Be Aware and Beware of The Lorax

(Editorial by Jeff Easterling) Opening in just about every movie theatre across the country on Friday, March 2 will be the latest animation and re-incarnation of one of Dr. Suess’ most socially-earmarked, message-based books, The Lorax. Written in 1971 (and a musical special on CBS in 1972) when the environmental conscience of America became a movement and Lake Erie would randomly catch on fire, the book showcases the evils of greedy industrialists that exploit every resource available, to produce and market products humans really don’t need until there is no resource left.  In Theodor Seuss Geisel’s creative vision it’s the “tree” that’s the resource, and the money-mad corporates have cut them all down!

How unfortunate for the forest products industry that Suess chose the tree! This negative image of “cutting” trees (any tree) was placed in young, impressionable minds and misguided adults thereafter through this wordsmithing wonder. Trees are supposed to live forever when left alone, right?…as many today still believe. What’s more devastating in the “after-message” is the absence of truth about timber harvesting practices of the forest products industry in North America, which are never differentiated from those of third-world countries…a critical missing link within the rhetoric.

Forward 40 years later and we still find the forest products industry defending itself as true environmental stewards and not greedy “Once-lers” that want to void the country of every tree.  Ginormous efforts have gone into re-educating Americans on what really happens in the forest and the mills that cut the trees, showing the significant value forest products of a million different kinds bring to everyone’s daily lives.  Not to mention the scientific fact that the country has more trees than 75 years ago, with the East Coast nearly doubling in the amount of forestland since the 1920s…..all this despite the dramatic population and urban growth within the region since then.

So, here we are again……the Lorax……resurrected in a “gorgeous big-screen adaptation”, as one reviewer scribed. Another 6 to 10 year-old impressionable generation, along with more misguided adults that could see cutting trees as one evil business. Add the climate change debacle with the automatic perception that every tree needs to be kept in the forest and the Suess message is simply reincarnated in full bloom. Sure it’s just a movie and a very entertaining one it absolutely will be, even in “Tree-D”! But can it be left as truly entertainment?……not likely with Hollywood involved and its use of a pre-teen heartthrob as the main character’s “voice” and a tagline of “Speak for the Trees”! What?!?

For those with children that may want to balance the conscious message of this fable, in book form or movie, there are several printed items that bring the positive message of tree harvesting and all the good behind manufacturing wood products. Here are a couple to consider:

Truax, by Terri W. Birkett. A nicely-quipped contrasting story. PDF version available here.

From Tree to Tree House, published by Lumber and Building Materials Foundation. Contact NRLA at (800) 292-6752.

For the misinformed adults, it’s time to remove their toilet paper!