10 Eco-Lessons We Can Learn From The Lorax

10 Eco-Lessons We Can Learn From The Lorax 

 

There is a war going on, my friends… and I’m not referring to the armed conflicts raging throughout parts of the Middle East and Africa.

 

This battle is raging around the world, from the Amazon River basin to Kruger National Park, from the polar ice caps in the Arctic to the rainforests of Indonesia. It’s a war between those who would exploit Mother Nature’s natural resources for their own profit, and the indigenous people and wildlife that call these areas home, who need those resources for their very survival.

 

This conflict is nothing new: Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, wrote about the importance of environmental awareness back in 1971 in his prescient book, The Lorax. The book tells the story of the Once-ler, who saw economic opportunity upon his first visit to an Eden-like environmental haven. What begins as a charming tale quickly turns dark, however, as the Once-ler harvests Truffula Trees to create a product called Thneeds. Their mass production leads to the extinction of Truffula Trees, leaving the area a barren wasteland completely devoid of life.

 

Through his clever storytelling, Dr. Seuss, in the voice of the outspoken advocate known as the Lorax, issues both a warning about the inherent dangers of rampant environmental exploitation and no-nonsense lessons about what we, as individuals, can do to help foster a more eco-friendly Green Economy:

 

 

1. UNSPOILED WILDERNESS IS A THING TO TREASURE

The Once-ler, who lives a hermitic existence on the gloomy outskirts of town, fondly reminisces about “the days when the grass was still green and the pond was still wet and the clouds were still clean.” It’s clear that he regrets the devastating impact his actions had on the area, whose once-pristine flora and fauna could be analogous for any number of bio-diverse regions of the world currently threatened by development.

 

2. TAKE ONLY PICTURES, LEAVE ONLY FOOTPRINTS

Recognizing the beauty of the Truffula Trees, the Once-ler chops one down and uses it to knit his first Thneed (which looks a bit like furry pajamas). “There’s no cause for alarm,” he reasons with the Lorax, “I chopped just one tree.” But as demand for his product increases, he harvests more and more and more, until they are all gone. Once begun, the exploitation of nature is difficult to stop, so it’s best not to start.

 

3. WE MUST SPEAK FOR THE TREES (AND ALL OTHER LIVING THINGS)

I am the Lorax,” says the creature Seuss describes as sharpish and bossy, “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” There is no place in the world where it is considered OK to cut off a person’s nose, or skin, or limbs. Yet at this very minute, rhinos are being killed for their horns, seals for their skins, and sharks for their fins. They cannot stand up for themselves. If we don’t do it, who will?

 

4. DON’T EXPECT PEOPLE IN POWER TO MAKE ECO-CONSCIOUS DECISIONS

For far too long, people have trusted governments and corporations to do the right thing. But the Once-ler is a great example of how someone with good intentions can make very bad decisions when there’s money to be made. Only by combining our collective voices can we, the people, truly have a say in the creation of environmental policies that encourage the sustainable development of a green economy.

 

 

5. IN NATURE, EVERY ACTION HAS A REACTION

The Once-ler begins chopping trees and making Thneeds four times faster, never once considering the long-term effects on the planet. First the Brown Bar-ba-loots, who fed on the Truffula Fruits, go hungry. Then, as the noxious fumes from the factory poison the water and air, the Swomee-Swans and Humming-Fish leave. All too often, oil and natural gas companies begin drilling without fully understanding the long-term environmental impact. More often than not, it’s devastating both to humans and wildlife.

 

6. DEVELOPMENT, IF NOT SUSTAINABLE, IS A DEAD-END ROAD

What Dr. Seuss called Truffula Trees could just as easily be the forests of Borneo, where illegal logging and oil-palm plantations are destroying critical habitat for the endangered Orangutan. This harvest may turn a quick profit, but how will the nation generate revenue once the forests are gone? Green industries such as ecotourism and renewable energy offer opportunities for long-term profits via sustainable development.

 

7. RAMPANT CONSUMERISM CREATES A NON-SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE

The Once-ler justifies his environmental destruction by arguing that he’s serving society by creating Thneeds, which he claims, “EVERYONE needs!” But many of our “needs” are manufactured via advertising, and hardly necessary for survival. By Reducing our consumption, Reusing everything we can and Recycling everything else, we minimize our individual and collective strain on the planet.

