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The Lorax was a Loser

November 3, 2012

There’s a general perception that the Lorax was a noble figure in Dr Seuss’ eponymous book. That somehow this lone hermit-type figure on the periphery of society was the good guy. The Lorax was the opposite of an environmental campaigner and his failure to act had tragic results.

The Lorax was a loser because he didn’t mobilise and he didn’t resist the threat to biodiversity. He just waggled his preaching finger at the Onceler from the sidelines.

“I speak for the trees,” he says which is all well and good if he was talking to someone who cared. But he wasn’t. “You are crazy with greed. There is no one on earth who would buy that fool Thneed,” he tells the Onceler, an entrepreneur on a get-rich mission and who proved there was demand for his offering.

Everyone knows a Lorax and has listened to their moral outrage as they pick food from their moustaches and growl passionately at the TV infuriated by the idiocy of Oncelers.  They shake their fists and call them corrupt from the splendid isolation of their lounge room. But there’s not many environmental activists out there today who would prescribe the Lorax’s “sharpish and bossy” voice as the best tool for presenting an argument.  Or that by operating from a lone ‘I told you so’ echo-chamber will do anything to stop the pillaging of the Pilliga, the fracking of our farms.

We all know what the Lorax would say about the threat to the Great Barrier Reef from the new coal ports and thousands of coal ships. But what would the Lorax have done?  He’d watch the Dugongs die out and say I told you so.  He’d wave goodbye as 10,000 bar-ba-loots employed in the tourism sector walked away. He’d nod knowingly as the fish turned up dead on the beach poisoned by toxins dug up by excessive dredging.

If the Lorax really had cared about the ecological habitat of the Humming-Fish, the Swomee-Swans, and the Brown Bar-ba-loots wouldn’t he have tried to do something to stop the Onceler? Where was the community petition, the rallies, the media stories, the Upper House Enquiry, the blockade, the council campaign to stop the Development Application for the Thneed Factory to be approved.

For those of us concerned about our environment, there’s a better model than the Lorax. In NSW the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) does far more than ‘speak for the trees.’ For the past 25 years it has been the contact point for communities and individuals who want to use legal channels to protect their environment and heritage. If the Lorax had involved the EDO it would have catapulted the habitat rights of the Humming-Fish, the Swomee-Swans, and the Brown Bar-ba-loots into the courts and made the Onceler defend his incomplete permit before a judge.

If the Lorax had been left to support the Fullerton Cove community near Newcastle against Dart Energy’s Coal Seam Gas drilling, their water supplies and nearby wetlands would still be under threat.  Instead it was the EDO, not the Lorax,  that got the case into the Land and Environment Court following the community’s blockade. It was also the EDO that worked with the local community to protect Catherine Bay Hill from rapacious state-approved developers.

Lorax pic

 

Up in NSW’s Pilliga State Forest if the Lorax had been the lone voice we’d still be looking in misery at the kill zones of dead trees caused from a spill of toxic waste water last year. We’d still be looking helplessly on as NSW’s largest koala population diminished to zero. Instead the environmental warriors have completed ecological surveys, monitored and used the media to show the damage being incurred by Santos and to date no new production licences have been approved in two years.

To stop the felling of the Truffula Trees we need the EDO not the Lorax. We need communities to organise and resist the entitlement that government has given miners to destroy the land.

The NSW EDO is now in a fight for its life but don’t ask what the Lorax would do, he’d have already given up before it begun.  He was simply a loractivist, a Lorax unto himself. The government would have ignored him. But they can’t ignore the EDO which has proved itself time and time again in standing up for communities and individuals who see their environment and heritage threatened. And that is why the NSW government wants to see them gone – and why the NSW Attorney General has not signed a cheque for any funding past March 2013.

The odd thing is that, by the end of the book, the Lorax has disappeared.  He’s nowhere to be seen and in fact it is the misanthropic Onceler who saves the last Truffula seeds for the next generation. He holds on to them and from his self-inflicted prison offers them up to the boy (and the reader).  It’s at this moment the narrative regains hope. We imagine that the boy will plant the seeds, that the world will once again enjoy the beauty of the trees and that there is a chance to put things right.

The real message for those of us who want to look after our environment is don’t be a Lorax, but participate in the processes that can bring about change – the policy roundtables, the community forums, democratic participation in electing decision maker.

As the Lorax shows us all too clearly, it’s all very well to be right as you cradle the last dying koala but the koalas will still all be dead.

 

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3 Comments
  1. Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

  2. Like your clever use of fictional characters to challenge us. Fighting it here at a grassroots level by passionate commitment to cleaning up wherever I go. Good on you!

  3. Great article!

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