world's oceans are heating up, acidity is ramping high, that hole over Australia isn't getting any closer to closing, hurricane seasons are getting crazier, and animal species are still going extinct.

I grew up in a conservative household by 1980s standards, though in today's environment it probably counts as moderate to slightly left leaning. Despite whatever stereotypes that might bring along, it gave me the chance to grow up into an environmentally concerned citizen. Here's how, and try not to laugh at this too much along the way.

Even as a kid, my brain was being trained for a future role as a professor. We read nonstop, and in a conservative household, reading began with the Bible. So messages like this:

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
Genesis 1:29

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;
Gensis 2:15

The righteous care for the needs of their animals,
Proverbs 12:10

All sort of set a tone for me. I've dabbled in and out of vegetarianism over the years, sometimes better, sometimes not. What I do know is as a kid I was convinced that animals were supposed to be treated kindly, that fruits and vegetables were the ideal diet for you and that man was supposed to take care of the world around him. These messages were just seeds, though. Leave it the 1980s to help them grow.

Cartoons. The gateway drug children of the 80s used to access their imaginations, and leave it to Canada to bring us a show like The Racoons.

A story in which these guys
Tried to stop this guy
From chopping down the forest to fuel his industrial machines. I didn't need much motivation as a kid, all I needed to know was that The Racoons were cute and awesome looking, and this pink guy looked like a scum bucket. The creators of the show knew I'd figure out the nuances of the environmental argument when I got older, but for right now it was good enough to say, hey, this guy's going to put The Racoons out of a home. And that's fine, if you're a complete jagweed. But hey, what kid wanted to be the one saying rah rah, you go, sniveling, cigar chomping pink looking weirdo. Yeah, cut down that forest. Not many kids were cheering for him, but a few did, and I'll tell you what they grew up into: Republicans.

On the topic of cartoons, you know what else made me think "Well maybe we shouldn't be killing as many animals as we do?" Bambi. I know what you're saying already, raising your objections and going, "Whoah now Professor, Bambi came out like forty years before you were born." That might be true, but you know what else wasn't around in the 1940s, besides me? VHS Tapes. And the 1980s was exactly the era Disney had been waiting on to start pillaging that gold mine of classic movies to the fullest extent they could force the law to allow them to. So we got all these old classics "out of the vault" and onto the shelves. So yeah, my first experience watching Bambi was in my household. And guess what?

It was traumatic as all hell. But I want you to think about something Maurice Sendak, author of "Where the Wild Things Are", once said: "I refuse to cater to the bullshit of innocence." And you know what? He's completely right. There's a time and place for escapism, but we also need reality in our entertainment from time to time. If you're going to eat meat, you need to know that meat came from a living creature that died to put it on your table. So growing into an adult, I continued to be aware of the way we raise and treat animals and the need to give them as humane an existence as possible. Because even as a kid I knew it was wrong to slowly kill any living creature in as torturous a way possible. Which reminds me, Fox and the Hound belongs here too.
Because even a kid knows trapping a fox's leg in a trap like that and letting it starve to death makes you the king of all jagbags.

You know what else the 1980s gave us that was awesome, though? This guy:

So if some of you are sitting in your ivory computer chairs going "hurp de durp, what's a video game about a ninja have to do with the environment?" Well buckle up for a mind shocker, because that ninja is intergalactic ninja Zen, whose mission is to defeat pollution itself. That crazy red rocket headed alien you see is Lord Contanimous, whose goal was to conquer earth by destroying its environment. Zen, being a pretty awesome guy all around, decides that's not going to happen on his stargazing watch. We're talking about a ninjitsu trained alien warrior with psychic abilities and the power to convert matter to energy on a whim. Of course I was going to play this game.
Again, the point isn't that I understood the complexities of the message every time, but I got the gist of it. And more importantly, the cumulative effects of all this media helped me think seriously about the environment I got older.

There's tons more to be mentioned. One tv show I always think about that I can never remember is about a red haired girl who travels the world. I think it was a two part show, one in which she shrinks down to the size of bugs. In the one I'm thinking about, the red haired girl goes and talks to whales or something. I knew how much I loved sealife even then. And, I know how much many hardline environmentalist and animal protection people hate Seaworld, but I'm sorry. Seaworld was probably one of the single biggest influences in my life in helping me decide we had to think twice about the way we treated our oceans and its massive population. Because once you see this:

You understand in a way beyond words how diverse the sea really is. Or when you see this:
You realize how powerful and majestic the Orca really is. It's a non replicable experience in the form of tv or computers. When you're actually there, it's completely different. I'm not saying the sacrifice of the one for the many is just, but I am sort of saying the one for the many might be something to consider more deeply. Of course I am always for larger tanks, greater room, improving conditions at all costs, and the like.

