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I Speak For The Lorax

Posted in Editorials, Pictures on February 29th, 2012

During this year’s Superbowl, I had my first look at the trailer for “The Lorax” a new animated film adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic. I was not amused. Adam reminded me that this version didn’t stick to the story of the original book – I was tipped off by a stupid joke about a “mannish” looking woman.

A few days later I was browsing in a store and saw a box of Lorax Valentine’s Day Cards for children. How could a movie about saving trees have a marketing tie-in with a paper product?! I looked closely and did see that the Valentine’s were printed on recycled paper, but they were being marketed more as an advertisement for the movie than as a green alternative to other Valentines.

On Thursday night, Kate Sheppard from Mother Jones tweeted a link to her article about the movie’s tie-in with a new Mazda SUV. No, it’s not a hybrid or a plugin.

I was able to push the whole mess out my head, until Saturday afternoon. I was clipping coupons and saw…

…this atrocity

“The Lorax’s Breakfast With Green Eggs & Ham, Truffula Chip Pancakes”

I just felt so overwhelmingly frustrated at the bitter irony of it all. The Lorax was a very important story in my childhood, and to see it undermined in this fashion is heartbreaking. It’s not just the blatant commercialization. I dig Star Trek and Star Wars and Archie Comics and Harry Potter – fandoms with endless merchandising, that I know is not always the best thing for the environment. But SUV’s and pork are two incredibly destructive products with regards to human health, climate change and biodiversity.

According to the EPA, after electricity production at #1, Transportation is the #2 source of Carbon Dioxide emissions – the greenhouse gas most abundant in the atmosphere that is contributing to climate change. This is why advertising an SUV – one of the most inefficient forms of transportation – in conjunction with a movie that is based on a book about preserving the Earth’s ability to sustain life is so distasteful.

But what about the green eggs and ham? Can’t a kid have a nice brunch with family? According to The Sierra Club, those eggs aren’t so bad – at only 4.8 pounds of CO2 emissions per kilogram of food, they are a reasonable indulgence. But pork produces much more CO2 – 12.1 pounds per kilogram of meat. And that’s not all. In the United States, most pigs raised for pork live in CAFOs – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations.

The EPA defines a CAFO as an animal feeding operation that:
(a) confines animals for more than 45 days during a growing season, (b) in an area that does not produce vegetation
(c) meets certain size thresholds

Doesn’t sound too bad, right? It’s like a chicken coop! But for pigs. Not quite. The thing about raising pigs – for those of you who never think about where your bacon comes from – is they create an incredible amount of manure8 pounds or more per hog, per day. And all of that fecal matter has to go somewhere. Most farmers or factory farms are responsible, I’m sure. Generally, pig manure is stored in lagoons to decompose. Yes, lagoons. And sometimes, accidents happen. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council:

In Oklahoma, nitrates from Seaboard Farms’ hog operations contaminated drinking water wells, prompting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue an emergency order in June 2001 requiring the company to provide safe drinking water to area residents.

Large hog farms emit hydrogen sulfide, a gas that most often causes flu-like symptoms in humans, but at high concentrations can lead to brain damage. In 1998, the National Institute of Health reported that 19 people died as a result of hydrogen sulfide emissions from manure pits.

Huge open-air waste lagoons, often as big as several football fields, are prone to leaks and spills. In 1995 an eight-acre hog-waste lagoon in North Carolina burst, spilling 25 million gallons of manure into the New River. The spill killed about 10 million fish and closed 364,000 acres of coastal wetlands to shellfishing.

When Hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina in 1999, at least five manure lagoons burst and approximately 47 lagoons were completely flooded.

Runoff of chicken and hog waste from factory farms in Maryland and North Carolina is believed to have contributed to outbreaks of Pfiesteria piscicida, killing millions of fish and causing skin irritation, short-term memory loss and other cognitive problems in local people.

That’s why I was seeing red when I looked at that IHOP advertisment. I was thinking of all the lakes of pig feces in our great nation that are making people sick. And the flesh of the pigs who produced it was being marketed to me as a delicious family breakfast. By The Lorax.

I’m not even going to write anything about the diaper tie-in.

I want to be clear, I’m not a saint. I eat meat a few times a week – mostly poultry and the occasional grass fed beef if I can find it. (Writing this post might have been the motivation for me to give up my weekly BLT once and for all). I try not to be wasteful, and to research the environmental impact of products I buy before purchasing – but I’m sure I mess up on occasion. That’s not the point. My achievements or failings as an environmentalist are not being portrayed to market a children’s movie based on a book about saving endangered species and taking care of trees.

