Saving the Planet with Dr. Seuss

Posted on May 17, 2012 by

Spoiler alert: This post includes a movie review and as such will demand that I reveal elements of  plot. Of course, it’s based on a Dr. Seuss book so any reader who’s a parent will hardly be surprised by anything revealed and non-parents have no reason to ever see it, LOL.

Our family received free passes to an advanced screening of The Lorax earlier this spring. My older kids were as excited as my younger ones about the release of an animated feature film based on a Dr. Seuss book, so chances are we would have paid to see it anyway but free was is much, much better. The children enjoyed it, and I found it mildly entertaining despite its overtly liberal themes and simplistic approach.

For those unfamiliar with the story, I offer you this brief and accurate overview pilfered from Wikipedia:

The Lorax is a children’s book written by Dr. Seuss and first published in 1971. It chronicles the plight of the environment and the Lorax, who speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler. As in most Dr. Seuss works, most of the creatures mentioned are original to the book.

The book is commonly recognized as a fable concerning industrialized society and the danger it poses to nature, using the literary element of personification to give life to industry as the Once-ler (whose face is never shown in any of the story’s illustrations or in the television special) and the environment as The Lorax.

The movie expands upon all this of course with colorful animation, musical numbers, and a love struck teenager in the center of it all whose desire to win the heart of a girl sends him on a quest to find out whatever happened to the trees. Because in Thneedville, there are no trees save the green balloon blowups the residents inflate every morning to add some green to their landscapes.

Hyperbole for the specific purpose of driving home the message isn’t uncommon when tailoring media to young children. However, even my five-year-old questioned why a business that required trees to exist would indiscriminately cut down a forest without planting more trees. Another thing my kids mentioned (with no prompting or questions from me I might add), was the glaring absence of fathers in the lives of the young hero and heroine.

At this point the reader may be wondering why I am posting a review of a mass media released children’s movie. There is a point, and it has to do with much more than a compulsion to review a movie most of you have no interest in viewing. While watching the movie with my children, I was struck by how much my own political and economic views have evolved.

In 2008, before the economic crisis compelled me to learn something about money besides my monthly budget and personal bank balances, any movie, article, or news story that portrayed a negative side of business would have caused me to bristle as I was fully indoctrinated into the GOP party line via Rush, Hannity, et al. Unchecked capitalism: good. Even the slightest bit of regulation: bad, and an unprecedented assault on personal and economic liberty. Hannity loves to say that: “This unprecedented assault on personal and economic liberty!!”

In the four years since 2008, I have taken time to educate myself beyond the rantings of right-wing radio hosts and FOX News and realized that while capitalism is in general much preferable to socialism, left completely unchecked it can do harm as well. What’s more, the economic system we have in place in their country isn’t even capitalism in its purest sense, and hasn’t been for quite some time. Imagine my surprise. The biggest influence on my perspective besides understanding the nature of the corrupt marriage between politics and business in this country however, was the Bible.

Contrary to modern American Christians’ belief, the Bible does have a thing or two to say about how entrepreneurs are to conduct business. The problem is that most of this instructive wisdom is found in the Old Testament, and because we are no longer under the law, we’ve resorted to a few key NT verses to justify our indifference to the environment and the less fortunate, instead championing anything that promotes “economic growth” as if  money and technological progress are goods within themselves rather than tools that can be used for good or evil.

Did you know that the Bible even references the proper care and respect we are to have for the life of animals? It does. The NT reminds us that God’s nature is exhibited in all of creation, not just humanity. There is more to living the Christian life than obeying a strict moral code and going to church, though we shouldn’t neglect those aspects of our walk.

The Christian life is an integrated life and we should never willingly support and patronize enterprises that rape the land purely for the sake of profit while providing nothing to markedly improve the quality of human life. In other words, materialism and Christianity are incompatible. I’m no rabid environmentalist either. Trust me on that. I live in my air-conditioned home, eat burgers, and drive my Suburban without the slightest bit of guilt. I just know that there is more to life than convenience and comfort and I’m unwilling to violate all principle for the sake of them.

It is with this recent shift in perspective as a backdrop that I viewed the new film, The Lorax. Yes, it was overtly liberal in tone and content. And yes, I could easily find more to disagree with than agree with in it, even now. But I also recognize that there is something to be said for being good stewards of God’s creation. There is value in recognizing that as much as we appreciate business and what it adds to our standard of living and quality of life, with the privilege of doing business comes the burden to do business responsibly.

There’s nothing wrong or tyrannical about acknowledging that.