An enthralling post from Christian environmental expert and author Anna Clark (Green, American Style) on a classic from Dr. Seuss which turns out to be a gem of creation care wisdom ...
My kids love Dr. Seuss, so for Christmas we gave them The Lorax. I don’t know how I reached age 36 without reading this brilliant 1971 classic. Now that I have, I think it the single most imaginative presentation of the tension between industry and environmentalists ever written.
The story opens when a boy comes to a desolate corner of town to hear the story of “the Once-ler” (a green being who is never shown throughout the book except for his arms and legs). After the Once-ler receives payment from the boy (consisting of 15 cents, a nail, and the shell of a great, great, great grandfather snail) he recounts how he first arrived where they now stand, back then a beautiful forest of Truffula Trees, colorful woolly trees that supported various fantastical creatures. As soon as the Once-ler drives his covered wagon into this paradise, he becomes so enamored with the fuzzy tufts of the Truffula trees that he sets about cutting them down to make Thneeds. Why? Because “a thneed is a thing that everyone needs!”
The Lorax, a short furry animal resembling a sea otter, enters the picture as “a voice for the trees” (think annoying environmentalist, but cuter). From the time the Once-ler chops down his first tree until he cuts down the last, the Lorax keeps trying to warn him of the dangers to the Bar-ba-Loots, who survive on Truffula fruits. The Swomee Swans and the Humming Fish also suffer from pollution and smog of the thneed factories.
What I love about Dr. Seuss’ fables is that he isn't preachy in his moral teaching. Even his villains are not evil so much as they are complex and clever. Just as the Grinch steals Christmas but learns to love in the end, the Once-ler develops a desire to save what has been lost. I won’t give away the whole story, but I can’t resist sharing some of its words of wisdom.
Then we heard the tree fall. The very last Truffula Tree of them all! No more trees. No more Thneeds. No more work to be done. ...
"But now," says the Once-ler, "Now that you're here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
In 2008, Random House launched The Lorax Project, a fun interactive website that allows kids and parents to play games, send letters, organize projects, and make simple behavioral changes to protect endangered species. And if you haven’t bought the book, I hope you will! I promise that you will get as much out of this book as your kids will, maybe more. I know I have.
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Congratulations to Anna, one of our regular blog contributors, who just released Green, American Style (Baker '10), which documents how "Americans of all stripes are finding their footing in the green movement" and "offers practical advice for saving money, getting healthy and protecting your future." Anna told me there is animal-related content in the book as well, which we will hopefully highlight at some point. In the meantime, you can catch a video introduction from Anna herself to Green, American Style.