Where did Captain Planet go?

After writing my post the other day about personal responsibility in relation to the environment and climate change, I had a similar discussion with David over breakfast.  One of the things we talked about was the difference in approaches from the 1980s and early 1990s to today.

The 1980s was all about personal action – the idea was that everyone could make a change and if we all did our bit, we’d be a force to be reckoned with.  I still remember the ‘Do the right thing’ anti-litter campaign jingle – and I wasn’t even allowed to watch commercial TV, so I have no idea how that one sank in.   It’s a real 1980s gem though…enjoy:

On the ABC channel (which I was allowed to watch), we had fantastic, environmentally-oriented kids TV.  Captain Planet was the real standout.  Honestly, when I was in about Year 2 or 3, that show was the greatest thing ever.  We even used to play it at school, saving the environment after cheese and vegemite sandwiches and juice boxes (I always got to play Gi, not because I’m of Asian background but because she and I both had short hair).  Captain Planet epitomised that sense of individual responsibility – every episode reminded  us that “The power is yours!”

Image from moviegoods.com

We also had Widget the World Watcher…who, while a pretty cute little dude, wasn’t a patch on Captain Planet.  He had the same environmental messages, targeted at the same sort of audience.  Everywhere I turned between the ages of about 5 and 8, I was told about the importance of the environment and how vital it was to protect it.

And while David and I reminisced over childhood awesomeness, we wondered if those shows are part of the reason that so many people of our generation care more about the environment.  Sure, there are a lot of people who don’t – but you get douchebags in every generation.  It also made us wonder – are we breeding a lost generation in terms of the environment?  What do kids have these days?  What did they have 5, 10, even 20 years after Captain Planet saved the world every weeknight?  A Google search didn’t turn up much.  Sesame Street is still trundling along.  Apparently Yo Gabba Gabba has a few enviro segments.  And, according to Inhabitot, Inhabitat’s website for kidlets, the only other suggestions are Man Vs. Wild (I’m not sure about the suitability of a 5 year old watching some madman drinking his own pee and eating still-beating hearts), Shark Week (probably good for little dudes and bad-ass little dudettes) and Planet Earth…and that’s it.  It’s a pretty adult selection and it’s most definitely not targeted at little ones.

I don’t think that TV should be the sole method of giving kids life lessons.  But I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of teaching children at a young age about  the environment and the impact that they can have on it, good or bad.

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2 thoughts on “Where did Captain Planet go?

  1. Thank you for this post. Growing up, we not only had “Captain Planet,” but also the (in)famous Earth Day telecast featuring such stars as Bette Midler as Mother Earth. We also enjoyed movies like “Fern Gully,” which had a fabulous environmental message.

    Finding contemporary, child-friendly environmental media can be a challenge. “Wall-e” is definitely a great example, and I’m looking forward to the re-make of “The Lorax.” Even the ents in “The Lord of the Rings” have an environmental overtone. What’s interesting, all those are movies, not daily TV shows.

    I hope there are some daily TV shows that empower children and youth to take action.

    – John Watson, Waste Diversion Education Coordinator, Halton Region
    BLOG http://www.haltonrecycles.wordpress.com; TWITTER @HaltonRecycles

  2. Hi John, thanks for taking the time to comment. And thanks even more for reminding me of ‘Fern Gully’! I can’t believe I forgot that one.

    You mention a few films that make me think that perhaps we’ve moved from daily TV shows about the environment to films instead – ‘Avatar’ seemed like a souped-up ‘Fern Gully’ to me, and your mention of ‘Wall-E’ is on the mark too.

    I’m interested to see what direction the next generation or so go in – but I don’t know if they’ll have a choice.

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