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Lorax Essay

“It’s not about what it is; it’s about what it can become.” –The Once-ler
The Lorax might be a fantasy-animated film tailor made for younger audiences
but the reality it portrays on its story could have never been more accurate of what we
are experiencing today. The message it wants to send is timeless and relevant. Amidst
the vibrant and colorful animation, visual effects and mood of the movie, the themes of
environmental destruction brought about by anthropogenic activities and foray into
commercialization sets an alarming tone for its matured and enlightened viewers,
especially to those who advocate for environmental conservation.
In the walled city of Thneed-Ville, where everything is artificial and even the air is
a commodity, a boy named Ted hopes to win the heart of his dream girl, Audrey. When
he learns of her wish to see a real tree, Ted seeks out the Once-ler, a ruined old
businessman outside of town in a stark wasteland. Upon hearing of how the hermit gave
into his greed for profits and devastated the land over the protests of the Lorax, Ted is
inspired to undo the disaster. However, the greedy Mayor of Thneed-Ville, Aloysius
O'Hare, has made his fortune exploiting the environmental collapse and is determined
to stop the boy from undermining his business (Chisholm, 2012).
Environmental destruction has been the most notable and evident issue of The
Lorax as Ted discovered the real aftermath of the “artificial world” he grew up to. On the
first act of the film, the aftermath that opened Ted’s eyes includes deforestation of an
entire villa, conversion of a once-bountiful forest area into a wasteland and the detailed
inclusion of pollution brought by manufacture of several items and smog. There was
even a subtle mockery towards the mention of smog in the film as the obnoxious mayor
of Thneedville, Aloysius, pointed out a logic in which “the more smog is produced, the
more people will buy the product”. The product Aloysius is referring to is the bottled air.
Like water, air has become a commercialized commodity on the fictional yet alarming
world of Thneedville, which inferentially would not last long as natural resources are
exhaustible as well.
It is very evident in the movie that environmental destruction is mainly caused by
the aftermath of illegal logging and deforestation. Deforestation is the permanent
destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses. An estimated
18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest, which is roughly the size of the country
of Panama, are lost each year, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO). About half of the world's tropical forests have been cleared,
according to the FAO. Forests currently cover about 30 percent of the world’s landmass,
according to National Geographic. The Earth loses 18.7 million acres of forests per
year, which is equal to 27 soccer fields every minute, according to the World Wildlife
Fund (WWF). It is estimated that 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions come from
deforestation, according to the WWF. In 2016, global tree cover loss reached a record
of 73.4 million acres (29.7 million hectares), according to the University of Maryland.
The WWF& reports that half of the trees illegally removed from forests are used as fuel,
to make more land available for housing and urbanization, to harvest timber to create
commercial items such as paper, furniture and homes, to create ingredients that are
highly prized consumer items, such as the oil from palm trees and to create room for
cattle ranching.
Subsequently, deforestation is considered to be one of the contributing factors to
global climate change. According to Michael Daley, an associate professor of
environmental science at Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts, the No. 1 problem
caused by deforestation is the impact on the global carbon cycle. It could be implied
from the movie that oxygen and air as commodity is commercialized because of this
consequence. Moreover, it can also be seen on the movie how biodiversity was
disrupted when the fictionalized species of the Trufulla need to leave after the trees
were gone. This is an accurate depiction of an impact of deforestation which is Loss of
species as eventy percent of the world's plants and animals live in forests and are losing
their habitats to deforestation, according to National Geographic. Loss of habitat can
lead to species extinction. It also has negative consequences for medicinal research
and local populations that rely on the animals and plants in the forests for hunting and
Furthermore, looking deeper into the movie, it could be inferred that the root
cause for the environmental destruction hauntingly portrayed in the film is greed and
apathy – greed for money and gratification and apathy towards the essence and
significance of the environment. It is a trait observable towards the character of
Aloysius, who is the main antagonist of the movie and the representative of real-life
manufacturing executives who disregard sustainability and continue pursuing their
environmentally detrimental businesses all in the name of money and gratification; and
the Once-ler, who exhibited diverse character development on the movie from being a
high-spirited inventor to a conscious individual until he was pressured by his family to
revoke his principles for business, as well. If he represents someone, it is obviously the
human race, as we always tend to compromise our principles for the sake of business
and money. Ted, the carefree and curious protagonist who attentively listens to the
stories of the Once-ler, represents the younger generation who could suffer the
consequences of our generation if we do not start moving towards change and
development. The Lorax subsequently represents a lot of personas – it could be the
Divine Creator, Mother Nature or every heart that is devoted in the protection of our
environment. Whoever persona it may be, one this is certain, the Lorax is the heart that
guards the environment.
Efforts are being undertaken to continually fight deforestation and other forms
conservationists are seeing hope as a movement is under way to preserve existing
forest ecosystems and restore lost tree cover. Organizations and activists are working
to fight illegal mining and logging—National Geographic Explorer Topher White, for
example, has come up with a way to use recycled cell phones to monitor for chainsaws.
In Tanzania, the residents of Kokota have planted more than 2 million trees on their
small island over a decade, aiming to repair previous damage. And in Brazil,
conservationists are rallying in the face of ominous signals that the government may roll
back forest protections (Nunez, 2019).
The Lorax might be a movie intended for younger audiences but the issues are
subtly, if not, sugarcoated. What the movie has presented is the reality all of us are
facing today and it would only take few more generations before our children’s children
would also purchase oxygen for a living and would debate if the existence of a tree is
indeed real or just a folktale because unless we care a whole awful lot, nothing is going
to get better. It's not.
2. LiveScience (2018) Deforestation: Facts, Causes and Effects. Retrieved from
3. Singh & Singh (2017) Deforestation and its Impact on the Environment. Retrieved from
4. Daley, M. (2015) Climate Change: A Threat to Life on Earth. Retrieved from https://www.lasell.edu/alumniand-friends/alumni-stories/leaves-spring-2015/climate-change.html
5. Nunez, C. (2019) Deforestation Explained. Retrieved from