Skip to content

Developing the Lorax Within

2013 September 19
Isabel and her son Dante enjoying a walk at BLM- ES Meadowood Recreation Area during National Public Lands Day (NPLD)

Isabel and her son Dante enjoying a walk at BLM- ES Meadowood Recreation Area during National Public Lands Day (NPLD)

By Isabel Long

“You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula Tree. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water.  And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
And all of his friends
May come back.”

Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

As a non-native English speaker, I didn’t grow up surrounded by Dr. Seuss’ rhyming language. But, some months ago, my husband bought The Lorax for our three and half year old son. One day I came into the room and saw our son looking at the last pages showing the destruction of the unique Truffula Trees. He had a serious look. We turned to the last page, where the Once-ler sends out his manifesto, and I was captivated. With no scientific words, and in a very graphic way, that children’s book was telling the story we often have seen: the harm caused by the unlimited use of natural resources.

The story goes to the core of a question that has been on my mind for some time, especially after becoming a mother: how and when does an environmental ethic start to develop? Aldo Leopold, in my favorite quote, said, “The evolution of a land ethic is an intellectual as well as emotional process.” In my case, the emotional relationship was there for many years as a silent visitor, with no knowledge of the intellectual discussion. During my childhood at the dinner table, discussions were about politics, arts and literature, never science.

It wasn’t until I worked for one of the largest environmental organizations that my land ethic reached its intellectual process. And click, the circle was completed. Working in DC, I was obviously informed about the policy discussion. Most importantly, I understood the personal relation between those pristine landscapes that I love and our personal and societal responsibility: not only for the landscape, but also for the water we drink and the air we breathe.

In March, I heard the same message at the White House Environment and Women’s Summit.  In a compelling speech, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urged us to bring our children outside to connect with nature. And she went further, highlighting the importance of having a “visceral” connection with the outdoors. She explained that only then will we and our children understand what might be in peril.

So today, one more time, I will argue in favor of developing that emotional connection to the land that Aldo Leopold and Gina McCarthy reflected on. The land ethic will naturally develop if the emotional process is in place. But, if the emotional connection is lacking, we’ll be only individuals arguing, not leaders. Let’s be more like the Lorax, standing up for the Truffula Trees, protecting those marvelous untouched places around the world, and demanding clean air and water for our families and the future generations.

About the author: Isabel Long is originally from Chile. She works for the Bureau of Land Management – Eastern States at the Department of the Interior. She is the co-founder of BLM-Eastern States Diverse Youth Outings Project in partnership with the Sierra Club, the National Coalition on Climate Change (NLCCC), The National Hispanic Environmental Council (NHEC), and the Cesar Chavez Charter School in Washington D.C

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Marva King, PhD permalink
    September 19, 2013

    Excellent! Great article! I truly enjoyed the connection to your son’s story book. On so many levels we all should remember what it takes to play in this world as a toddler not only with the natural elements but also with the human elements. Bravo!

  2. Lina-EPA permalink*
    September 20, 2013

    Thanks, Marva for your comments.

    Lina-EPA

  3. electra27 permalink
    September 21, 2013

    I am reminded of another children’s book: The Giving Tree, and its sad ending. I am reminded of my childhood growing up in Brooklyn, a tree-lined street of soft maples that created a tunnel-like canopy for us children playing stick-ball in the street….until, the roots broke up the sidewalks, then all the soft maples and the tulipa in from of my building, were cut down. Then my mind wanders to Franklin Square, where I spent the next part of my life, the huge mulberry tree in back was cut down because it was “too messy” and the soft maple in front was cut down because…the roots were breaking up the sidewalk. And the mimosas I planted alongside the house were cut down by my father. I do not know why. Tonight as I sit here in my apartment in Queens with open windows, it is windy so I can hear the wind rustling the leaves–a beautiful sound, but, there was a paulownia out back, the management cut it down because they thought the roots were causing water damage. I water the street tree out front, but cannot with a hose because the management thinks the hose is too dangerous…And as I walk around my neighborhood, I see the slow dying out of the soft maples, leafless, bark gone, and the willows, leafless, and wilted leaves on street trees because it has been dry here and no one waters them….and wonder….what we can lose…but do not understand why existing laws to protect our environment, such as recycling, are not enforced by our city agencies. I guess we do not see the connection between our actions and the consequences to our environment?

  4. Lina-EPA permalink*
    September 25, 2013

    Electra,
    Thanks for your comments.
    Lina-EPA

  5. Isabel Long permalink
    October 22, 2013

    Marva and Electra, thank you for your comments. I’m glad you like the article. It always good to keep our emotional connection to nature, and never miss the opportunity to enjoy the peace and calm effect that has on us. I hope as my son grows, his love for nature grows as well.

    Best,
    Isabel

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS