Tomorrow, the motion picture version of Dr. Seuss’s book “The Lorax” will hit the big screen and the reviews indicate it sticks to the original 1971 storyline. In “The Lorax,” a businessman, the “Once-ler,” moves into town, cuts down all the trees and destroys the forest, air and water in the process. A furry creature, the Lorax, appears and proclaims, “I speak for the trees” and scolds the Once-ler for being “crazed with greed.”
The story is a product of its times, when people like Paul Ehrlich were claiming that the planet’s time was short and that pollution and resource scarcity would soon overwhelm mankind. Time has not been kind to Ehrlich, demonstrating that his predictions and those of other early-1970s environmentalists, were not based in sound economics or science.
Forty years later, The Lorax also shows its age. Since it was published, a different story has been written in forests across the globe. Rather than being at odds, the Once-ler and the Lorax have found a common interest in making sure forests grow and expand – and many of the world’s forests have benefited. Three things stand out.
- Last year was the International Year of the Forest, and the United Nations offered some good news. For the last two decades, total land area covered by forest in the Northern Hemisphere – where forestry is particularly active – has increased.
- Wood is increasingly recognized as one of the most environmentally friendly building materials. At the University of Washington, researchers compared the environmental impact of building with either wood, concrete or steel. The hands-down winner for lower energy use, less waste and less water use was wood. While concrete and steel can only be mined once, trees are constantly replacing themselves.
- In “The Lorax,” the Once-ler’s business collapses when all the trees are gone. Foresters understand this. Destroying a forest by cutting down every last tree makes no sense, so there are more trees in American forests today than there were just a few decades ago. Replanting isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for business.
Forty years after he sprung from the imagination of Dr. Seuss, the Lorax would be happy to see that, far from disappearing, many forests today are thriving. They are there because the real story of the forests has not been about an unending battle between the fictional Lorax and the hard-hearted Once-ler, but of a friendship that understands that both benefit from healthy forests future generations can enjoy.