The Lorax: An eco-parable for our times

April 14, 2012
The Lorax.

The Lorax
Starring Danny Devito, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift & Ed Helms, directed by Chris Melandandri and Kyle Balda
Now showing in cinemas.

Adapted from the 1971 Dr Seuss book of the same name, The Lorax is a great analogy for the destructive nature of capitalism.

The story is set in “Thneedville”, a walled city in which everything is made of plastic, metal and synthetic material. It is controlled by the mayor and owner of a bottled oxygen company, Aloysious O’Hare, who sells the residents their bottled water.

Twelve-year-old Ted Wiggin (Zac Efron), wanting to win the affections of the girl of his dreams, Audrey (Taylor Swift), decides to go find her a real tree as there are none in Thneedville.

His grandmother suggests he should go to find the Once-ler, who resides far outside of the town.

Ted finds a way of escaping the walled in town and finds the surrounding area to be a polluted wasteland. Eventually, he makes it to residence of the now reclusive Once-ler (Ed Helms), who begins to recount the tale of how the area came to be so badly polluted.

Many years ago, the Oncel-ler was an idealistic man who wanted to change the world with his invention, Thneeds.

On his journey, he stumbled onto a beautiful world with happy creatures that spent their days playing among the Truffula trees. When the Once-ler chopped down one of the trees to harvest its leaves, he summoned an endangered, grumpy creature called the Lorax (Danny Devito), who served as the guardian of the forest and spoke for the trees.

After the Once-ler initially failed to sell his invention, Thneeds became successful. The Once-ler promised the Lorax that he would harvest the Truffula leaves sustainably and not chop the trees down.

He initially kept his promise. But eventually, his greedy and lazy relatives pressured him to start chopping all the trees down. He justified his behaviour by claiming it was just business.

This went on until the last tree was chopped down. The environment was totally devastated, forcing the Lorax and all the other creatures to leave, leaving only a stone tablet with the word “unless” inscribed upon it.

After Ted visits the Once-ler several times, the Once-ler realises Ted cares enough to receive the seed of the last tree to plant in the middle of the town.

This plan faces the opposition of Mayor O’Hare, who sells bottled water and oxygen to the people of Thneedville. O'Hare views Ted's bid to plant a real tree as a threat to his interests and, along with his thugs, does everything he can to stop the plan.

The film features a struggle for the hearts and minds of the town's residents, between the pro-and anti-environment forces in the battle to get the tree planted and the environmental destruction reversed.

When the original Dr Seuss book was published in 1971, the environmental movement was starting to grow. The first Earth day was held in 1970 and people were realising the devastation that capitalism was having on the environment.

In the film, The Once-ler initially tries to do the right thing. But because capitalism is a system based on endless economic growth and profits ahead of all else, his actions eventually destroy the environment.

In reality, capitalism has no conscience and the system is accurately represented by O’Hare, who will stop at nothing to protect his interests and profits.

It is only when the townspeople turn against him that they are able to plant the tree.

It would require much more than that in the real world to avert runaway climate change and global warming. It would mean building a movement capable of challenging the rule of the corporations who profit from environmental destruction as well as the politicians who represent their interests.

However, The Lorax is a great critique of the capitalist destruction of the environment by capitalism in its pursuit of profit and our need to stop this.

It is best to remember the words of the Lorax: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it is not.”

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