Kelly Earth Day poster1970 a

Pogo the Possum and The First Earth Day

Kelly Earth Day poster1970
Walt Kelly’s Pogo Earth Day Poster is courtesy of Community Alliance.

The very first Earth Day was in 1970. On the first Earth Day a famous comic strip character named Pogo helped to call attention to Earth Day with this famous poster that was done by Walt Kelly.

Pogo was the main character of a daily comic strip created by Walt Kelly. For many years, Walt Kelly wrote and drew a daily comic strip about animals that lived in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. Pogo the Possum was one of the main characters in the strip. Walt Kelly used his characters as a means to show political satire.

The poster has the quote, “We have met the enemy and he is us,” by Pogo. Underneath the trees, the ground is filled with trash that only people could have left behind. This is the reason that he says, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Pogo has a stick and bag and is starting to pick up the trash that is all around him. Just as Pogo is working to fix the damage done by others and make the Earth a better place, we can follow his example and do the same.
okefenokee 1
I recently visited the Okefenokee Swamp. My husband and I took a 90 minute boat ride into the swamp. There were many cypress trees. None were over about 90 years old due to logging in the swamp before it became a National Wildlife Refuge. We saw and got to handle some of the peat that makes up the bottom and peat islands of the swamp. Peat is formed when the vegetation falls into the water and due to the acidic composition of the water it does not decay very rapidly at all, so it becomes peat. It is very spongy. The is why the native Americans called it the Land of the Trembling Earth. There was a lot of Spanish Moss hanging in the trees. In the swamp were a few islands of land where people could live. There are over 20,000 alligators and over 600 black bear in the swamp.

In the late 1800’s, a person bought up the Swamp and wanted to drain it and make farm land. He formed the Suwannee Canal Company and started digging a huge canal that would link into the St. Mary’s River and the Suwannee River. He went bankrupt and the canal was never completed. That canal is used today by the tour boat I was riding to show visitors the swamp. After the bank foreclosed on the land, it was sold to the Hebard Cypress Company, a timber company who harvested most all of the several hundred year old huge several foot diameter cypress trees. That is why on the boat tour, you only see trees that are less that a foot in diameter. The alligators would hiss at the boat if it got too close, but did not try to attack the boat. The tour guide said the alligators will hiss and eventually run away because people do not feed them. If people feed them, the alligators become very aggressive. I saw very aggressive alligators when I toured the Louisiana Bayou.

We walked down a man made boardwalk that was about a foot off of the surface of the swamp. The boardwalk went three quarters of a mile into the swamp. Looking down from the boardwalk, we were able to see many snakes, and a few turtles. We saw a water moccasin right beside the boardwalk. There was a 4 story fire tower at the end of the boardwalk. The view from it was amazing. I was able to look over the wetlands and see several water birds in the distance.

I am glad that I was able to visit the swamp and see all of the wildlife and vegetation of this unique ecosystem. I saw many alligators, water birds, and snakes, even though I did not see an opossum like Pogo the Possum.

In 1971, Walt Kelly did a famous Earth Day comic strip that featured Pogo.
Pogo Comic Strip Earth Day
Pogo comic strip courtesy of Michael Sporn Animation

In this comic strip, Pogo and Porky Pine are walking in the swamp and are walking over a lot of trash left behind by humans. Porky Pine says to Pogo, “It is hard walkin on this stuff” and Pogo

answers, “Yes, son, we have met the enemy and he is us.”

Let’s do our part and be a friend to the Earth, instead of an enemy.

If you enjoyed this post, please visit my blog Between the Pages. I’ll be featuring Earth Day themed Cakes and Cookies for the next few days.

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