Dr. Suess’s “The Lorax” book was published in 1971, coincidentally, the same year I was born. Forty+ years later, I find myself in a vocation having a lot to do with trees and the book hitting the silver screen. Besides these parallels giving me shivers, the likeness of the message communicated in the book (and presumably the movie) with life in “Realville” are worth examining.
Wikipedia says, “The book is commonly recognized as a fable concerning industrialized society and the danger it poses to nature…” While I doubt anyone would argue that industrialized society, such as ours, has caused damage to society, the discussion livens when we attempt to quantify/qualify this and even more when we back up to our personal ethics. These ethics are rooted in our upbringing and even our religious belief system. While these are valid discussions, this is not the forum so let’s just take a look at what “The Lorax” teaches.
The story line is centered on the clearing of a special forest for the purposes of creating a product folks have been convinced they need. Taking this story line very simply can lead some to thinking it wrong to cut trees and certainly wrong to cut down a whole forest. When I ask 4th graders if it’s bad to cut down a tree, most hands raise without hesitation.
What’s wrong with this picture? Every society, industrialized or not, depends on natural resources. Some of these resources are from non-renewable reserves such as oil, mineral and rock. Other natural resources originate from renewable sources such as animals (bone, ivory, fur), and wild plants such as blackberry bushes and trees. The debate should not center on industrialization…. the Native Americans who once controlled the Eastern United States modified the landscape considerably. Fire was used to clear, and keep clear, vast acreages of forests. Most logging today, unless it is pre-development clearing, is simply a harvesting of a resource from land that will once again grow large trees. As for renewable or not, this is a debate worth having.
When the Once-ler cut the first truffula tree and the Lorax appeared from the stump to “speak for the trees” Mr. Once-ler argued “I chopped just one tree.” A better response would have been to present a plan to replace that tree and to know the ecological impact of different harvesting methods. Let’s take the Brown Brown Bar-ba-loots (bears?) who we know use Truffula trees for their shade and fruit. Perhaps these fantastical species could benefit from a sustainable harvesting of Truffula trees in a way that regenerates new trees and at the same time realizes an economic value. I’ve never known a forest that could not be managed for multiple goods AND services, from the look of a Truffula forest, I would expect no different.
After all, there is a seed! The last page of my copy of the Lorax, given to me by my parents when I was 6 or 7, expresses the hope intrinsic to the renewability of forests. As the Once-ler lets something fall…. “It’s a Truffula Seed. It’s the last one of all! You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds. And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs. Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.”
Yes, we do all need trees like these, but for more than the Lorax gives defense.
We need land to grow trees,
for the critters and bees.
Trees give us lots of good,
Clean air, water and even wood.
We can each be satisfied,
Its renewability is gratified.
Enjoy the movie, consider what’s true.
Adam Downing is a faculty member of Virginia Tech, who has worked as the Natural Resources Extension Agent serving Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Northern District, a 19 county area generally described as the Northern Piedmont of Virginia. His professional expertise is in providing informal education regarding forestry and natural resources to address current issues in rural, urban, and rural/urban interface areas to home & landowners, professionals, decision-makers, and the general public. His mission is to enable people to make best decisions regarding the forest & natural resources, within their realm of influence, resulting in environmentally sustainable management, growth, and quality of life for that person and that community.
The views expressed in ecoView are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Ecology Global Network. EGN does not verify the accuracy or science of these articles.