Are we living in The Lorax?

How the Dr. Suess children’s book portrays the current state of our environment


Truffula Trees in Thneedville are pictured in Dr. Suess’ The Lorax.

Rae Rectenwald, Editor-in-Chief

So the tale begins, or is it really a tale? The Lorax, a children’s book written by Dr. Seuss in 1971, tells the story of a materialistic entrepreneur, the Once-ler, who takes advantage of natural resources, the Truffula Trees in Thneedville to build his business. Before the Once-ler, Thneedville was a habitat for the Humming-Fish, Swomee-Swans, and the Lorax. All the species lived in harmony with one another, the grass was green, the skies were blue, and the air was fresh. However, this all changes when the selfish Once-ler begins cutting down Trufulla Trees in order to make “thneeds” (a multipurpose piece of fabric). He builds a factory that manufactures his successful product; however, with a flourishing enterprise, more Trufulla Trees have to be cut down. The Lorax, a small orange creature that becomes a spokesman of sorts for Thneedville, warns the Once-ler of the impacts his carelessness will have on the environment, but the greedy industrialist ignores the warnings. By the end of his destruction, all the Trufulla Trees have vanished, and the land is heavily polluted. The Once-ler’s factory is left in shambles, along with the rest of Thneedville.

   Even though it was written 50 years ago, this book conveys modern-world problems that correlate to the “Tragedy of the Commons” concept. The Tragedy of the Commons results when common resources are over-exploited for personal benefit. The resource being exploited will then become depleted and disappear. 

   A prime example of The Tragedy of the Commons is deforestation, the act of clearing a wide area of trees for use in products or to use the area for development. 

   Our world is dependent on deforestation to advance our society, expanding both agriculture and urbanization. While these are critically important to the progression of humanity, deforestation is also destroying our planet. 

   Millions of forests have been destroyed, resulting in the rapid increase of global warming, unmanageable pollution, and decreased oxygen. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the world has lost about a billion acres of forest since 1990.

Deforestation greatly impacts air pollution. (Photo courtesy of: Yale Global Health Review)

   The Lorax represents all the organizations that fight for a greener world. Ecosia, for instance, is an environmentally-friendly web browser that plants a tree every time you search using their platform. As of Oct. 10, over 159 million trees have been planted in over 13,000 different sites across the world through Ecosia. 

   If we do not take action soon, the human race as we know it will suffer from the harsh reality of deforestation, just like the Lorax warned. The Once-ler’s factories permanently altered the environment and ruined Thneedville for all of its residents. His factory represents modern-day factories, and we are living in what was supposed to be a fictional book.