In writing my story for Sunday’s edition about Indiana’s proposal to increase hardwoods harvesting, my goal was to be balanced.
I wanted to show both sides. Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch announced an expansion of the industry Tuesday, a strategy devised by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen’s Association and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Their goal is economic development.
The other side I wanted to show was that of the trees.
Trees don’t speak in human tongue. They speak in gentle breezes and calming shade, mighty strength and supple flexibility.
Trees don’t speak — but I do. I am the Lorax.
And I am not the only one. My friend Art Eberhardt is the Lorax and he spoke for the trees by preserving the last urban forest in Angola and naming it after his late wife, Marion. Thanks to Art and ACRES Land Trust, that woods will not be harvested. It will continue to grow the way God intended, true nature in an ever more developed environment.
Do you know the Dr. Suess story, “The Lorax?”
In the Lorax, a young man finds that he can make a thing called a Thneed from the puffy tuft of the Truffula Tree. The Lorax appeared on the stump of the very first tree the young man cut.
“I am the Lorax,” he said. “I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”
But the young man learned that the more Thneeds he made, the more people would buy.
“I meant no harm,” he said. “I most truly did not. But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got. I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads. I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads of the Thneed’s I shipped out. I was shipping them forth to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North! I went right on biggering — selling more Thneeds. And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.”
Just because we can cut more trees and make more things and make more money does not mean we need to do it.
In the book, as more trees were harvested, wildlife moved away. Eventually there were no animals and no trees, just smog and the man, an old hermit, hiding in the ruins of his Thneed factory.
The average hardwood tree grows to maturity at 50 years. A human is considered an adult at 18 years old. A typical white oak tree can live to be 300 years old in a wooded setting, says an April 2018 Purdue University Landscape report. It is rare for a human to live even 100 years.
So, when we start talking about “sustainable” harvesting of trees, what really is being taken into account? When something has grown for 200 years and it is cut — how do you tally its value? Will there ever be another one?
Yes, there is money in timber. But at what cost?
“The Lorax” was published in 1971. There were 5.2 million people in Indiana in 1971. There are 6.7 million people in Indiana today, 47 years later. If the trend continues, there could be 8 million Hoosiers 50 years from now, or more.
Would there be room for a 200-year-old tree in a population-dense future? Would there be room for any trees at all, or would there be a need for more Thneeds and more money until the trees are all gone?
It is a question of value. What is truly of value to the citizens of Indiana? Is it money or is it trees?
At the end of “The Lorax,” all that remained was a broken old man and a devastated environment. And one seed. Just one. It is similar to the one green plant found by the robot WALL-E in the 2008 Disney cartoon. WALL-E fought for that little green plant, put his own existence on the line to save it so it could be planted.
Someone has to care, someone has to speak for the trees.
Because, as the Lorax says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”