How It Started

It began in 1970 in an Ecology class, taught by Mr. James Bugg, a science teacher at Southfield High*. We read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson and “The Population Bomb” by Dr. Paul Ehrlich. I made a slide show about pollution for my project and was asked to leave it behind so it could be used in future classes. The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970 was a clarion call and I was surprised that people did not take the issues to heart as I did.

My interest evolved through the years with the support of Green Peace and I watched Jacques Cousteau every time a National Geographic special aired. This was in the days long before cable TV. Headlines of Love Canal and other Super-Fund clean-up sites made for more activism. The Alaskan oil spill was a tragedy and I knew the mess would only escalate. Films like “Erin Brockovich” and "A Civil Action" hit home with the reality that the planet was not just messed up in isolated spots but what affected one area affects the whole planet. Endangered species may mean nothing to some people because they didn’t link their ability to live here with those that have since died off but I knew it meant we were poisoning our own living space and we would be on the endangered species list ourselves!

In my slide show, I cited statistics about how the human body absorbs mercury from eating tainted fish, that humans are part of the food chain, and if there are toxins in fish, beef, chicken and eggs, then those toxins would be in us.

When I went to the theater to see the film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” there were few people at the screening; maybe six others. The next day, I took the book out of the library to read and absorb what Al Gore said on the film. I knew I had to do something.

In 2009, an idea came to me and I drew a cartoon of the manatee I named “Hugh” so that together, it would be pronounced “HUMANITY.” This is how I came up with the name Hugh Manatee. I thought about how Smokey the Bear did so much for the awareness of forest fire prevention and decided people might embrace more earth-friendly practices if we had a warm and fuzzy icon to sound the alarm about our carbon footprint and global warming; I decided that one icon should represent the vision all the environmental organizations share since we are after the same thing…everyone needs to do good things for humanity to stop global warming, thus Hugh Manatee was born.

Feel free to contact us about how your company or organization would feel about supporting this idea of a single icon that might appear on your products we soon will be selling. You can celebrate
 getting LEED certified, or switching suppliers that will help the environment. Are you using paper with more recycled content, have places for employees to recycle bottles and cans? I want people to know that we don't just "talk the talk" but also "walk the walk." Contact if you wish to share your comments. If you want to send something to me personally, my e-mail is I came up with this concept and am fortunate that Noam Chomsky, PhD, saw this site and wrote to me, "An imaginative and timely idea; I hope it lights a spark." Are you interested? I hope you will want to show your enthusiasm about environmental protection so when the gift shop opens, we will have tee shirts, a puzzle, and other items sporting the logo for sale. Stay tuned to this site. And, go see Al Gore's new film that came out August 4, "Truth to Power." 

Southfield High School is located in Southfield, Michigan, a northwest suburb of Detroit, Michigan.


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