Friday, March 02, 2007

Happy one-hundred-and-three, creator of the truffula tree

(For those readers who have navigated to this page in search of the Lorax image, I also invite you to read and share your opinion at Blue Island Almanack.

One hundred-three years ago today, Theodor Geisel (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991), known and beloved by so many children as Dr. Seuss, was born. Many of his books strove to teach something important, while translating the confusing world of adults into something infinitely identifiable to children. For many, Horton the elephant and Yertle the turtle might as well be real childhood friends, and “Sam-I-am” is repeated like so much half-remembered scripture.
One of Dr. Seuss’ most important works was not the same commercial success as his other books, and has the dubious distinction of having been banned by a number of school systems. (This in my view is ordinarily reason enough to read a book; school systems don’t go to the trouble of banning a book that is just plain bad.) Though, this work remains an evergreen favorite of environmentalists, and is once again relevant to raging public debate.
The Lorax, published some 35 years ago, is a children’s book about industry and the environment, introducing little ones (and many parents) to such arcane concepts as externalities, the legal standing of nonhuman species, and reclamation. What’s perhaps most compelling about the book is that these ideas, the subject of research and discussion by economists, ecologists, and industrialists, are reduced to an ethical problem understandable to children.
The questions raised by this book are again at the forefront of international debate. Does it make sense to use non-renewable resources until they are exhausted? If common resources are owned by all, why do only a few benefit from their commercialization? And, why do so many pay for the damage done?
If we do not answer these questions and respond, then who will? Today and this weekend, I urge my readers to address these questions in how they live their lives. This doesn’t mean I’m asking you to go out and chain yourself to a redwood, or to start a movement. Instead, think about ways you can improve your life and your world by using resources responsibly. Buy some compact fluorescent light bulbs. Eat local produce. Try walking or taking public transportation instead of driving. Read to your kids from The Lorax. You can help to solve the resource conundrum with simple choices any day.


Charise said...

Environmentalism aside, my favorite Dr. Suess is "What Was I Scared Of?"

Just sayin'.

jez said...

There is something to be said about "the pale green pants with nobody in them". Could be a metaphor for having a purpose but nobody is wearing the pants.

E. R. Dunhill said...

Yeah. I hate when I leave the house without any pants. The neighbors just don't get me. Don't even get me started on the police.
It could also be a fashion commentary on pale green pants. Yikes.
I don't recall "What Was I Scared Of?", beyond the fact that it was in the same book w/ the Sneetches. What was it about?