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Did Walt Disney Cause Global Warming?

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"The planet has a fever," the politician began, "If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don't say, 'Well, I read a science fiction novel that told me it's not a problem.' If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant. You take action."

Al Gore was trying to make a point about the seriousness of GW and our illogical response (in his mind) to the situation. His words carried a deeper meaning for many, however, as some seem to think the planet is a real, live sentient being. There's a line between using a metaphor constructively and thinking in overly simplistic terms. Gore didn't mean to cross it, but without meaning to, old Al crossed into the world of self-righteous fantasy that Walt Disney helped create.

Walt Disney and his creation Mickey Mouse, which launched a new art form and cultural change on the world
Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse, which starred in the first sound and animated feature in 1928.
Disney went on to receive over 950 honors, including 48 Academy Awards and 7 Emmys

There's no doubt that Disney had a great impact on all of humanity. The California Museum quotes another artist that Disney was "the most significant figure in graphic arts since Leonardo". It's hard to overestimate the impact Disney had on the world, although today we probably don't think much of it. Moving images with sound was nothing short of a miracle when they first appeared.

Walt was smart enough to use animals as his characters, as did many other animators that followed. Small and baby animals are almost universally considered to be cute, and animals don't have to "be" like anything else. They can walk, talk, fly, or whatever else Disney wanted them to do. It was all just good-natured, family-oriented fun. After all, nobody in the 1930s really thought that Bambi was anything but a fun conceit, a moving symbol of cuteness not grounded in reality at all.

Funny how things change, though, isn't it? I have a seven-year-old daughter, whom I love dearly. To her, all creatures are just little people. Bugs, cats, horses, lions -- they're all little people that deserve the same amount of attention and care. To her, they are just as much people as real people are. Obviously, this makes things such as spraying for pests, stepping on bugs, and seeing road kill on family trips very difficult for all of us. Several times I have tried to have some sort of rational conversation with her -- obviously we can't give a cockroach the same respect as a baby -- but to little avail. It makes her feel good looking out after these creatures, and no amount of logic is going to change her mind. She is irrational. (but happy!)

An image of Bambi, from the Disney cartoon of the same name
Bambi was a cute talking fawn
Hunters use the phrase "hunting Bambis" to indicate hunting for deer
It is also a comment on the absurdity of equating animals with people

But animals don't talk. They don't think, at least in the same way we do. They seem incapable of industry, written language, or philosophy. That doesn't make them bad or worthless, but it does mean that they are something fundamentally different than we are. When we grow up (if we do), we realize that these differences mean something. Some religions view all of nature as something for mankind to husband. I like this idea, because it doesn't mean that we are all the same or that we are all different. It simply means we should respect the symbiosis of all life that is around us.

But this is a balancing act. On one extreme, some people would rather not consider the world around them and want to do whatever we want to with the planet and the life on it. I do not have a moral problem with that, but I do have ascetic reservations about living on a planet full of smokestacks and Wal-Mart parking lots. On the other hand, some people feel everything is the same as a human -- including non-living things such as "Gaia" (the earth) To them, all life is sacred to the point that we end up worshipping nature and the planet while ignoring our responsibilities to improving the lives of our fellow man. I DO have a moral problem with this, as this line of thinking decreases the value of human life, all in the name of one person's view of spirituality. We have to grow up and take control, guys. Our choices are never going to colored in terms of black and white, right or wrong.

Some folks never grow up, however. "A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy" Ingrid Newkirk said a few years back. Newkirk was the president for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Peter Singer, who won the World Technology Award for Ethics in 2003, has similar opinions.

Singer once wrote, “Because people are human does not mean that their lives are more valuable than animals.” He not only advocates abortion but also killing disabled babies up to 28 days after they are born. In his book Practical Ethics, he wrote, “When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed … . Killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Often, it is not wrong at all.”

If we don't deserve more political consideration than animals, folks, we got big problems.

When we think about environmentalism a lot, we realize (I hope) that the world is basically like a giant park. A long time ago we reached the point where we can make this park any way we want it. So today, it's a political discussion about how warm we want it, how many species we would like, and how much we are willing to hurt our fellow man to make it that way. A world full of Wal-marts and smokestacks may suck, but it may also be a happy life for ten or twenty billion people. People would live that would otherwise never be alive, and these people who can use language, culture, philosophy, invention, and industry to continue evolving our species and the species of our planet. Whatever we do, we cannot worship stasis. Life teaches us that everything must continue evolving. We much embrace our responsibility to change our environment, not just stand around in jaw-dropping awe of how beautiful it all is.

Disney began moving a process of anthropomorphising nature into the mainstream. This was well-intentioned, no doubt, but because of 80 years of Disney, the political conversation about ecology has become irrational. We stop talking about politics and start talking about God, morality, what's right or wrong, how ashamed we should be of ourselves, and all sorts of other emotional and religious baggage that we're never going to agree on. I know this makes some folks feel like they are on the side of angels and people on the other side (evil corporations, conservatives, selfish louts and such) as being members of the forces of darkness, but it's very counter-productive. Nobody wants dirty water. Nobody wants dirty air. Nobody wants to live in a sterile plastic world. But that was never the case to begin with: people on both sides have valid artistic opinions about how the world should look and feel, and we need to talk about them on an equal moral plane if we want to reach some conclusions.

Al Gore testifies before the Senate Committee
Al Gore says the planet has a fever, but does it?
Or does it just have a temperature?
Al! I liked you better with the beard

The anthropomorphising and romanticizing of our place in the environment, began with Rousseau and continuing with Muir, reached it's natural conclusion in Disney and his cartoons. The political movement of Global Warming owes a lot to Disney -- both for good and bad.

EDIT: Before you comment, I suggest you read my response to the current comments on this article. "Winnie the Pooh Eats Children"

8 Comments

hello i do not believe walt disney created globel warming. He was a great man and created the happiest place on earth. He was only looking out for the children. so stop being jelous and starting rumors that are not true :]
thankk youu

hello i do not believe walt disney created globel warming. He was a great man and created the happiest place on earth. He was only looking out for the children. so stop being jelous and starting rumors that are not true :]
thankk youu

You sir are an idiot! Stop posting this crap....

Hello! My name is Gavin and I am an 8th grade student. I am working on a presentation about Walt Disney for my class and I would really like to use your picture of Walt with Mickey in my presentation. I will credit your photo properly and ask that you grant me permission to use it. Your photo will not be used anywhere else, just for one day, in class, during my presentation.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible!

Gavin

what the hell is your promble dont bring a dead man into your "global warming"issues!!!

Are you nuts? Do you know who Walt Disney even is? How in the world would have Walt Disney caused global warming? You are just saying this so that you can blame someone. And how did he cause this when he had been dead for over 40 years? Global warming is caused more so by you than Walt Disney. You just don't want to believe it. So shut-up.

hello my name is thorya im saying what you are saying is not true because walt disney did not do anything to do with global warming so stop saying things you dont even know about ok

Walt Disney was a great man and I see no information in this article to back your OPINION up. He DID NOT cause global warming. Daniel- just by you getting in your car and turning it on, you are contributing. Walt Disney has been dead for many years, you however are still alive so why didn't you mention even yourself contriubiting to global warming in the article. Don't blame others, expecially when you do not know the facts. If you look at Walt Disney's extreem interest in nature, you will prove yourself wrong. Research before you write! We all have caused some sort of pollution. We as humans are all responsible. Write about that!

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This page contains a single entry by Daniel published on May 25, 2007 12:47 PM.

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Daniel Markham