The box office success of the new Universal Pictures animated feature film “The Lorax” - based on a classic Dr. Seuss tale – creates a window of opportunity to consider environmental messaging to a new generation of future leaders. The original Seuss tale is beloved. I can still recite it from memory. “Tell us ‘The Lorax’ Dad!” my kids would beg. Like all Seuss books, The Lorax features rhymes, nuances and a moral.
The movie version now features bad guys, a love interest and a rebellious young protagonist’s quest to discover “real trees” growing in a natural forest locked outside of the carefully controlled plastic city. The film’s release was accompanied by some trepidation. At least one forestry insider wondered aloud if The Lorax “would do for forestry what ‘Bambi’ did for hunting.” The fear has proved unfounded.
A simplistic interpretation that “cutting trees is bad” ignores the fact that a robust market for “Thneeds” drove cutting EVERY SINGLE “Truffula Tree” without regard to sustainability. And the self-righteous Lorax also speaks with a voice both “sharpish and bossy” – an archetypal angry environmentalist.
Rather than ruination, the film embraces restoration. Its underlying environmental message is “change the future.” The very last Truffula tree seed is the ultimate symbol of hope. And like a Truffula seed, this film is “not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” The Lorax renews an environmental message of hope - about what becomes possible when we encourage hope rather than fear. Each of us “must care a whole awful lot - or nothing is going to get better, its not.”