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Captain Planet
Age is never a barrier in the fight for social justice. At least, Captain Planet teaches this lesson. During the animated series’ six-year span, “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” sought to educate and empower young people to take an interest in environmental issues.

Origin

Media mongrel, Ted Turner, conceived of the idea for Captain Planet. To bring this superhero to life, Turner sought the help of longtime environmentalist and film producer, Barbara Pyle. Inspired by people she met during past projects, Pyle created the Planeteers: Kwame, Gi, Linka, Wheeler and Ma-Ti. Together, the Planeteers and Captain Planet work to combat ecological and global problems.

“Captain Planet and the Planeteers” premiered worldwide in 1990 and the children’s animated series gained popular success as well as critical acclaim. Captain Planet was one of the first television shows to openly advocate for the environment. Apart from addressing environmental issues, the television show also encouraged young people to have an interest in the issues plaguing their own communities. Here are two examples of how Captain Planet challenged its audience to be advocates for nonenvironmental social justice issues.

Issue #1: HIV/AIDS Epidemic

In the early 1990s, the HIV/AIDS epidemic devastated the United States. The number of reported cases was over 100,000 and it affected everyone in sight. Ryan White was one of the first children diagnosed with the deadly virus. Doctors diagnosed White with AIDS when he was 13 years old after he received a blood transfusion. After this diagnosis, White’s school banned him and his community ostracized him, similar to other individuals. People were afraid of White due to the misperception that AIDS could transmit by air or touch.

During the middle of the epidemic, Captain Planet addressed the issue of HIV/AIDS in its episode, “A Formula for Hate.” The episode challenged the audience to put aside ignorance and fear to reduce discrimination against people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. The plot of the episode parallels White’s situation after his diagnosis with AIDS. In the episode, the townspeople learn about a student’s (Todd Andrews) HIV-positive diagnosis. The townspeople turn against Andrews and his family, going as far as burning his mother’s vegetable stand. Captain Planet and the Planeteers intervene by educating the townspeople on the virus, dispelling the misperception that HIV cannot be transmitted by casual contact. As a result, Andrews and his family were once again accepted by the townspeople and no longer discriminated against.

Issue #2: Gang Violence

Gangs and firearm violence were on the rise in the United States during the 1990s, especially among young people. In 1990, the number of fatal and nonfatal violent crimes with a firearm was at an all-time high at 18,253. In 1993, 45 cities reported that over 100,000 young people were involved in a gang. The rise in violent crimes created toxic environments among youth and places considered safe zones for young people, like parks and schools, became battlegrounds.

In 1994, Captain Planet addressed the issue of gang and gun violence in the episode, “Teers in the ‘Hood.” The episode’s plot revolved around a shootout between two rival gangs and The Planeteers became caught in the middle of the conflict. Captain Planet and the Planeteers defused the situation by talking about the peace messages of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Mahatma Gandhi. The episode also debunked the myth that gangs offer positive communities for its members. After two of the Planeteers infiltrated one of the rival gangs, the gang quickly pressured them to use violence in order to gain acceptance. In short, the episode’s message was on the power of positive community and peace.

Today, Captain Planet continues providing fun, innovative opportunities to support environmental issues worldwide. To get involved or learn more, visit www.captain planet foundation.org.

– Paola Nunez
Photo: Flickr

The United Nations Foundation is a partner of the United Nations, though it is not directly involved in achieving the UN’s goals on the ground. It was started after multimillionaire philanthropist Ted Turner donated $1 billion as a show of his support for the UN’s objectives. Primarily a funding body, the foundation was established in 1998 –- long after the UN’s 1945 inauguration –- to ensure governments adhere to the commitments they have made to the UN and to secure funding for UN projects worldwide. Additionally, the UN foundation works to connect other organizations, individuals, and businesses in partnership with the UN.

