J500 Media and the Environment

Sustainability and Spacely Sprockets by TreyW

As I watch Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff, I can’t help but yawn. Everything she says fails to captivate me. I’m not trying to be rude. The information Annie presents is very relevant and emotional in today’s society where we struggle to find ways to exist in a way that can be maintained in the long run. My problem is that I learned all of this from Jetsons: The Movie.

In 1990, Hannah-Barbara brought the Jetsons to the big screen. Kids like myself, were spellbound watching George Jetson take over a new, highly efficient Spacely Sprocket factory located on a distant asteroid. These same kids also learned a valuable lesson about sustainability as it was discovered that the factory was drilling into the home of the Grungees, the alien race inhabiting the asteroid. To make an 82 minute story short, the factory is turned over to the Grungees who can produce new sprockets by recycling old ones (I guess space traveling humans weren’t smart enough to figure that one out) and everyone lived happily ever after.Jetsons

I know I reference children’s media a lot, but I do it to further dialogue and hopefully find a resolution to the wasteful habits of industry. If we can explain sustainability in such elementary terms, why can’t we make it happen? Watching Alex Steffan’s presentation on sustainable design and production, I’m struck by his statement that each generation wants its own version of prosperity. It’s true that we want to do just a little bit better than our parents. Maybe that’s why the same generation that learned a lesson by watching the Jetsons avoid the destruction of an entire race, is becoming the next generation of destroyers.

Having seen this movie, I guess I get a different definition of sustainability. To me, sustainability is a business term used to describe operating at an efficieny level that creates the greatest good for all. By “all” I’m referring to the business and its shareholders as well as the community it serves. In my mind, sustainability is a way of getting greater Return on Investment than our predescessors in a way that leaves room for the next generation to increase it even more. It doesn’t have to mean a stagnate economy.

I do find a little comfort as Mr. Steffan talks about what Mrs. Leonard refers to as the “Third World.” It seems that sustainability is possible through the “leapfrogging” and “collaboration” that Mr. Steffan describes. Simple efforts anchored in design have allowed areas with little resources to operate at levels beyond the efficiency of industrialized nations in my opinion.

So perhaps the answer to achieving sustainability is as simple as they make it seem in children’s movies. Or am a just a dreamer?

*Trey Williams*


2 Comments so far
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I often go to children’s media first when I need to understand a complex issue. It’s simplicity, creativity and humor often is just what is needed to cut through the political, intellectual and emotional strings that often attach themselves to these topics.

Here is a Mother Goose poem that one of my favorite children’s authors, Maurice Sendak usesto illustrate homelessness in a book called, “We Are All in the Dumps.”

We are all in the dumps
For diamonds are thumps
The kittens are gone to St. Paul’s!
The baby is bit
The moon’s in a fit
And the houses are built
Without walls
Jack and Guy
Went out in the Rye
And they found a little boy
With one black eye
Come says Jack let’s knock
Him on the head
No says Guy
Let’s buy him some bread
You buy one loaf
And I’ll buy two
And we’ll bring him up
As other folk do

So you’re not the only one looking for an excuse to head back to childhood!

Cindy Olsen

Comment by cindyol


That’s really awesome. I think the biggest problem with a lot of the messaging for social and environmental issues is that it is often too complicated for someone who wouldn’t otherwise be concerned with such issues to care to comprehend. I know for me, I always did worse in subjects that I “just didn’t care about” or didn’t think I would “ever use again.” When we simplify these issues or seek to make them personable to the general public, they become more effective or elicite some kind of thought.

I wonder if we could create this same effect without actually using children’s literature?

*Trey Williams*

Comment by TreyW

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