Captain Planet was brainless

Words: Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage   Illustration by James Mackenzie

Captain Planet was brainless

Nothing undermines sustainability like false hope

We can stand in bars and shout “drink like you give a fuck” until the cows come home but ultimately, our attitudes towards our planet and our future are ingrained at such a young age that by the time we’ve realised we’re failing, the chance to assign blame is long gone.

That’s where Captain Planet comes in. Because despite the fact that wind, water, earth and fire have ravaged our planet for millennia, as children we were led to believe that a South American kid wearing a ‘heart’ ring and an Asian kid who can speak to monkeys could somehow pull these vicious, untamable elements together — by calling on a blue dude with the power to save the forests, oceans, animals, and of course, mankind.

And thus a children's cult hero of the 1990s failed a generation. Captain Planet allowed us to believe that with “a little heart”, all would be ok. He was a misdirection that made everyone think saving the planet was a matter of faith and time, that one day someone would sweep in to save us and the consequences of consumerism would be resolved before being experienced. Total dick move.

When heart rings failed to live up to expectations, we did what all good developed white western countries do. We called in the nerds and gave them shit loads of money. And it worked —unsurprisingly, educated real humans have way more answers than fictional blue demigods do.

But nothing these super nerds have discovered in the last four decades since the word ‘sustainability’ first entered the vernacular seems to be making a difference. Co2 is still unfathomably high, oceans are so acidic that fish will soon be born as ceviche. The amount of trees felled to clear land for meat production is causing an increase in greenhouse gases almost as high as that of the automobile industry — plus all that raising of cattle fucks shit up even more.

Ultimately, the answer to Captain Planet’s (and our) main issue is not a lack of heart or science. The strangely muscular blue dude’s burden is the exact same one we have all come to bear on issues that require common sense above all else.

The video of the sea turtle with a straw coming out its nose was almost 36 months old before it went viral. While McDonalds has promised to rid themselves of non-bio plastic straws by the end of the decade, how long does a video of a sea creature choking on a plastic toothbrush need to lie dormant before we all switch to bamboo?

When will stores like Pret and Sainsbury’s accept that food waste = climate change and that actually, all the date-marked food they toss every day completely overshadows the smaller victory of eliminating free plastic bags?

There are few definitive answers to this, but one clear fact: the key to sustainability, and the opportunity to live in harmony with the elements that make this world so great, will require heart and science — but most of all, brains and common sense.

If online turtle videos should be your wake up call then so be it, but answer that damn call properly, and do everything you can to respect the elements that surround you. Blue dudes with magic rings don’t rescue us from crises any more than science solves issues — unless, that is, there are people with brains willing to act on those solutions.

Here's 3 simple things you can do:


Say ‘hold the straw’ when you’re ordering a drink. If customers politely push back on the automatic ‘straw-in-drink’ impulse, bars and restaurants will get the message.


Ditch the almond milk. It takes 4 gallons of water to grow a single almond. If you’re looking for a dairy alternative in your flat white, oats are the way to go. They still take a lot of irrigation, but the yield is much higher.


Look for drinks with alternative souring agents likes vinegar, Britain grows sod all citrus so the carbon footprint of all those whiskey sours is nuts.