Almost anything can be popularized. Provide enough versions of the same story and every sector of the public will find one that ignites the imagination or stirs its collective heart. All such a matrix of universal publicity needs is elements enough to span all ages , and to appeal to all horizons of education and intelligence. As with any pyramid , a broad base assures long standing success. Bear this in mind as Rachel Carson's centennial proceeds, and the odometer of the environmental publicity machine rolls up another decade.
Environmental advertising began to feed on itself a long time ago-- identifying good products with good causes is one of Madison Avenue's best ideas . But in the annals of intellectual dishonesty, few deeds are more reprehensible than substituting advertising icons for ideas. This is exactly what we are seeing on Green TV today . It goes beyond recruiting trusted voices , like Alda, Brokaw and Cronkite. No species is safe from co-option. Consider the bear. For over 100 years , it has been hard to argue with a bear. We all grew up trusting Teddy, and Smoky embodies the nation's earliest collective memory of environmental responsibility.
Things have never gone better for ursine advertising. Like a laser beam building strength between two perfect mirrors, the polar bear meme blazes white across the media landscape, selling toilet paper , Coca-cola and carbon credits alike, escalating Berlin zoo attendance and selling books for Al Gore with equal ease. Unbaitable and unbeatable, warm and furry , yet imposing , bears have been the screen's commanding icon of paternal authority since the first Goldilocks cartoon. Advancing from hirstute strength to strength from Grizzly Adams to Davy Crockett, no wonder they have anthromorped into World Wildlife Fund men in Panda suits.
The creatures appeal to all sensibilities. Even their hobbies are fashionable - men and bears concur that there is no finer pastime than salmon fishing. What more could one demand of an icon of wilderness and environmental preservation ?
Table manners and genetic stability for a start . Bears are magnificently omnivorous and utterly opportunistic, rivaling rats in their willingness to invade the suburbs to mooch a meal. Only dogs exceed their ease and speed in shifting form over relatively few generations to adopt to changing climes - polar bears are to grizzlies as Samoyeds are to Labs--other colors, flavors and models are available pretty much on demand.
Forget climate change. The only way to stamp out polar bears would be to extirpate the ursine gene pool whence they arise whenever an Ice Age ( six in more or less human memory )creates new ecological niches for northern bears to morph into. One day, they may follow wolves into domestic captivity . The autonomy that still kills an occasional New Yorker is subject to extreme selection pressure in the Darwinian wilds of bear-infested New Jersey , where other phenotypes compete in seeking respect and dominance of the Large Fierce Animal gene pool.