The Lorax was a book I don't remember reading as a child. I picked it up at the ripe old age of 24, when one of the kids I was babysitting at the time wanted to read a story before bedtime. As I paged through it, reading in funny voices to the little girl with wide eyes listening, I had no idea what was in store for me.
As it turned out, the Lorax would become one of my great personal heroes.
A scruffy little runt of a creature, the Lorax is a character who "speaks for the trees," as well as the animals and the environment. The Lorax fights the good fight of defending his habitat against "The Once-ler", a mysterious and greedy character who finds a way to make profit off of the natural environment around him.
As the Once-ler begins chopping down the Truffula trees that live amongst the Lorax and other inhabitants of the land, the Lorax desperately declares:
"I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I'm asking you sir, at the top of my lungs - that thing! That horrible thing that I see! What's that thing you've made out of my truffula tree? "
As the story goes on, it becomes clear that the Once-ler has no intention of stopping his "work" - in fact, he does not cease the tree chopping until the final Truffula Tree is chopped to the ground. And once that happens, the Lorax has no other choice but to sadly leave the home he loves:
"Now, all that was left 'neath the bad-smelling sky was my big, empty factory, the Lorax, and I. The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance. Just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance... as he LIFTED himself by the seat of his pants. And I'll never forget the grim look on his face when he hoisted himself and took leave of this place, through a hole in the smog without leaving a trace."
The story ends with a quote that has stuck with me all the way until now. You see, the entire time, the Once-ler had been telling this story as a tale from the past to a young child. As he finishes, he gives a seed to the child, and explains:
" You're in charge of the last of the truffula seeds. And truffula trees are what everyone needs. 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."
It's amazing how children's books can inspire in ways beyond comprehension.
I just finished John Robbins' book, Diet for a New America, and he reminds me a lot of my hero, the Lorax. Like the Lorax, Robbins also makes a case for the trees, the environment, and the animals that exist in this world alongside us. Robbins' case is clear - we need to change our eating habits, or we will not be able to share our beautiful Earth with future generations. The consumption of animal products is so high that we are beginning to lose the precious natural resources that keep us and our world healthy. Additionally, we are killing ourselves by overconsuming these products. It hadn't occurred to me that there could be a direct connection between diet and disease, but there is. It's simple really - eating a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol significantly increases your chances of an endless list of diseases and illnesses. And what do meat, dairy and eggs all have in common? They are loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol.
Robbins wrote Diet for a New America in 1987 - twenty-two years ago. It's baffling to me that we are still very much dealing with these issues today. I went vegan nearly a year ago because I could no longer be a part of a system that caused so much suffering. I had no idea that by going vegan, I would be choosing the healthiest possible diet out there. Vegan food has no cholesterol, and if you eat a balanced diet, you will definitely get in your daily quotient of protein and nutrients (as long as you're consuming a varied diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes). Also - contrary to popular belief, a balanced vegan diet has more than enough protein in it (yet another truth that the food industry has muddled for us).
Much like Food Inc, Diet for a New America also uncovers many lies the food industry has put out there to the general public about what is healthy and good for us to consume. It shocked me to learn that The National Dairy Council has been supplying educational materials to elementary schools for years now, and not as a way to simply show how healthy cow's milk is. The National Dairy Council cares about one thing and one thing only - profit - and by targeting a young group of people, they've been teaching young minds that buying dairy products is essential to growing up "strong and healthy". My entire life, I always thought I needed milk - that without milk, my bones would not be "strong and healthy". I mean, come on - "Milk does a body good," right? But there are two major problems with cow's milk: 1) it's made for baby cows (who have four stomachs and are babies trying to grow as fast as possible), and 2) it is high in protein. So much protein that the calcium in cow's milk cannot be properly absorbed. After learning this, it was no surprise for me to learn that the countries with the highest levels of osteoporosis are the same countries that have the highest dairy intakes.
Now, this is just the tip of the nutritional iceberg that makes up part of Diet for a New America. Robbins is so unbelievably thorough in his research - I counted almost thirty pages of footnotes - that by the end of the book, you really have no other choice but to confront the facts. Meat is not good for you. Dairy and eggs are not good for you. Animal products are not good for our health or the well-being of our environment.
Okay, so maybe you're thinking - now what? I've read all of this information from Lindsay's blog - what do I do now? Well, there are a plethora of choices you have now. You can continue on your journey knowing this information. You can make a few choices here or there - jump on the country's bandwagon and have a Meatless Monday, look up a vegetarian recipe using a new food you've never tried before, do some research of your own. But don't let my words overwhelm you to the point that you don't do anything.
"Don't do nothing because you can't do everything. Do something, anything!"
- Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (vegan baker and activist)
As the end of The Lorax shows us, we need to be better to our world before we lose it. We need to protect it, to love it, to nurture it. Why not choose living in such a way that is not only good for the environment, but also good for you? It may seem like an arduous task at first, but the effort will be well worth it. You will begin to see a whole new world open up for you. A peace will come over you as you realize you are living in balance with the wholeness of the Earth, not against it. Your conscience will become clearer. And you will feel better - physically, emotionally, and maybe even spiritually.
If you ever have any questions about how to begin this journey, feel free to email me:email@example.com. I am always happy to share more of my own experience with you. Because it was really tough for me to make such a big change in my life. It was scary and challenging and uncomfortable. But now, I feel the best I've ever felt. And it's all because I decided to eat in such a way that wasn't just for myself anymore. I was eating for the world as well.
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better. It's not."