Lessons from Captain Planet
Last night I introduced my daughter to the first ever episode of Captain Planet. As a child growing up in the 90s, this show shaped my understanding of environmentalism.
I still think about the Planeteers regularly as we face climate catastrophe. It boggles my mind that this show is now 33 years old and we seem less active now than we were then.
Watching the Planeteers take on big polluters and dodgy scientists again felt weirdly prescient. I saw so much of my sister and my passion for climate action in those words we used to sing every afternoon after school: “we’re the Planeteers. You can be one too. Cos saving our planet is the thing to do”.
But the thing is, Captain Planet didn’t predict the future. Everything it dealt with was an issue of the time. What is shocking is how slow we have been to act.
In that first episode, Gaia makes it clear that the Planeteers have to be “young people”. R said “why young people mummy? Why not the grown ups?” I choked up as I considered that. “Because I WAS a young person when this show came out.” I was 8 years old when the first episode aired, a year older than she is now. Now I AM the grown up. And one day she will be too.
Children should not carry the burden of responsibility of climate action. That job should rest firmly on adult shoulders. But a love, appreciation, care and sense of responsibility for this planet needs to be nurtured young.
My generation loved Captain Planet and have only been able to take minuscule steps towards change. But, as I recently heard described in the podcast On Being, we can’t expect that we are going to see this emergency to its end in our life time. As hard as that is to swallow, we are at the beginning of a long and multi generational, difficult battle.
We are passing buckets of water along a line so that a future generation can put this fire out. Our part is small, early and unlikely to be the bit that makes history. But the future depends on not dropping the bucket now.
So maybe Captain Planet didn’t make me a Planeteer. But maybe it sparked me to pick up the bucket to hand to my daughter. And hopefully she will carry it for her part in this story too.
And maybe, if we’re lucky, Captain Planet and Gaia will see this planet healed and healthy again. As Captain Planet would say: The power is YOURS!
About the author:
Liz Cahalan is a Mum, Art Therapist, Synergetic Play Therapist and passionate climate advocate living on Kaurna Country in South Australia. Liz is a co-founder of the Little Climate Heroes playgroup and an awesome force for good in the world.