It is strange to me that, long before I associated myself with environmentalism – indeed, long before I even knew what “environmentalism” meant, I loved the story of the Lorax. This is even more strange considering that at six or seven years old, I had no inkling whatsoever of the allegorical brilliance of the story. But I remember vividly the brightly-coloured book cover on my childhood bedroom bookshelf as though it had always been there.
Selfishly however, when my two-year old son reached for the book at bedtime recently, my heart sank. I knew how wordy the Lorax was, compared to say, “The Dancing Tiger” or “Farmer Jim’s Truck” (the latter a remarkable 35 words!), and as it was the third story for the night, I was quite keen to slip away and have a little bit of “down-time” myself. I was also worried that my son might be a little too young to appreciate the story.
Those concerns soon dissipated, however, as the rhythm of the Dr Suess’s words took hold, and my son sat transfixed for the entire duration of the story.
But when I got to those last pages, when the once-greedy self-interested Once-ler offers the boy the “last truffula seed” and the meaning of the Lorax’s sign “UNLESS” is explained, I started to stumble over the lines, sniffing furiously as I tried not to be moved by them.
But it is hard not to be: the lesson in this story is as relevant today (in fact, painfully so) as it was in 1971 when it was written. It is particularly relevant to us in New Zealand, where we have destroyed so much of our indigenous nature in a a relatively short space of human occupation. Some of the last “truffula seeds” have already slipped through our hands to their destruction, but others we still have an opportunity to plant and nurture – and hopefully – ultimately restore.
I certainly hope that my son will have a chance to be part of the “UNLESS” in years to come.