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Wilderness lessons from Dr Seuss and the Lorax

By Kellie Tranter - posted Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Remember the Lorax? Dr Seuss’ creation from last century still describes with disturbing accuracy the path we’re on in this verse:

"Mister!, he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
"I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues ..."

As it explains in Wikipedia:


The book is commonly recognized as a fable concerning industrialized society, using the literary element of personification to give life to industry as the Once-ler … and to the environment as the Lorax. It has become a popular metaphor for those concerned about the environment.

Modern day “Once-lers” argue that "we can’t afford to have land locked up in national parks”, and “we can’t afford the luxury of wilderness". They’re appealing to social needs, but they’re always motivated by individual gain.

Whereas the Loraxes still among us would say:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better. It's not.

Pre-schoolers see the answer as obvious. They don’t have "conditioned entrepreneurial instincts" so they still see right from wrong with a moral purity that most adults unfortunately lack. They know instinctively that the Lorax is right: of course you have to preserve the wilderness, and all of the other eco-systems, and the precious plants and animals that inhabit them.

But as people "grow up" the answers to questions like that seem to become hazier? Why, I'm not sure. Perhaps it's because we’ve succumbed to manipulated needs and contrived wants, and have stopped asking basic philosophical questions like: what do I really need? And how do I want to live?


Before we open more land up - that is, privatise and exploit it - shouldn’t we scrutinise the need to do so by first asking if we are really optimising our use of the land that we have already “developed”?

What does the wilderness mean to society? Why is it important to protect it for generations to come? What scientific, medical, spiritual and environmental benefits does it hold as it is? And what will we, and the generations that will follow us, lose forever if we don't protect it?

We should also try to tease out what we mean by the idea of sustainability.

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About the Author

Kellie Tranter is a lawyer and human rights activist. You can follow her on Twitter @KellieTranter

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