by Cole Gamble & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & remember as a kid getting the environment crammed down my throat. It was a really, really big deal. At the beginning of the '90s, the degradation of the environment was the greatest plague of our generation, according to the stars of film and television. I remember a star-studded prime time special, greater than Circus of the Stars, with luminaries such as Fred Savage and the Golden Girls performing skits on recycling while that one guy from Kid N' Play did a composting rap. The message was clear: not being friendly to the environment made you a jerk.

Using aerosol cans, it seemed, was equivalent to punching a puppy in the eye. There was even an environmental cartoon, Captain Planet, which totally blew. Captain Planet was like the "Knowing Is Half the Battle" segment at the end of G.I Joe cartoons, blown up to a half hour and fruitier. No kid watched the Captain Planet cartoon, but it existed, which meant the environment was at least as important as transforming robots. It was a glorious earth lovin' time when hacky sackers roamed without fear of being beaten up on sight.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & hen one day, I think it was a Tuesday, it all ground to a halt. No more tree-hugging cartoons. No more televised Earth Day specials. The very next day began the "Let's Screw the Environment" era. Military assault vehicles were issued to soccer moms. We wiped our butts with spotted owls. Panda hunting with ivory-cast bullets was the newest craze to sweep the nation. As a kid, it was hard not to believe we solved the whole environment thing. Whatever had been wrong with it we fixed -- too well, in fact. Now we had to screw up the earth just to get it back to a nice lived-in feel.

But the truth was nothing had improved. The environment sucked just as much as before. The difference was no one wanted to hear about it anymore. As a people, America was sick of being told about the stupid, needy environment. The public hit sensory overload. And so the environmental problem was solved as so many issues in America are: We just stopped caring. The cause was killed by media saturation, making the environment the Bennifer of its time.

Now it looks like the environment is back in the spotlight thanks to the wonkiest guy around, Al Gore. Literally the hottest of this summer's movie releases, An Inconvenient Truth features Al Gore giving a Power Point presentation on global warming. To those who do not enjoy his brand of wonktitude, having Al Gore provide the sugar to make a medicinal lecture go down might seem like treating narcolepsy with Nyquil. But Truth shows Gore's passionate, engaging side. Turns out the handlers and advisors during his 2000 campaign wouldn't let him talk about the one thing he wanted to, and as result all we saw was RoboGore.

With the release of An Inconvenient Truth, the environment's credibility is reborn, even if 99.999 percent of the country hasn't seen the film. The documentary has come along at just the right point in the zeitgeist, coinciding with a phenomenon completely unrelated to environmentalists: high gas prices. Though our new-found interest in fuel economy has nothing to do with saving the earth -- we would switch to fueling with unicorn blood if it were under three dollars a gallon -- it gets the idea's foot in the door. In addition to Truth, there is Who Killed the Electric Car?, a film that documents the demise of the EV1, GM's highly popular electric car that was suddenly and mysteriously recalled and crushed by its maker. No one will ever see this film either. That doesn't matter, because it and Gore's Truth have created buzz on the environment -- and as we all know, buzz is more important than content. This has become the summer of earth love.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & B & lt;/span & ut with the end of summer so may end the love. Gas prices will drop and the weather will get colder, causing more people to drive. All American brain capacity will be busy downloading holiday spirit. The environment had its 15 minutes of fame before, and even though there are nothing but second acts in America, how long can this one last? The Internet has made sure that everyone and everything may have its moment, but it will be short. There are not just enough minutes to go around. Anyone can be a star on YouTube for an afternoon. As result of all the information coming at us, we're trained not to spend too much time with any one trend or fad. The environment may likely get buried beneath Paris Hilton's upcoming colostomy or the triumphant return of pantaloons to the fashion world.

So how can the environment stay in the public eye -- if not for us, then at least for the children? It's too late for my generation and our coal-powered juice machines, but Whitney Houston once taught us the children are ... something, something. She was probably tweaked, but the point remains true. The children are something and there needs to be something that warns them of the dangers to our earth. A spokesperson, if you will, brightly colored, who could tap into their love of superheroes while expounding on the virtues of protecting the environment.

Hey, I just got an idea....

Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures from the Driehaus Collection @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13
  • or