When the dream of a 60’s hippie dressed up in 80’s gear was created, what was going on in the producer’s minds? Why couldn’t they have created another brooding, angry superhero whose parents died in a tragic accident that he must avenge? Why not make another biochemically-mutated creature who started as an underdog and fights for their rights? How did a story about 5 average teenagers saving the earth become so popular?

In many ways, Captain Planet and the Planeteers is a familiar saga in the superhero world: a teenager who gains unnatural powers and subsequently uses them for the of good is pretty average for a superhero story.

However, there is something that the Captain Planet series gave its audience that the average comic book hero never did: viewer empowerment.

The catch phrase of Captain Planet is literally “The power is yours!” Unlike any other superhero, Captain Planet encourages his viewers to take action, because unlike Batman, Superman, and Spiderman, Captain Planet fights an enemy that exists outside of a comic book.

Of course, there are real-world parallels to the “bad guys” we see in the comics: mobsters, robbers, corrupt officials, for example. Still, nothing is more dangerous to the human race than climate change.

In the series, each villain Captain Planet comes across is in fact a physical incarnation of the damage to nature incurred by humans. Villains like Hoggish Greedly, Looten Plunder, and Sly Sludge represent over-consumption, unethical business actions, and the risks of thoughtless actions, respectively in regard to nature.

The villains that Captain Planet fights are the most terrifying, because they are real. In some way, each of them will have an effect on the life of each viewer.

But it’s not just Captain Planet who does the fighting. The series is based on a group of five teenagers: the Planeteers, who have been chosen to protect the earth by the Earth herself. Captain Planet himself only appears when the Planeteers work together to solve a problem.

Captain Planet and the Planeteers was a radically different superhero show in comparison to the typical superhero, but it somehow managed to be the second longest running cartoon series of the 1990s. Why?

Because instead of focusing on the power of the individual, it focused on the power of a team.

What does this have to do with National Best Friends day?

Best friends day is about celebrating not only someone who has decided to hang out with you despite all your flaws, it’s about celebrating the friendship you share: the living proof that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Think of any team of superheroes: The Avengers, The Justice League, and, barring the following exclusion, because they aren’t from a comic book: Harry, Hermione, and Ron. These heroes, like the Planeteers, show that success does not come when individuals use their powers separately to solve a problem (although it may do some damage control). It comes when they use their knowledge, skills, and power in conjunction with each other.

The great thing is: teams like this exist outside of comic books. The United Nations is an organization whose goal is to maintain international peace and security, promote sustainable development, protect human rights, uphold international law, and deliver humanitarian aid through the cooperation of nearly 200 countries.

On December 5, 2015, the United Nations decided to cut greenhouse gases: an accord that will be the beginning of a long process to protect our earth.

While there are real dangers outside of comic books, there are real heroes too. Through the United Nations, the world is given an immensely powerful superhero to use against the villains of greed, ignorance, and corruption. And this superhero’s power is not based on the individuals who comprise the group, but on the collaboration between them.

Large-scale action is what it will take to preserve the planet. The United Nations can take steps in the right direction, but it will be impossible to effect significant change without the support of the people they represent. In order to save the earth, we need a planet of Planeteers to take action.

What can you do to save our planet? How can you make a big change with a single voice?

Join the fight for the future by encouraging those larger powers to take action. By signing a petition, putting your name on a statement that shows you care about the future, you can be a part of a global movement that can change the world.

This link is the first step to becoming a Planeteer, to becoming a true superhero.

But it is only possible by our combined powers.