Disney’s animated pro-environment movie “The Lorax” created a kerfuffle even before it was released in March, drawing jeers from conservative TV personality Lou Dobbs who called it “insidious nonsense from Hollywood… once again trying to indoctrinate our children.” Although Dobbs warned that the film was “The President’s liberal friends… using an animated film, targeting a younger demographic to sell their agenda to children,” “The Lorax” became a blockbuster, taking first place in gross receipts its first two weekends and remaining in the Top Five for nearly six weeks.
The film, an animated version of a Dr. Seuss book about how the timber industry harms the environment and how trees need advocates to fight for them, has taken more serious fire from an Oregon libertarian group, the Cascade Policy Institute (CPI). In a May 3 article on CPI’s site, Todd Meyers, author of the 2011 book “Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism is Harming the Environment,” wrote an objection to “The Lorax” that exemplifies conservative beliefs about the international and U.S. timber industry.
Asserting “forests are plentiful” in the Northern Hemisphere and “replanting isn’t just good for environmentalists, it’s good for business,” Meyers argues that because logging companies need trees to harvest, the industry is actually unified with environmentalists in wanting forests to expand. He asserts that because of the timber industry’s hard work and forethought, the amount of land covered by forests and general numbers of forest trees have increased in America in recent years.
“The Lorax”, Meyers believes, is a dishonest portrayal of the realities of forestry, because trees need no other advocates than an industry intent on responsible stewardship.
Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator for Oregon Wild, disputes Meyers’ claims with a very different story.
“It is important to distinguish between real ‘forests’ versus ‘land covered with trees,’” Heiken begins, describing the replanting of limited, high-profit species where there was once diversity. “When trees are harvested on short rotation, such as every 35-40 years as they are in the Oregon Coast range, the trees never reach a size or age where they provide habitat for most wildlife.”
He says, “Many tree-covered lands are really ‘tree farms’ that do not provide all the important ecological services provided by healthy forests (clean water, carbon storage, biodiversity, fish & wildlife habitat, recreation, solitude, etc.) Forestry as a profit-seeking business may sustain trees and 2x4s, but it generally does not sustain forests.”
Heiken disputes the idea that tree farms replicate natural forests in other ways. “Intensively managed ‘forests’ have dense road networks, frequent disturbance of soil and vegetation, chronic erosion, and such forests lack many important features of healthy forests such as large trees, diverse tree species, diverse understory shrubs and wildflowers, diverse wildlife, and dead wood habitat structures.”
As for Meyers’ assertion that the timber industry is “preserving vast area for future generations,” Heiken says, “We are logging vast areas, but we are not preserving vast areas… Only 4% of Oregon is protected as wilderness. There are some large forest ‘reserves’ that were protected as part of the Northwest Forest Plan; however, those reserves were grievously clear-cut before they were protected. Only about 42% of those reserves are currently covered by old forests.”
Meyers works for the conservative Washington Policy Center (WPC) as Director of the Center for the Environment. WPC’s motto is “improving lives through market solutions.”
Meanwhile in California, “The Lorax” has been utilized by the Sierra Club to gather signatures to fight clear-cutting in that state, and the movie has partnered with the U.S. Forest Service in Public Service
Announcements that encourage families to discover the outdoors and forests.
It appears that there is little the two positions agree on and that the reception of viewers to “The Lorax” depends largely on their political point of view.