A Lesson We Can Learn From The Lorax (Again)

The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss has been the go-to environmental book for kids since it's publication in 1971. With Earth Day just around the corner, The Lorax will be read in schools and homes throughout the U.S. this month.

Let's refresh the events of this cautionary tale: The Once-ler devised devious ways of cutting down Truffula trees for the "biggering and biggering" of his manufacturing operation. The smogulous smoke that spewed into the air from his Thneed factory made the Lorax "cough, whiff, sneeze, snuffle, snarggle, sniffle, and croak." The beautiful Swomee swans were no longer able to sing, so the Lorax sends the birds away to find cleaner air. The Once-ler "biggered" to the point where he poisoned the Lorax's eco-lovin’ life with polluted water, polluted air, and left him in a sunless panorama of Truffula stumps. Poor Lorax.

Where We Were Before the Clean Air Act, when air pollution plagued the world, the ramifications of acid rain and smog were a blip on the radar of most folks. When awareness kicked in, and the ecological science began to mount, it became a priority to legislate for clean air. At the time, environmentalism was mostly a non-partisan issue, paving the way for the Clean Air Act.

Where We Are The EPA statistics indicate that since the Clean Air Act, the US has decreased toxic fume emissions by 109 million tons, which has reduced pollution and improved the air quality 48 per cent. This week the Senate voted down several pro-pollution amendments that would have decimated the Clean Air Act and kept the EPA from protecting the quality of our air and water. This is great news!

UNLESS… Do you know there is a pro-polluter lobby? It is unfathomable to me that such a thing exists. Didn’t everyone grow up heeding the Lorax's message that we are all interconnected, and collectively we need to take responsibility for the health of our planet and its inhabitants?

The Moms Clean Air Force is not willing to hand over a world to our kids like the one the Lorax left behind. We can't forget the importance of reorienting environmental values away from pure economic and political points of view, and towards common sense science. We can not relent, because the Once-ler-type bully polluters are figuring out ways of "biggering" and continuing to blow their smogulous smoke at our kids.

Furniture: Forest-Friendly

Last month, Chronogram asked me to cover a story about the Wickham Solid Wood Studio in Beacon, NY. I just love sinking my teeth into this kind of assignment. Not only is Jessica Wickham's handcrafted furniture local and heirloom quality, it is sustainable in ways that give back without harming our at-risk forests. Jessica’s furniture has the ability to teach us how to tread carefully with our natural resources, and still create stunning products. Jessica possesses a rare combination of skills. She can look at a downed tree in the forest and see its inherent potential. From an ecological perspective, a responsibly-sourced tree becomes the perfect green building material. When I met Jessica, I was inspired by the respect she has for the rich wood grain and the natural shape of trees. With minimal processing (low or no-VOC stains), traditional joinery, and natural finishing techniques reminiscent of both Japanese traditions and Shaker sensibilities. Jessica has found just the right mix of  "process, poetry, and patience". Her functional pieces could be considered the exact opposite of the glut of mass-produced furniture we see in stores.

The woods around my property (left) may seem like a tree mecca, but a quick understanding of how forests have suffered, can illuminate the importance of sustainable forestry.

Since I’ve been brushing up on my earth science (haven’t used that term since my kids were in middle school) for my posts for the EDF's Moms Clean Air Force, I’ve learned that deforestation caused by air pollution, acid rain and other environmental hazards aids in the erosion of our forests. This has become a leading contributor towards the loss of biodiversity. Intact eco-systems provide an intricate web that controls floods, conserves oxygen, soil, insects and creates diverse habitats. While forests do regrow, when older forests decline they eventually lose more carbon to the atmosphere than they absorb, thus fueling climate change.

Whew, science lesson over. My husband Ted is an environmental planner, so I generally leave these types of granular discussions to him. But, I’m digging in and exercising my brain, as I discover the depth of environmental issues our children will inherit.

Once again, I’m noticing that if there is one thing that will get us beyond the planet's sustainability woes, it will be an eco-enlightenment that includes a lifecycle analysis of everything. With style and sustainability, artisans like Jessica Wickham are leading the way.

Credit: black walnut bench and headboard, Wickham Solid Wood Studio