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“We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us”

(p.64) Four Pogo
Seeing Green
Finis Dunaway
University of Chicago Press

This chapter considers the origins, meanings, and circulation of the most popular environmental quote to emerge during the period surrounding Earth Day 1970: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Created by the cartoonist Walt Kelly and featured in a poster and his Pogo comic strip, the statement tapped into an important strand of U.S. environmentalism—the emphasis placed upon individual action. At the very moment that the state expanded its role to protect the citizenry from environmental danger, Pogo and other media texts imagined politics in an individualist frame by stressing the personal dimensions of environmental citizenship. Pogo helped popularize environmental guilt, making this emotion central to mainstream framings of the environmental cause. While gas masks conveyed the idea of universal vulnerability, Pogo evoked the notion of universal responsibility, a perspective that ignored the systemic causes of the environmental crisis and constrained the meanings of environmental citizenship.

Keywords:   Pogo, Walt Kelly, personal responsibility, individual action, environmental citizenship, universal responsibility, Earth Day, environmental guilt

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