I could not exactly remember how it came about that I should meet Johnny Biosphere. I think it was a connection with his daughter Jane, who asked me if I would like a visitor to my elementary school classroom to speak about the environment. She did not give me any further details. This was in the early 1980s and I was interested in any opportunity for my students to be exposed to new ideas, so I agreed.

Well, you can imagine my pure delight when a very tall, lanky gentleman with a fearsome twinkle in his eye and spring in his step turned up at my classroom door at Principal Sparling School in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Of course, the fact that he was wearing a globe much larger than a beach ball on his back immediately captured our attention. He then proceeded to spray “acid rain” on all of us. If anyone could make a fabulous first impression it was certainly Johnny Biosphere, and he did so in a dramatic fashion. What a creative, concrete image for students to understand our interdependence with the environment and that we could not disconnect ourselves from Mother Earth. He spoke to my Grade 2 and 3 students, explaining what was happening to our earth, but also what we could do to help make things better. He was absolutely passionate about his topic and the students understood this on a very personal level.

What was so important to me as a young teacher was that Johnny's inspiration ignited my desire to discuss environmental topics in all my classes, whether they were in the curriculum or not. For the next 25 years of my career, this was of fundamental importance to me. My students wrote letters to the government, started recycling programs long before there were incentives, made posters, and developed strategies for schools and initiatives at home that showed we cared about Johnny's message. In fact, many years later a parent told me that his young adult daughter, who had been in my Grade 3 class, was much more environmentally aware because of the lessons she had learned. He also related the fact that she had prodded him to rethink his own attitudes.

When I think of the wide reaching influence that one person can have on the lives of so many others, I only need to remember the joy and delight that was Johnny Biosphere, and the world that he carried on his shoulders.