Friday, February 24, 2012

"Stop Pollution: Eat Garbage," and other reasons not to pine for the 1970s

Just ran across this depressing collection of 1970s kids' artwork about the future from the Smithsonian (via The Rumpus).

It reminds me of the little-remembered Kids for Ecology magazine, which was almost as depressing. Kids for Ecology explained environmental devastation and activism, in that order, to very young children. Weirdly enough, it was one of my very favorite things at ages approximately 5 and 6.

Here's an essay that I wrote mostly a couple of years ago about Kids for Ecology and reasons why the nasty twenty-first century still isn't as bad as us Gen-X kids were led to fear. It's longish, so I've placed most of it on a side page here.

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There were advantages to being a child in the American 1970s.

We went to public schools that had money. We had art and music and language study programs. Most schools had functioning roofs and windows. Most of their drinking fountains had running water. One of the elementary schools I attended had television cameras.

We grew up in a culture that valued children and the childlike: rainbows-and-unicorns decor in primary colors, and popular songs like "Yellow Submarine," and important simple questions that, in those days of clumsy spin control, had the power to freeze bureaucrats in mid-polysyllable. Better yet, a fad in educational theory suggested young children should be treated almost like people.

Except it wasn't all happy flowers.

People my age -- in our forties now -- were warned so fiercely about the future that we'll go on being pleasantly surprised by real life until it gets seriously bad.

We were warned especially against nuclear war and the repeatable horrors of World War II and environmental disaster. Especially environmental disaster. Maybe environmental problems were easier to explain to young kids without digging directly into the problem of evil. Anyway what we seemed to hear most about was Pollution.

Recently, going through old family stuff, I found a reminder of the way those grim warnings came to us in chewable kid-sized portions.

Ever heard of Kids for Ecology magazine? (more...)

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