With her bulging biceps, perfectly applied mascara, and "don't mess with me" look, Rosie the Riveter—the girl next door who could build a tank and totally beat you up—was a cultural icon of World War II, encouraging women to take to the factories and help their country. In the fight against climate change, the Canary Project is looking for a similarly powerful image to motivate us to act in eco-conscious ways. The Green Patriot Posters project is commissioning posters from artists that address the small things ordinary citizens can do to halt climate change. So, will we soon see images of Rosie the Recycler? Charlotte the CFL Bulb-Changer? Brandon the Bicycle Commuter?
The Green Patriot Posters project is beginning its campaign with a series of bus posters in Cleveland, Ohio, designed by local artist Michael Beirut. As the title implies, they address the tie between loving your planet and loving your country. The sides of the Cleveland buses read: "This bus is an assault vehicle in the fight against global warming. Be a green patriot," with a green silhouette of a rifle-toting Revolutionary War minuteman. More posters will roll out in selected cities in the upcoming months, and the project also plans to sponsor an online competition for amateurs to submit their own posters in September.
Looking through the site's gallery of WWII posters, it's striking how many of them are applicable to today. Victory garden planters are the locavores of the '40s, and a poster asking "Is your trip necessary?" is the predecessor to the staycation.
I've written before about the influence of green public art—whether visual or cinematic—and these tactics have certainly worked in the past. Normal Rockwell posters helped convince citizens to collect scrap metal, conserve fuel, and purchase war bonds. However, public transportation riders in the '40s didn't have Blackberries or iPods or the other distractions we utilize precisely to tune out everything around us on our commutes each morning, so the Green Patriot Posters project has some bigger hurdles to overcome.
When the posters go up, will anyone notice?