The Lorax, on the other hand, is an environmental allegory about the ravages of industry, represented by one man known as the Once-ler and the environment, represented by the Lorax who "speaks for the trees," written, prophetically, almost 40 years ago. It can be seen as a doomsayer, portraying what will happen if we don't practice sustainable development. Much grimmer than The Sneetches, in its illustrations and tone, it too ends on a note of hope.
Again students may read the storybook and view the six-part video on the Internet. On the surface, it is about a businessman who comes to a forest of trees and discovers a way to make money by chopping down the very colorful Truffula trees and manufacturing their tufts into apparel, with no regard for the limited supply of trees. The Lorax, a curious little brown creature who speaks for the trees because they can't speak for themselves, implores Once-ler to spare the Truffula trees, but Once-ler refuses to listen to him, and not only is he ravaging the Truffula trees, but his industry is spewing smoke into the environment, driving all the wildlife away. And, of course, Once-ler has found a market for his Truffula products because people are eager to buy anything new and different. Finally, the Lorax himself is forced to flee. Eventually all the trees have been chopped down and Once-ler and his employees must abandon his industry, having wreaked havoc on the land.
However, Once-ler, alone and living in the midst of the devastation he created, finally understands the ramifications of what he has done. He has in his possession one remaining seed, from the Truffula trees, that he entrusts to the care of a small boy, after telling him the sad story of the Lorax and the trees.
Students may complete a Sequence of Events graphic organizer or a Storyboard for The Lorax, including significant text. They will be able to see the relationship between the agents, their actions, the objects such as the Thneeds that Once-ler manufactures, the factory stacks that spew out clouds of dark smoke, the all-important trees, and of course, the one last Truffula seed. But the setting, including the Truffula trees, the little brown Bar-ba-loots, the Swomee-Swans, the Humming-Fish and, of course, the Lorax are all the victims of Once-Ler's greed and disregard for the environment as his industry pollutes the water, the air, and destroys every last Truffula tree, driving from the land every creature who lived and played under the trees.
Once students, working in groups, have created the sequence of events, or cause and effect, or story board graphic organizers with the significant text, they will have laid out the literal story, and they will be ready to make their column graphic organizers with headings across the top: Once-Ler (and eventually all of his relatives who work for him, Truffula trees (and the Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans, Humming-Fish), Thneeds, the factory spewing, and The Lorax (speaking for the trees until they are all, all gone). Next, groups will decide what all of these symbols represent abstractly, and fill in the columns under the headings. In doing this activity, students should be able to see how, in allegory, everything coheres at the literal or primary level, and at a level beneath this.
It will be very informative to share what the teams came up with and what they think Seuss's lesson or message is. Somewhere along the way I will introduce the concept of sustainable development which might be broken down into: human needs, technology needs, economic needs, and environmental needs. Students might start with the dynamics of The Lorax to discuss how Once-Ler could have adopted sustainable development methods.