Lopi LaRoe

Smokey the Bear always seemed like a pretty reasonable bear-dude to me. He doesn’t appear to have any other politics beyond encouraging campers to douse their fires. But that’s not how artist Lopi LaRoe sees Smokey. Last fall, LaRoe radicalized the U.S. Forest Service’s stern spokesbear in artwork and merchandise.

“This is Smokey waking up and saying, ‘Oh you didn’t do that to my environment.’ Smokey wants to fight the corporations and protect the air and the water and the plants and the animals and the people,” LaRoe tells Waging Non-Violence.

Turns out the U.S. Forest Service is not super into that, and has threatened LaRoe with legal action if she doesn’t stop selling Smokey the Anti-Fracker merchandise plus remove all her images from the web.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

But considering how reasonable that Smokey always seemed, it got us thinking: What other cartoon bears might be wishing they could get political, were it not for their overlords? We checked in with a few to get their response.



Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.


Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!