Geisel was also furious about construction going on in his La Jolla, Calif., neighborhood. "They were destroying quite beautiful eucalyptus trees, and he wanted to do something about this, and he had to find a way to transform what he understood to be a propaganda-oriented perspective on these matters into a fable that even children could understand." But, Pease explains, "he also was confronted with writer's block."
Inspiration strikes during a trip to Kenya
His wife, Audrey Geisel, suggested they go on a trip to the Mount Kenya Safari Club. While they were there, "he caught a view in the mountains of elephants crossing," says Pease. "He said afterward 'the logjam broke' and he was able to write 90% of The Lorax that afternoon."
"It is built on one of the most beautiful landscapes with a spectacular view of Mount Kenya so I'm not surprised Dr. Seuss was inspired by that," says Wanjira Mathai, vice president and regional director for Africa at The World Resources Institute.
What can happen to that beauty is made vividly clear by the end of the story. The greedy Once-ler ravages the land by chopping down Truffula Trees. He needs them to make his "thneed" garment.
The Lorax is apoplectic.
"I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
And I'm asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs" —
he was very upset as he shouted and puffed —
"What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?"
Spoiler alert: the land where once upon a time, "the grass was still green and the pond was still wet and the clouds were still clean" is destroyed by the Once-ler's insatiable appetite to sell more "thneeds."
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot ..."
The parallels with this week's U.N. climate report are stark. "The report paints a very sobering picture of the unforgiving, unimaginable world we have in store if our addiction to burning fossil fuels and destroying forests continues," says Mathai. She says Dr. Seuss' eco-parable is a "powerful depiction" of this point, despite being written so many years ago. "The Thneed—read fossil fuels—is something 'everyone needs.' And sadly with the Lorax, the damage was done and the environment that was bustling with life, destroyed."
The Lorax ends with a kind of challenge.
UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing's going to get better.