The Lorax in the Anthropocene


Late last year, I wrote about the dominance of the tragic “Lorax narrative” in environmental reporting. Journalists Sara Peach and Keith Kloor have since examined Lorax-ness in climate-change coverage, and I’ve been collecting climate stories that draw on other archetypal narratives (suggestions welcome).

The discussion has made me wonder: How would Dr. Seuss himself tackle climate change? After all, a tired narrative isn’t the only challenge for writers on the fast-shrinking climate beat. The story of climate change is muddy and complex, and its real drama is both geographically distant (if you’re lucky) and years in the future (ditto) — in other words, it lacks most of the ingredients that make any narrative memorable.

My guess is that the good doctor wouldn’t try to hide these problems. He wrote for kids, but he wasn’t afraid of complexity. He might even put the scientific, political, and personal knottiness of climate change at the heart of his story.

With apologies to the master, it might sound something like this.

We’re the IPCC and we speak for the data
The climate’s warm now, but you just wait till later
We’re not totally sure but we seriously think
What you’re doing is draining the world’s carbon sink
And heating the planet a bit at a time
Even though all the weather seems more or less fine
So may we suggest
That you take a deep breath
Stop your flying and driving and heating and cooling
‘Cause we’re ninety-nine percent sure that the climate’s unspooling.

“Look, y’all,” I said, “There’s no need to fret.
It’s just twice a year that I get on a jet.
And I’m doing some good. I’m making the rent.
I’m being an overall very nice gent.
Besides, there’s a one percent chance that all this is hooey?
And we’ve got 30 years before things go kablooey?
You say bears are a-drowning and birds are confused
But not around here, so I must be excused
For my flying and driving and heating and cooling
Uncertainty allows me to think that you’re fooling.

Now it’s your turn, dear reader, to contribute a line
To the yarn of our climate in gradual decline
Will the nice gent repent? Will the science prevail?
Unless someone like you finds an end to the tale
We’ll go round and round for eons to come
And nothing will ever, ever get done.

Top photo credit: Flickr user Kateplee.

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7 thoughts on “The Lorax in the Anthropocene

  1. G’Day! Lastwordonnothing,
    Thanks, on a related note, “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues,” is the quote. Would I have to put a – “The Lorax” Dr. Seuss at the end? Or would it be completely against some trademark or copyright laws?
    All the Best

  2. Yes, I think the good Doctor would approve.:-)
    And I hope youngsters read this as they are more likely (on current averages!) to make a difference than politicians.

  3. Though the problem is humongously big
    as we use dirty fuels in our thingamajigs
    there are solutions out there we can use to have fun
    like getting power from wind, earth, waves and the sun.

    The solutions are right here, not away in some lab
    if we use them today, tomorrow we’ll be glad
    that we have air we can breathe, a climate that’s steady, and of course a forest filled with truffula trees.

  4. Excellent post. You write: “I’ve been collecting climate stories that draw on other archetypal narratives (suggestions welcome).”

    Have you posted this collection of stories anywhere? Would love to see these.

    FYI, at we’re in the process of fleshing out a catalogue of alternative climate change narratives — broadly different ways to “tell the climate story.” Have about 24 so far, in 7 categories.

    Check out

    What is missing, in your opinion? We’d be very interested in your feedback!

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