Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Speak For the Trees!

In Which I Sort of Agree with Lou Dobbs:
a multi-media presentation

Part 1
Each year, when my second grade students studied natural resources, I broke out my copy of Dr. Seuss's The Lorax. It was one of my favorite days of the year.

The Lorax is the story (told in flashback) of how a young person -- who comes to be known as the Once-ler -- came to a beautiful valley, filled with Truffula Trees, and proceeded to raze the valley to dust, using the Truffula Trees as a resource to produce consumer goods. A sort of fat, mustachioed forest spirit, called the Lorax, comes and tries to convince the Once-ler to stop destroying the forest.

The Lorax fails.

It's pretty depressing, but there's a little glimmer of hope at the end -- the Once-ler (SPOILER!) saves a single Truffula seed.

The book is one of Seuss's best. It has a message, but it also has rhythm, it has JAZZ.

I recorded this little sample so you could hear how I read the book to my students. Listen, and then proceed to read (see, we're all rhymin' when Ted Geisel's around)

Voice Recorder >>

Part 2
Unless you've been living in a cave, you've probably noticed the relentless marketing campaign that has been announcing THE LORAX IS Now A MOVIE.

The movie opens this week.

A part of me is happy. This is a story about sustainably using resources.
There are green tie-ins. The movie website has green tips. The cast somehow unites Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Nasim Pedrad, and Ed Helms. Delightful!

And yet...

A bigger part of me is screaming -- YOU DON'T GET IT!

But weirdly...

Lou Dobbs gets what The Lorax is really about.

Sort of.


Part 3
Lou Dobbs is right. The Lorax, like MOST LITERATURE, has a point of view. The idea that art would somehow be completely neutral is ridiculous.

But liberals are acting like Lou is a nutjob for targeting The Lorax.

Here's where I agree with Lou.
The Lorax has a message.

Here's where neither Hollywood nor Lou get it:
They think The Lorax is about saving trees.

Oh, there's a message to The Lorax all right, but  Hollywood doesn't understand that message. The fact that IHOP has a cross-promotion with The Lorax movie that involves A PANCAKE IN A WAFFLE CONE shows me that Hollywood doesn't get the message.

Part 4: What The Lorax is really about. 
(Something scary for conservatives).
(And a lot of liberals)
(Possibly we're going off the rails here.)
(Oh well. The free fall is fun.)

If you read The Lorax, it's not just about saving the environment. It's about curbing growth. The Once-ler repeatedly says that what matters is "biggering" his enterprises. He "biggers" his factories and distribution network, and in the process, drives away civilization.

Unending growth, says The Lorax, is impossible and will actually destroy us. Nature can take care of herself.

But the message that growth, in itself, is not a good, is one that neither Republicans, nor Democrats, want to hear.  Both parties say that they are the ones who can restore growth to us. They believe that our current way of life can be sustained.

I'm a radical. I don't believe that. I believe the real message of The Lorax: that bigger is not inherently better. That connection is more important than cash. That civilization depends on sustainability.

Lou Dobbs is right. The message of The Lorax is a subversive one. But he doesn't have anything to worry about from Hollywood.

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