The UN Foundation recognizes the role enterprise has to play in development. Accordingly, it has formed 300 partnerships and garnered over $2 billion in direct aid for UN projects. Examples of the Foundation’s work include partnerships with Vodafone to assist in capitalizing on the spread of technology as an aid to development efforts, with Expedia to protect and increase education about World Heritage Sites, and with multiple US corporations, such as Orkin, Hewlett-Packard and United Airlines, to support the Nothing but Nets campaign which provides mosquito nets in malaria prone regions.

The UN Foundation’s work is particularly important as one of the notorious pitfalls of development projects is the disconnect among organizations working on the same issue. The approach of disparate entities working separately on the same issue breeds inefficiency. Without coordinating past and current efforts, institutions often use the same flawed approaches, compete for resources, and waste energy on unnecessary projects. The Foundation’s work streamlines efforts, capabilities and resources to create a single, coordinated powerhouse initiative on a given project, which has the potential to produce far better results.

Though the UN Foundation is not itself an intervening body, its services have proven invaluable to the continuing efforts of the United Nations in alleviating poverty and instituting programs for sustainable development worldwide.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: UN Business, UN Foundation
Photo: UN Women Flickr

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The Better World Fund was founded in 1998 by media mogul, philanthropist, and humanitarian Ted Turner. The man who brought us the cable station CNN started the Fund as an umbrella organization to facilitate public-private partnerships to address a range of global concerns, including health crises and environmental problems.  The fund also serves as an advocacy and outreach organization to support the work of the United Nations, and to lobby for the US Government to provide political, financial and sometimes military support for UN humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts.

The major initiative of the Better World Fund is the Better World Campaign, whose publicity and advocacy work currently focuses on what the organization calls its “key issues.”  The top three of those issues are climate change, global health, and international security.

In each of these areas, the Better World Fund and the Better World Campaign work to build support for UN initiatives.  On climate change, they advocate for adoption of the Copenhagen Accord, which establishes a registry to keep track of the ways that different nations are responding to climate change. The Accord also commits developed countries to providing up to $100 billion per year by 2020 to reduce emissions and take other measures to address climate change.

In the area of global health, the Better World Fund supports UN education and treatment efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria, and it supports vaccination efforts to eradicate polio.  In the area of international security, the Fund advocates for UN efforts to end nuclear proliferation, to combat international terrorism, and to enforce maritime laws governing the activities of governments and businesses, and the management of marine natural resources.

The Fund’s Board of Directors includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, civil rights leader Andrew Young, and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan.

– Délice Williams

Sources: Better World Campaign, Charity Navigator
Photo: Glogster

Profile: the Better World Fund
The Better World Fund was founded in 1998 by media mogul, philanthropist, and humanitarian Ted Turner.  The man who brought us the cable station CNN started the Fund as an umbrella organization to facilitate public-private partnerships to address a range of global concerns, including health crises and environmental problems.  The fund also serves as an advocacy and outreach organization to support the work of the United Nations and to lobby for the US Government to provide political, financial and sometimes military support for UN humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts.

The major initiative of the Better World Fund is the Better World Campaign, whose publicity and advocacy work currently focuses on what the organization calls its “key issues.”  The top three of those issues are climate change, global health, and international security.

In each of these areas, the Better World Fund and the Better World Campaign work to build support for UN initiatives.  On climate change, they advocate for the adoption of the Copenhagen Accord, which establishes a registry to keep track of the ways that different nations are responding to climate change. The Accord also commits developed countries to provide up to $100 billion per year by 2020 to reduce emissions and take other measures to address climate change.

In the area of global health, the Better World Fund supports UN education and treatment efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria, and it supports vaccination efforts to eradicate polio.  In the area of international security, the Fund advocates for UN efforts to end nuclear proliferation, to combat international terrorism, and to enforce maritime laws governing the activities of governments and businesses, and the management of marine natural resources.

The Fund’s Board of Directors includes former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, civil rights leader Andrew Young, and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan.

– Délice Williams
Source: Better World Campaign, Charity Navigator
Source: Glogster