This week, nature has benefitted from the actions of an organization full of happy naturalists. And by “happy”, I mean people who exercise the choice to be positive and proactive. Texas Parks and Wildlife recently exemplified real positivity in response to a negative ad.
If you haven’t already heard from Children and Nature Network or Adventure Journal or your friends in the nature biz, here’s the low-down: Toys R Us recently produced an ad that paints nature field trips in a very unflattering light, and uses under-served kids as their pawns to do it. What’s the company’s suggested alternative to visiting a boring ol’ forest or spending time in the icky outdoors? Acquiring lots of (new shiny expensive breakable plastic made-in-sweatshops) toys, of course. (I’m loathe to encourage more Youtube views but if you want to see the commercial, click here.)
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with gift-giving, with toys, children’s joy, or philanthropy (well, highly publicized philanthropy is questionable). But among the more despicable claims about this commercial, the film crew purportedly took underprivileged kids who were actually excited to go on a field trip to a forest, trapped them on a bus, drove them around for an obscene amount of time, and exposed them to a terrible mock-up of nature interpretation, all for the purpose of a grand switcheroo – a surprise trip to a toy store for a free toy. A very emotionally charged, well-paced, exciting commercial, which unintentionally(???) stabs at less expensive, more meaningful experiences in nature.
I actually wasn’t going to respond to the commercial at all, since I couldn’t think of anything helpful to say. But Texas Parks and Wildlife did something wonderful. Did they moan? Did they write a nasty letter? Did they even deign to mention the offending commercial? No. They created a positive counter-message which stands on its own merit.
I want to shout this example to the mountains. I want us to take a page from TPWD’s book. Let’s tip our hats and hashtags to these brave and thoughtful harbingers of happiness. And in honor of them, let’s enjoy the outdoors, and inspire others to do so.
- Toys “R” Us Presents: An Unsustainable Toy Story for the Holiday Season (triplepundit.com)
- Hey Kids, Nature is Boring and Dumb (outsideonline.com)
- Toys ‘R’ Us messes with Mother Nature: trees vs. toys [+video] (csmonitor.com)
- Is This the Most Anti-Science, Anti-Environmental TV Ad Ever? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Toys “R” Us says: “Nature?! Booooring. Plastic! Yessss!” (elephantjournal.com)