 

 

8. UNLESS SOMEONE LIKE YOU CARES A WHOLE AWFUL LOT, NOTHING IS GOING TO GET BETTER. IT’S NOT.

When the Lorax disappears from the barren wasteland, he leaves behind a small pile of rocks with one word carved into them: UNLESS. This is his warning, just as climate change and an increasing number of endangered species are Mother Nature’s warning, to all of us. We must think of ourselves as the Lorax, and we must take action on behalf of the environment. Unless we do, things have no hope of getting better.

 

9. CHILDREN ARE THE SEEDS, AND WE MUST HELP THEM GROW

At the end of his story, the Once-ler gives the boy to whom he is telling it the very last Truffula seed, encouraging him to plant it. Dr. Seuss’ message is that educating children about the importance of environmental stewardship is our best hope for nurturing the sustainable development of a green economy. Somewhere in the world, there’s a young boy or girl who may develop a revolutionary form of alternative energy, or an innovation in sustainable agriculture. They need our help to learn and grow.

 

10. THERE IS HOPE FOR THE FUTURE, AND IT IS US

Grow a forest,” the Once-ler says. “Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.” It’s not too late to take action. Plant a tree! Conserve water! Learn how to live more sustainably and travel more responsibly! Invest in Clean Energy! Write your Congressman and urge him/her to support pro-environmental legislation! Dr. Seuss’ timeless classic reminds us that ANYONE can make a difference, and we are all essential to creating a greater, greener world. All we have to do is speak for the trees.  -Bret Love

 

If you enjoyed reading 10 Eco-Lessons We Can Learn From The Lorax, you might also like:

Easy Ecotourism: 10 Simple Steps to More Sustainable Travel

Saving The World, One Story At A Time

DIY Aquaponics: The Future of Green Gardening

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    • I didn’t realize that Dr. Seuss wasn’t popular overseas. No Cat In The Hat? Or Green Eggs & Ham? I’m surprised, as I’d thought he was well-known around the world. Regardless, thanks for the comment!

  1. Great blog. I contribute to a travel website called LIttlenomads – I was wondering if it would be possible to post this on our site as a guest blog? With a link back here of course.
    Let me know, ta, Deb

  2. GGT, I sure hope Universal Pictures is planning on cutting you guys a check. That wonderfully written piece not only opened my eyes to a few things, but it kinda has me wanting to see the new movie too. :-)

    • LOL! Yeah De, I kind of doubt the movie (due out next month around the time of Dr. Seuss’ birthday) will go very far in reinforcing the deep pro-environmental messages of the book. From what I’ve read, it sounds like they take a lot of what Hollywood calls “creative license.” It’ll be interesting to see what they do with it.

  3. I love the Lorax, I used to read it to my grade five students in our ecosystems unit of study. They loved it too. Very powerful messages.

    Thanks for reminding us all how we need to portect our earth

    • That’s awesome, Caz. I was actually thinking maybe there was some way I could submit this to some sort of educational program for teachers to use when teaching about the environment. It’s amazing how Dr. Seuss took very complex sociopolitical concepts and put them in a context even small children could understand. In my book, he was a literary genius!

  4. He’s great, Laurence. Most of his books work on multiple levels, blending humor, wit and an affinity for the absurd with deeper messages some might not get on first glance. For instance, his classic “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” was a knock against rampant consumerism in capitalist societies. Well worth checking out, especially if/when you have kids. Thanks for the comment!

  5. The Lorax: may he live forever and continue to preach his environmental messages oh so subtly. Our new materialistic population should be reintroduced to old ecological principles. For years, the Girl Scout organization has been teaching “minimal impact camping,” take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints,” “pack it in, pack it out,” and broad messages about our earth, simple but critical lessons to give our children. I think you are definitely on the right track. This should be included in our schools.

  6. What a great read! I have always loved Dr. Seuss and never realized how much his wonderful stories can apply to our lives as adults. Love it! Thanks so much for the great post! :)

  7. Truly, everything we did learn in kindergarten is all we need to know! Educating children is definitely the way to go!

  8. Ok I really hated Dr. Seus as a child; however I am enamored as an adult. When we stop buying junk to make us feel better and Instead behave better, will we be happy. Could totally see this as a storytime program at the library or community nature centers/ summer camps.

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  10. Great way to use Dr. Seuss to remind people to take an active part in preserving the earth. More people need to get involved with taking care of the planet as they see the world. Articles like this are a friendly reminder to us all.

  11. Bret – wonderful post! We did a post for parents on how to use the Lorax to encourage a discussion/activities around ecology with kids. And I so believe that this is a book that should be read when you’re young, and then again when you’re a teen or older – great messages!

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