Sign The Guestbook
View The Guestbook
Archived Guestbook
Submit An Article
Staff List
Privacy Policy


Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

July 12, 2007

Thoughts upon the death of Lady Bird Johnson…

In a very New York sort of moment, I found myself post doctor’s appointment and pre-dinner meeting time, near Union Square. I bought myself a soft drink and sat down at a picnic table, popped open my laptop, plugged into the sphere using my wireless card and began to write, while in the background a jazz band played against the cacophony of the city while I attempted to sort out the riot of media thoughts I’ve had this week.

I have been, in conjunction with a client, working at a hard pace on a pilot for Discovery’s about to be launched Planet Green while surrendering last Saturday to do Emmy judging for dramas. In other words, there has been no time off in about three weeks and I am looking forward to this weekend, going home and chilling out, watching the creek flow by.

Because Planet Green is all about ecology and because I have three projects under consideration there, I have been thinking a whole lot about ecology. It seemed almost appropriate that after I had delivered the pilot to Planet Green and while I was waiting in the Acela Club at Union Station in DC, that I should hear that Lady Bird Johnson had died.

Ms. Johnson, former First Lady, widow of Lyndon Johnson, the President who presided over the escalation of the Viet Nam war, was also the first person in my consciousness that spoke about taking care of the environment. As I recall, she had a particular anathema, and rightly so, to the trashing of the landscape we, as a country, had taken to in the heady post World War II world in which all us Baby Boomers were blossoming, a time when we felt the land was there to serve us, to be dominated, to yield its wealth to us uncomplainingly.

We made a mess of the roadside; not just with those Burma Shave signs that marched down the road, leading us, sign by sign, through some aphorism. We also littered it with anything we had in our car that we didn’t want there. We had crammed the sides of roads with an amazing amount of billboards, hawking everything. Some of it was kitschy wonderful, most of it was dreadful.

Lady Bird got up on her First Lady’s bully pulpit and began to demand we clean up our act – and amazingly, she had an effect. We started to take better care of the roadsides and to plant wildflowers, which was another passion of hers.

This was our first real burst of populist concern for the environment [we all had learned in school about Teddy Roosevelt; somehow the result was environmentalism felt like an elite intellectual’s concern]. Lady Bird brought it to the masses and set the stage for Earth Day.

All the while she was doing her good works, B-52’s were pummeling Southeast Asia, Agent Orange defoliated the Vietnamese countryside, infusing Americans and Vietnamese alike with carcinogens. There was an American love “of the smell of napalm in the morning.” It was hideous.

The breaking news of her death interrupted a report on events in Iraq. As you can imagine, the story wasn’t pretty or very uplifting. As I sit here now, thinking about these things, it occurs to me that the first ripple of popular conservation began to form while far away we were destroying one country while today’s green movement is swelling against the backdrop of another war, another country and deep devastation.

It has caused me to wonder if we become more aware and caring of what we have while watching others lose what they have.