The marketing team for The Lorax did choose some partners that make sense. Stonyfield organic yogurt, Ecotourism in Costa Rica, and the EPA Energy Star Program are all much more appropriate sponsors – because even though they are consumer products, they are ones produced ethically and have a smaller environmental impact than SUV’s, diapers, and ham. The movie’s producers did not stop there, however. It’s almost as if they watched Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold as if it was an instructional film about movie marketing. I can’t pretend to know how these decisions were made – but I would wager it would have something to do with taking for granted that most people are stupid and uncritical of their media.

I speak for The Lorax, and this is an unconscionable exploitation of the story told in Dr. Seuss’ book. Whether or not you see this movie, think about where your money goes, where the products you buy come from, and about what assumptions are made by those trying to sell you something.

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8 Responses to “I Speak For The Lorax”

  1. Sheri Says:

    Well, you can always count on hollywood to exploit anything popular for money… but at least they’re trying to spread the message about preserving the environment (they still are right?). I have only seen one add for the movie, which completely aggravated me because it was clear they butchered a good kids book, but any time they take a short kids book and turn it into a full length movie, they butcher it. Actually, any time they take any book and turn it into a movie they butcher it! So I guess I can’t be as mad because I expected them to destroy it, and I expect hollywood to be hypocritical because their goal is to just make money (even though many actors and actresses come out to support environmental causes, that’s what makes them hypocrites). I don’t have the facts on this, but I’d expect the whole industry to be rather environmentally unfriendly given the resources that go into making a movie whose sole function is to entertain people for 2 hours. Pretty much a huge waste if you think about it. You know, I’d love to know the environmental impact that the movie industry has… Someone must have looked into this already…. One comment though, I saw there is a link to something about disposable diapers… of all the wasteful things out there, I will never ever complain about disposable diapers. When you go through a dozen diapers a day, think about the amount of water (and more importantly TIME if you hand wash all his clothes haha) that is needed to wash them and you will just die of exhaustion. OK I’m only thinking about the time. Aaaaagh, I don’t get anyone who uses cloth diapers!!! I but recycled paper towels and toilet paper, almost never buy new clothes or furniture, buy organic and local when I can, use public transportation almost always, and recycle everything I’m supposed to, but cloth diapers, no. no no no no. Just thinking about it overwhelms me.

  2. MissCherryPi Says:

    I’m not criticizing anyone for using disposable diapers. I drive a car, I eat meat, and I will probably use disposable diapers if I have a baby. It’s just that, like SUVs and ham, they don’t belong with promotional materials for a movie trying to come across as environmentalist. One of the many products you simply cannot greenwash.

  3. MissCherryPi Says:

    And with regards to your other point, Sheri, it depends on the movie. Some movies have carefully kept an audit of their carbon footprint and have attempted to abate it by investing in reforestation or other offset programs. Other movies really, really suck.

  4. Sheri Says:

    Yeah, I remember the disaster that movie created. What an absolute mess! There are laws that say you can’t harm animals while making a film right? I wonder why they can’t extend that to destroying a natural environment where a bunch of animals live, therefore harming animals in the process?

  5. Adam Lee Says:

    Coming up next, the movie version of “The Butter Battle Book”, with promotional tie-ins for Army recruiting!

  6. MissCherryPi Says:

    Sheri – There are laws against animal cruelty and most movies that use animals are voluntarily supervised by the Humane Society.

    The Endangered Species Act is the only law that aggressively protects animal habitat, as far as I know. However it is underfunded and the Fish and Wildlife Service has its hands full trying to enforce it – and it only applies to endangered or threatened animals or plants. With movies like “The Beach” that are filmed outside the United States, movie studios are only subject to the laws of the countries they are filming in. The Convention on International trade of Endangered Species (CITES) only applies to the actual physical trade of endangered or threatened animals or plants. There’s nothing about filming the destruction of habitat of an endangered species.

    (I got to use my Environmental Policy degree today!! 😀 )

  7. sw Says:

    Yeah, so I saw that IHOP ad yesterday, too, and was really bothered by the destruction of the message of The Lorax. Today I typed ‘lorax breakfast irony’ assuming someone had written about this, and indeed, here we are. I didn’t even know about the SUV and diapers; I thought the breakfast was bad enough. Considering how cheap IHOP food is, we know they’re not going with local, organic and/or sustainably raised. Of course, the other problem with this breakfast? Green eggs and ham? Really? NOTHING TO DO WITH THE LORAX! Fer cryin’ out loud, you marketing people…. that’s really lame.

  8. MissCherryPi Says:

    Hi SW! I guess they figured since Dr. Seuss also wrote it, it’s okay!

    I didn’t even address the “Truffula chip pancakes” which are probably loaded with HFCS, and the reasons monoculture corn production and Monsanto are destructive…

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