The Common Good
August 2008

I Am (dramatic pause) ... Enviro Man

by Ed Spivey Jr. | August 2008

Putting stickers on cars is a different kind of superpower.

Important note: The following reveals “spoiler” information from the blockbuster movie Iron Man, another tediously derivative action film that’s indistinguishable from other recent action films, except for the fact that it is just SO COOL! —The Editors

At a surprising moment in Iron Man, the principal character breaks the unwritten rule of superheroes and reveals his secret identity. For much of the movie he had fought evil concealed in a form-fitting metal suit, which, if nothing else, was an advertisement for the need for talcum powder when flying at supersonic speeds in metal long underwear.

Then, at the end of the film, he stands before the gathered media and just blurts out, “I’m Iron Man.” The actor is Robert Downey Jr., who in real life has considerable experience standing before various groups, usually consisting of police or judges, and blurting out, with conviction, “Those aren’t MY drugs,” or “I promise to do better, if paroled.”

The producers could have milked the secret identity thing for several sequels (after three episodes of Spider-Man, Peter Parker’s secret identity is known only by his girlfriend and roughly 2 billion of the rest of us). Instead, they chose to reveal Iron Man’s secret, apparently so he could ­ease the loneliness of working for the common good without recognition or reward.

I understand this need. Because I, too, have a secret identity and have traveled across our great land working tirelessly not only for humankind, but for the very future of the planet itself. And now the truth can be told.

I am Enviro Man.

Or, possibly, Environment Man, or maybe EnvironMent-O, although that sounds like a breath mint, so forget that. When it comes to choosing your superhero name you’ve got to come up with one before the public takes a look at you and misses the point entirely: “So, you’re like, Leotard Boy, or what?”

Regardless, for the past 10 years my duty has been clear: I am an SUV’s worst nightmare. To those gas-guzzling behemoths that destroy the ozone while masquerading as the family station wagon ... I am death.

Okay, maybe not death, but I’m trying for some drama here. Mainly because there are those who think that my secret weapon—placing clever stickers on the bumpers of offending vehicles—is not really much of a weapon, and certainly not a super-power. These skeptics insist I am not in the same league as, say, Superman or Wonder Woman, even though I once went to a Halloween party dressed as Wonder Woman and, to my credit, a few people actually didn’t laugh so hard their soft drinks came out through their noses. In fact, to this small but insightful minority, I brought a certain dignity to the costume.

And it is that same dignity that I bring to my secret superhero duties, as I sneak—with dignity—around parking lots, crouch low behind bumpers, and stealthily flit from Chevy Suburban to Mercury Navigator to Hummer H3, leaving behind a message of protest (at left) against vehicles that are some of the biggest contributors to global warming.

It’s my way of saying, powerfully and unashamedly, “J’accuse!” Or, if grabbed from behind by the burly arms of an SUV owner—or her husband—I would add, with conviction, “Those aren’t MY stickers!”

To my critics who claim you can’t solve the world’s problems by merely putting a sticker on them, I can only reply that, through no fault of my own, I have not been bitten by a radioactive spider, which scientists say gives you superhuman Spider Strength. Nor was I born on a distant planet with a red sun and a white-haired Marlon Brando as my dad. So, frankly, stickering is the best I can do.

I STRIKE QUICKLY, in daylight or under cover of darkness. From New Mexico to Florida to upstate New York, I have bravely tagged offending vehicles with the Truth That Sticks, hoping the owners will drive unaware for several days, incriminating themselves to drivers following close behind, awestruck by the powers of Enviro Man.

If you’ve ever found my sticker on your car, then shame on you for needing to be publicly mocked for driving such a wasteful car. (Although if you were the driver of that ambulance in Albu­querque, sorry about that. I put the sticker on your bumper before I looked up and realized the flashing lights might exempt the vehicle. Then I heard the muffled shouts of the paramedics trying to open the door from the inside but they couldn’t, because I was in the way, putting a sticker on the bumper.)

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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