Developing the Lorax Within

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