I haven't even begun to talk about the early nineties. We all remember this guy's debut in 1990:

Yeah yeah, Ma-Ti, the power of heart, who the hell cares? Yeah well, it seemed useless in 1990 when I wasn't even a teen yet, but now you sort of realize he was the most powerful Planeteer of them all.  He was a freaking telepath with the power to bend emotions! But on a more serious level, it takes heart to do the right thing.

And do you even remember this movie?

In retrospect, people criticize it for being insanely badly written, its heavy handed environmental themes and its cocaine high performance of a psychotic talking bat by a 1990s Robin Williams riding so high on the fame chair he'd coast that drug rush well into the 2000s.
The eyes of insanity might have been staring wide eyed into the maws of young children, but I got a lesson out of it all. First, that the Rainforest was gorgeous. People don't give the movie enough credit for portraying the forest as what it actually is: a wondrous, dangerous, majestic, beautiful region teeming with life. I learned it's stupid to cut down trees without regard to how you're going to actually replace them, or take care of the displaced animals, or the consequences to our environment. I also learned the ending to Avatar because James Cameron would rip Fern Gully for every inch of its plot, right down to the climactic final battle over a spectacularly giant tree.
Robin Williams. Somehow still more creepy than Avatar.

At any rate, I guess I don't know where kids are getting their environmentalism these days. I don't watch a lot of cartoon shows, but well into the nineties, I was still getting elements of it, especially from anime. I guess it makes sense the Japanese would be environmentally concerned, given they lived through two nuclear bombs and some of the worst environmental consequences in global history. Dragon Ball Z, as much as I hate it, constantly harped on the life of the planet. Games like Final Fantasy 7 discussed the lifeforce of the earth and depicted a battle between an industrial titan bent on sucking it dry of its resources, and a rag tag freedom fighter group determined to stop it. Also, weird clones and aliens are involved, but the planet saving part is the one I want to emphasize here.

Anyway, that was life in the 1980s and environmentalism, as well as a dash of early 90s material. Maybe I'll come back and do more on the Japanese influence on environmentalism later on, because I won't lie. If Final Fantasy 7 was your favorite game of the 90s, there's no way you missed the environmental message. Unless you were playing with your eyes closed.

So how are kids getting the environmental message these days, anyway? Guess that's another thing to ponder for a future diary.

Originally posted to DAISHI on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 11:14 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm a generation older than you (11+ / 0-)

    When I was a kid we had rivers catching fire and smog alerts. What got me to start seeing the world as an environmentalist was a special edition Dennis the Menace comic book that promoted common-sense solutions (combine trips, don't use a car if you can use a bike, recycle, reduce water use, etc.) Yep, a dumb comic book, but the messages have stuck with me all my life.

    Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

    by milkbone on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 12:52:34 PM PDT

  •  The irony about FF7 is... (2+ / 0-)

    ...that in the media that follow the game, Barrett is really excited about finding a new way to power things.... oil.

  •  When I was about six I watched Bambi (5+ / 0-)

    in a movie theatre and was escorted to the lobby
    because I couldn't stop crying.  Bambi
    made me very aware of animal cruelty, and
    the lesson has stayed with me.  But it
    wasn't until I was a young woman and read
    Rachel Carson's Silent Spring that I realized
    we were destroying our environment.

  •  Love Canal in Upstate New York Sate (11+ / 0-)

    made an environmental activist and gave the motivation to get a degree in chemical engineering from a prestigious university because I saw a need for corporate America to deal responsibly with their dangerous hazardous industrial chemical waste, and Richard Nixon, of all people, had just created the EPA.  I intensely studied toxicology.

    Boy Scouting gave me a healthy respect for clean water and fresh air -- that was the seed of environmentalism planted in me.

    Breathing pulverized sand dust without a respirator after daily complaints drawing laughter at a local foundry's sand blasting operation in 1972 immediately after graduating from high school (for minimum wage and no benefits for 3 weeks) gave me respect for OSHA which was also just created by Richard Nixon, of all people.  The sandblaster wore a self-contained breathing appartus deep sea diving bell suit, and I kept the sand hopper filled and operated the compressor next to him feeding him the sand through a thick, pressurized hose and air to his suit  I turned the foundry into OSHA because I valued my respiratory health more than maximizing corporate profits helping them to save 50 cents, and OSHA shut them down and fined them to the max.  The foundry mismanagement was pissed at me for having to rent a special crane and special flatbed railroad cars to ship out Nabisco's big steel cylinders for sandblasting, priming, and painting.   They labelled me a "troublemaker" even though they were in the wrong, and they blackballed me so I was never able to get another job.  I had a choice -- silicosis and being tethered to an oxygen tank for life or lifelong poverty and unemployment.  The foundry eventually went out of business after 150 years of being in business, and I learned about moral bankruptcy and GREED in corporate Amerika mismanagement so I made the correct decision.

    •  glad you did. I worked for a metal grinding place (3+ / 0-)

      where the vacuum system used to break down all the time. just terrible. But all those around me had less choice about their workplace than even I did at that time. And Osha would come but not until they had notified the company of their 'secret' plan a month ahead of time giving enough time for the management to straighten up a bit and replace the yellow-black stripey tape etc.

      We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

      by nuclear winter solstice on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 05:19:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I got a temporary job (because I was already (2+ / 0-)

        scheduled to go work as a park ranger) between graduation from college and my summer job.  It was in a plastics factory, and after the first day they sent me to work in the only environmentally responsible area of the facility - the recycling machine.  It made lots of noise and generated lots of plastic dust scraps, but I got to grind up plastics from failed runs so that the fragments could be remelted and reused.  That was the only way I could stay at the job for the four weeks I was in town.  Yosemite National Park was a really big change from that factory.

        •  plastic injection molding was the only thing at (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ColoTim

          that place worse than the grinding room. Yeccch. Changed my attitude completely about stuff 'made in China.' I try to avoid plastic whenever I can (as she types on a plastic keyboard...) at least for cooking and storage.

          We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

          by nuclear winter solstice on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 04:42:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Oh yeah. (6+ / 0-)

    The Morning After?  I think that was the name.  About a family that lives through a nuclear blast. Only to succumb to radiation sickness.  And the OPEC gas shortages, and jimmy carter having solar panels installed on the White House. Those all led me to a sense of environmentalism.  That old commercial with the "Indian" standing at a roadside while passing people throw garbage out of their car windows.  And of course scooby doo and those meddling kids stopping the mean old man from dumping green sludge in the river.  Jinkies!
    My kids got a full quotient of Disney environmentalism and the planeteers.
    You know, that's probably one of the more important environmental things we do, is make sure our kids are raised with a sense that the Earth is our Mother.

  •  To better understand what your epiphany (2+ / 0-)

    cost the orcas, please see Blackfish in a theater or on CNN on October 24.

    A revolutionary and evolutionary idea: Too many people - too much consumption.

    by howardfromUSA on Wed Sep 04, 2013 at 04:03:17 PM PDT

  •  We need a climate version of The Wire (3+ / 0-)

    to really give people a glimpse into the things happening to our planet in the way that The Wire showed people real-world law enforcement and city politics.  It could be a sweeping epic roving over ordinary locals, people who work for power companies or oil companies, regulatory bodies, politicians, and other affected groups.

  •  Give a Hoot! Don't Pollute! Woodsy Owl tells me so (3+ / 0-)

    and when I was 19 and moved into my own place and went to the dump myself the first time I was so disillusioned: where was the recycling center the grown-ups had always promised me? Didn't anyone really care? I was shocked to find out the adults had been talking a good spiel about "ecology" with their big e flags etc., but little had actually been done.

    I will admit that Boston Harbor and Lake Michigan are much better now, and having played in the brown foaming scum when visiting lakeside friends, I knew how that poor Indian felt. But otherwise, where did all that talk go? More air pollution and lies. I guess I'm still disappointed. But I have been making my point all along the way: bring your own coffee cup to church and visibly refrain from styrofoam and paper cups, etc. Any little thing like that I will definitely take that extra moment to do it.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Thu Sep 05, 2013 at 05:30:37 AM PDT

  •  Aquaman was one of my favorite superheroes (0+ / 0-)

    and he had plenty of environmental messages to go with his fights against evil villains.  Batman and Superman didn't usually have to deal with the environment, but most of the time some of the environmental ethics crept into the Aquaman world.

  •  Princess Mononoke from Miyazawa (0+ / 0-)

    was a great anime movie with a strong environmentalist theme.  Came out later than the 80's, actually in 1997.
    For the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/...

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