Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Lorax

This holiday season when shopping for the little ones in your life consider a classic book with creative illustrations, unique characters and clever rhymes that also includes a strong message about the importance of being good environmental stewards.

The book is the Lorax written by classic children’s author Dr. Seuss. Although it was released in 1971, the point of the tale is even more valid today.

The story is narrated is classic Seuss fashion by a character called the Once-ler, a businessman whose quest for profits literally kept him from seeing the forest for the trees. It begins with the Once-ler telling a young boy how many years ago he came upon a beautiful forest of Truffula Trees at a time when “the grass was still green and the pond was still wet and the clouds were still clean”.

The Once-ler is awed by the colorful and beautiful Truffula Trees, which have tufts softer than silk, and decides to chop down a tree to make a “Thneed”, a frivolous item that he believes “everyone needs.”

Emerging from within the stump of the first chopped down tree is a mossy creature called the Lorax. “I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues,” the Lorax tells the Once-ler. But with profits growing, the Once-ler is unmoved by the Lorax’s repeated warnings.

“I meant no harm. I most truly did not,” the Once-ler says.” But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got. I went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds. And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.”

As the trees disappeared, the creatures that depended on the forest for food, shelter, and fresh air were forced to leave in order to survive. After the last tree is chopped down the Lorax himself also abandons the now desolate landscape, leaving behind a rock engraved with one word – ”UNLESS.”

With all the trees gone, the Once-ler goes out of business. For years afterwards he sat atop his abandoned factory and pondered what he had done. “That was long, long ago. But each day since that day I’ve sat here and worried and worried away. Through they years, while my buildings have fallen apart, I’ve worried about it with all of my heart.”

He tells the boy that he finally understands the meaning the word that the Lorax left behind on the rocks, and gives the boy the very last Truffula Tree seed. “You are in charge of the last 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.”

The Lorax was reportedly Dr. Seuss’s personal favorite. Nearly 40 years later the book has become a timeless cautionary tale of excess and neglect. Without sounding too didactic, it warns children – and adults – that we must all be concerned about unchecked growth on our natural resources or suffer the consequences.

As the remorseful Once-ler tells the boy, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

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