I cannot for the life of me remember reading The Lorax as a child. It took having an 18 month old daughter, taking her to see the new Lorax movie which opened on Dr. Seuss' birthday, and then buying the book because Sigourney loved the brightly colored Truffula Trees and cuddly Brown Bar-ba-loots, for me to read The Lorax. Honestly, if a better, more empowering critique of Big Business' role in environmental degradation exists, I haven't found it yet.
Typical Seussian rhymes and artwork are here of course. But there's so much more. As Once-ler's Thneed business begins to take off, and risk to the Truffula Trees increases, the Lorax's plea falls on the deaf ears of an out-of-control profit motive: "'I repeat,' cried the Lorax, 'I speak for the trees!' 'I'm busy,' I told him. 'Shut up, if you please.'" Wildlife reliant on the Truffula forest must leave to find suitable habitat. And the only thing that stop's the Once-ler's fast-expanding business? The chopping down of the final Truffula Tree marking the Lorax's dramatic departure. The truth that we all rely on our natural environment ultimately hits the bottom line, Thneed production stops due to the eradication of his resource base, and the Once-ler falls unwillingly into the role of environmental prophet.
It's the humbled Once-ler who utters this wise, inspirational, empowering line to a nameless young person (aka the reader): "'UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.'"
The destroyer becomes the repentant voice of hope as the Once-ler entrusts us with the final Truffula Seed: "'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.'" Ultimately, Seuss leaves the door open for us to succeed or fail. Yes there's hope, but we have plenty of work to do to realize this potential positive outcome.
The Lorax was first published in 1971 when I was a one year old. I'm 41 now, and except for a two-dimensional appearance on the big screen, the Lorax hasn't returned yet. Seuss' open-ended challenge remains urgently relevant today. Here's to hoping that The Lorax serves as An Inconvenient Truth for our newest generation.