20 June 2007
Author/Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
This is Seuss's classic warning against the devastating effect of unchecked industrialism on the environment. What people often miss is that the book also sends a strong word of caution to budding environmentalists. Yes, The Lorax warns against overdevelopment and big business. But it also warns against the folly of misguided idealism in the environmentalist movement.
Our tragic hero, the Lorax, speaks for the trees... unfortunately, he does so with a "voice that was sharpish and bossy." Despite his noble intentions, his efforts are ineffective because of his methods. A good message can do more harm than good if it is delivered the wrong way. Specifically, beware of the "holier-than-thou" attitude which is off-putting to even the most sympathetic among us.
Is this still relevant decades after the publication of The Lorax? Painfully YES, as it is officially Canvassing Season in Washington D.C. Seriously, I can barely walk down one city block without being approached by 5 or 6 people in matching t-shirts and clipboards saying, "Do you have a minute to stop global warming?" or "Do you care about the environment?!"
Do I have a minute to stop global warming? Yes, but I only have 30 minutes to run out and grab lunch!
Do I care about the environment?! Of course I do, but I know you are going to ask me to make a financial contribution and unfortunately I am bleeding debt from every orifice. I can't save the environment by giving you money I don't have. So when I tell you that I'm sorry and can't afford it right now, you can keep your guilt trip to yourself... and don't you dare follow me down the street unless you want me to leave my carbon footprint on your ass.
Don't get me wrong, I admire the cause and their youthful idealism... but there has to be a better way to raise money and awareness. The inconvenient truth is that harrassing people in the street on their lunch break is going to turn more people off than on. The Lorax learned this lesson too late to save the Truffula Trees... don't make the same mistake he did!