Lessons from The Lorax: Hope Will Change The World

I was so excited when I first learned that Universal Pictures was releasing Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. My kids and I saw the trailer in a movie theater, and they were excited too. Why? Because they were familiar with the tale, since I have repeatedly read it to them. Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax is oft read environmental children’s book in our house.

And then, I was approached to be part of a compensated blog tour in support of Universal Pictures’ Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, and I was even more thrilled. Rarely do I get to participate in such activities for a variety of reasons. As an added bonus, the other blog tour participants are bloggers and people I admire and respect (see below). As a result, I am thrilled to blog about Lessons from The Lorax: Hope Will Change The World.

Now, the book The Lorax is a more than a bit gloomy. The Once-ler creates demands for his Thneed with slick marketing, and ultimately chops down the entire Truffula Forest to knit Thneeds. In the process, the Bar-ba-Loots get the Crummies because of gas and “no food in their tummies” so The Lorax, speaking for the trees, sends them away. The Swomee Swans get sore throats from the “smogulous smoke” and their singing falls silent. Again, the Lorax sends them away. The Humming Fish can’t hum because of Thneed manufacturing by-products being dumped in their ponds so the Lorax sends them off too. Eventually, no Truffula trees are left, and the Once-ler’s factory shuts down. The Lorax leaves with an ominous “UNLESS” inscribed on a pile of rocks and our bit of hope is tied to a single seed the Once-ler passes to the boy (representing the reader).

Quite a lesson. A narrative of gloom and doom. A tragic scenario of creeping doom UNLESS we mend our ways.

When my mom read The Lorax to me when I was little. I remember being so depressed – overwhelmingly depressed by the plight of the Truffula, the Bar-ba-Loots, the Swomee Swans and the Humming Fish. But my mom always gently reminded me that it was a cautionary tale, and encouraged me to do something about it if I was moved. I encourage my kids to do the same.

Much environmental journalism uses the Lorax narrative to seek to compel change. And I’m honestly not sure it works to compel change as a doomsday scenario. Most of us can’t see the potentially world ending results from our individual actions. So, it doesn’t compel us to change our ways according to most studies. Or we think our individual changes won’t amount to anything or won’t stop the doomsday from coming. So we don’t do anything at all.

We don’t heed the warning “UNLESS.” And often we don’t see the hope present in the remaining Truffula seed.

But with hope we will change the world. And that is the lesson from The Lorax I want to pass to my children. Whether you see hope in science and technological advances, or hope in sustainable design, or hope in a mere seed, that hope will change the world.

The movie The Lorax encourages hope too, and causes us to question our indulgence in all things technologically advance and artificial. The movie changes the narrative a bit (although it ultimately remains a tragedy). The town is called Thneedville, where everything is artificial and no trace of nature remains. Director Chris Renaud explains:

We came up with the idea to have Thneedville be a bit more relatable. It’s like Vegas or Disneyland or Abu Dhabi. We see ourselves in it a bit, and it is kind of fun. There are inflatable bushes and mechanical flowers and trees, and it’s a place with no real nature. Everyone seems to be happy, and they have everything they want: from giant cars to robots and other mechanical devices. But then it becomes a question about sustainability. While all this stuff is fun and great, is it in balance with the broader planet, and how do we maintain that balance?

Ted seeks to win the affection of the girl of his dreams, Audrey, by finding her a real tree. And he learns about the history of Thneedville, its artificiality, and then seeks to set things right with the last Truffula seed, we get a bit more hope than we do in the book.

I’m not sure if the message will ultimately be more persuasive to effectuate significant change in our quests to consume. But I am certain that it will at least inspire conversations about nature, environmentalism, extinction and more. Most importantly, about hope. And that is a lot. More than most big screen movies today. Conversations I am more than happy to have with my kids. And conversations that can be readily adapted to encourage kids to be more involved with nature, to consume less and differently, to question marketing messages, to understand the interlocking web of our planet, to take joy in simply planting a tree.

What are the Lessons from The Lorax? This blog tour is highlighting quite a few. For example,  yesterday Jennifer Lance at Eco Child’s Play reminds us to identify and skip the Thneeds in our lives.  Tomorrow, Beth at My Plastic Free Life will tackle yet another.

I personally had a hard time settling on just one lesson. The Lorax has a lot to teach us. At first, I thought I would talk about that the lesson from The Lorax isn’t about not having what you want, it is wanting what you got (thanks to Sheryl Crow’s Soak Up The Sun for that appropriate lyric).

I settled on hope will change the world because it is the reason to keep going and being green. There is no reason to give up on being green – one seed could change the world. So, take heed of the Lorax’s warning of UNLESS. Keep hope alive and stay being green.


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  1. Excellent point. I think many people miss the “UNLESS” at the end of the story and focus more on the doom & gloom. The book is great, but only if you have the appropriate discussions at the end of the book, and keep having them daily as we, as parents, use the example of The Lorax in our discussions with our children about why we do or do not buy certain products. Why we don’t NEED every toy we see on TV, etc.

    I’m glad to hear the movie is so good. I’m always hesitant when hollywood retells a story that has a great social message. I’m always afraid the message will get watered down and the focus of the film company will be on making money off the film rather than the great social message.

    I was afraid this might be the case with The Lorax after hearing of the campaign by school children to get the movie company to put more environmental information on their website rather than just promotions of the film. I’m so glad they listened, that kids learned just what The Lorax teaches, that each of us can make a difference, and that in lengthening the story to fit a feature-length film the story and message weren’t altered or watered down too much.

    I believe the message of hope is important too. It’s why I went from being an anti-war activist to a green-living activist. It’s about hope. Hope for the world I know we can create for our children. And, it’s about knowing and teaching that all those little steps do make a difference, even if you can’t see them right away.

  2. I LOVE The Lorax (THE BOOK) and when I heard a film was being made I was hopeful, but when I saw the preview, I was very disappointed. I hope the film as a whole will be better. The Lorax character was my biggest concern. He seems laughable, less serious than the book and I fear the message will e lost. I don’t plan on taking my children to see it unless I hear rave reviews.

  3. Beautiful post, Jenn. I’m glad my post follows yours in the tour. And thanks for explaining the differences in Thneedville between the movie and the book. I have been reading a lot of negative posts lately from people who are dismayed that the movie version looks bright and plastic instead of dark and polluted and gloomy as in the book. But the rationale that you shared makes sense to me, and I think it is more relatable for most people in the U.S.

  4. I read The Lorax over and over to my kids too. They probably can recite most of it verbatim. I’m not sure they understood the message-it’s somewhat complex for little guys-but I have always been hopeful that it came across in some way. I agree with you-if the movie promotes discussion about our planet and how we can make a difference then that’s fantastic!

  5. in the Book, The Lorax was originally based on Teddy Roosevelt. There is a historical lesson to this book. Let’s see if anyone can find it. There’s a deeper meaning that what you see. The book is like its own extended metaphor


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