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Would Rick Santorum Ban The Lorax?

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Flickr: Jennifer Chernoff
Flickr: Jennifer Chernoff

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum's three-state sweep in the 2012 Republican caucuses this week throws the Republican race into disarray and also demonstrates just how wildly anti-environmental many Republicans -- including the majority here in Colorado -- have become.

It's ironic that Santorum's sweep occurred within weeks of the international silver screen debut of Dr. Seuss' book, The Lorax. Known worldwide as a treehugging environmentalist -- "I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees." -- The Lorax is a popular children's book first published in 1971. Since that time, the Lorax (which is a fluffy endangered species-like critter that lives in trees called "truffulas") has become somewhat of an American environmental icon which will no doubt be re-solidified in the next few months by the Universal Pictures movie.

But in 1988, the Laytonville School District in Laytonville, California allegedly received a request and attempted to ban or downgrade the book, The Lorax, in its school libraries. It was allegedly argued that The Lorax "criminialized the forestry industry."

Would Rick Santorum support banning The Lorax?

Santorum's statements, votes, and policy positions firmly plant him as a strong anti-environmentalist. Just a few days ago in swing-state Colorado in an anti-Loraxian speech, he told a crowd about how the Endangered Species Act was preventing timbering in his home state of Pennsylvania: "We have the Endangered Species Act, which has prevented us from timbering all sorts of acreage there," he said.

Santorum went on to say: "We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth's benefit."

Further, Santorum calls climate change a "hoax," says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should continue to allow coal-fired powerplants to emit mercury (even though the EPA says mercury causes 11,000 premature deaths and 130,000 asthma attacks in the U.S. every year), and says oil and gas drilling should be allowed everywhere including in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Here he says on video: "Come to Pennsylvania. We are drilling oil and gas wells all over the place including in people's backyards."

In a fascinating twist of anti-Loraxian spin, Santorum seems to portray people as the creator and nature as the destroyer. Here he says: "We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through the course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create."

And here Santorum goes straight to the Loraxian question: "A forest in my opinion is like a garden and you've got to care for it. If you don't care for it, you leave it to nature and nature will do what it does: boom and bust."

But the real question in 2012 is whether the fervently anti-environmental Tea Party grip on the U.S. House of Representatives and the Republican presidential primary will finally go bust. Over the course of the last 14 months, the Republican-led U.S. House has become known as "The Most Anti-Environmental Congress in History."

Conversely, The Lorax's author, Dr. Seuss, was known as a liberal Democrat. The Lorax was considered to be his seminal allegorical statement on environmental issues in America. Dr. Seuss died in 1991, but what might he say about all of this?

Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.

Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.

Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.

Then the Lorax

and all of his friends

may come back.

- from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

And that's what environmentalists need to do over the next eight months -- plant, water, feed, protect. In other words, get to work and hit the streets.

The movie, The Lorax, will be released on March 2. Tuesday, March 6, is Super Tuesday where the Republican presidential candidate may finally be determined.

As November approaches, let's don't ban The Lorax -- let's bring him and all of his friends back.

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Gary Wockner, Ph.D., is an environmental writer and activist in Fort Collins, CO.