Away We Go on Our Green Journey

Evolving Awareness

Since the birth of the modern environmental movement, public service announcements and children’s shows have been used to raise awareness about environmental issues and foster a value shift. A look at public service announcements and children’s shows depict the change in our collective environmental understanding over time.

In the 1940s and '50s, conservation of resources for future use and preserving America’s aesthetic beauty were the focus of public service announcements. In more recent years, ads and television shows have changed from a concern regarding the health and beauty of the local environment to address the reality that environmental sustainability is a global concern that must be addressed for the health of present and future generations around the world.

Smokey Bear PSA (1944)

The U.S. Forest Service developed Smokey the Bear to teach us to use care when visiting forests to prevent forest fires. Since the launch of the campaign, the number of acres lost to forest fires has decreased 62 percent from about twenty-two million (1944) to eight million (2000). Reflecting the environmental consciousness of the era, it discusses the value of the forests to Americans, rather than in an inherent value in nature or global impact of our actions. While human prevention of forest fires continues to be an important concern, ecologists now consider fire and other storm disturbance to be important to healthy ecosystems.

Crying Indian (1971)

Many feel the Crying Indian developed by Keep America Beautiful is the icon of the environmental movement of the 1970s. The commercial emphasizes the problems with litter and the importance of maintaining the aesthetic beauty of the natural world.

Living in the Same House (1989)

In 1989, the Better World Society produced the following ad that asked the question ‘What if we all lived in the same house?” In this commercial, the Muppets remind us that we do live in the same house, the Earth, and that it is one with finite resources. The ad was released two years after sustainable development was defined in the UN-commissioned Brundtland report. Sustainable development—meeting the needs of present generations without compromising future generations’ ability to meet their own needs—emphasizes the interdependence of people, the environment, and the economy throughout the world and stresses the importance of considering future generations in our actions. This commercial emphasizes our interdependence and reflects the change in environmental consciousness from environmentalism to sustainable development.

Captain Planet: The Power is Yours (1993)

Ted Turner combined entertainment and education in his children’s cartoon, Captain Planet. Captain Planet addresses modern day issues of environmentalism and sustainability by having Planeteers from five different continents that work together to save the world. Each episode ends with an epilogue that teaches children how they can be part of the solution. Captain Planet depicts the need for people and nations around the world to work together to solve the planetary crisis.

Intro | Silent Spring | Evolving Awareness | An Inconvenient Truth | Greening Media | Paley Greening | Going Green