The latest Dr. Seuss book to become an animated film, The Lorax is much more than pro-environment tale. Though the environment is the film’s obvious focus, its message is a deeper morality tale of the dangers of Greed, no matter what you desire.
Both Ted and the Once-ler initially pursue the Truffula trees for thoroughly selfish reasons: Ted because he wants to earn Audrey’s love and the Once-ler so he can earn fame and fortune with his Thneed. (Though interestingly, it appears that he wants fame and fortune to earn his family’s love.)
An excellent observation: Greed is about trying to fill some void in our souls.
In a musical montage, the Once-ler sings "How Bad Can I Be," essentially celebrating his Greed. The song describes the world as "survival of the fittest," arguing that nothing he’s doing is illegal, so it must be okay. That he’s "just doing what comes naturally."
The Lorax‘s presentation of Greed eerily parallels Gordon Gekko’s infamous "Greed is Good" speech from Wall Street: Greed is a natural human impulse and therefore inherently good.
The film demonstrates visually the absurdity of this claim. Greed unchecked reduces nature to a "resource" to be consumed without consideration for sustainability. Beauty becomes a commodity: the innate natural beauty of the Truffula tree is replaced by briefly trendy, idiotic, manufactured clothing item – the Thneed.
And once all the trees are gone and the once lush and beautiful forest is reduced to a foul, smoking wasteland (with a none-to-subtle nod to the recent BP travesty). Rather than face such an ugly reality, the citizens of Thneedville live behind a wall, buying fresh air (ala Spaceballs) and inhabiting a world made of plastic and artificial sunlight.
It’s hard not to see ourselves reflected in the Thneedvillains:
We heedlessly consume resources at an unsustainable pace, live in mostly-manufactured cities detached from nature and remain blissfully unaware of the consequences our standard of living have on the larger world.
The Once-ler comes face-to-face with the consequences of his decision when he loses his fortune. Once he has everything, the Lorax asks him:
Is it enough? Did you fill that hole you have in yourself? Or do you still need more?
Of course the answer is No. That’s the problem with Greed. It’s never enough. We weren’t made to be filled by stuff. Both the Once-ler and, through his story, Ted, realize they need something nearly ineffable. Audrey had already figured it out: Beauty for beauty’s sake. The power and majesty of the natural world.
The film doesn’t go this far but I will: God created nature to point us back to God.
The natural world is a gift and we have been called to steward it, not exploit it (Genesis 1:28). Christians shouldn’t need a Dr. Seuss book or film to remind us of that.
Unless someone cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.