Ban Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax?

the lorax

the lorax
What a scary thought. Why would anyone ever want to ban The Lorax? In 1989, the Laytonville, CA Unified School District tried to do just that. They challenged the book based on someone’s belief that it criminalizes the foresting industry.

Why am I bringing you 20 year old news? There’s two reasons.

The first is that the American Library Associations Banned Books Week starts this Saturday, September 27th. Banned Books Week

emphasizes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.

What does book banning have to do with sustainability. A whole lot.

Many times people want to ban books that scare them. Or they want to ban books that go against their agenda. Or they want to ban books that contradict their religious beliefs.

This environmental movement that is going on right now, and must continue to go on, scares many people, goes against many people’s agendas, and unbelievably goes against some people’s religious beliefs.

At its very heart, book banning is about muffling free speech. Books are one of free speech’s most powerful allies. Once something is published in a book, it has an enormous ability to influence. The only way to stop it’s influence is to get rid of the book.

Spoken word is powerful, too, of course. And with the today’s technology, it’s easy to record and preserve the spoken word, but for most of our history, it has been the written word that has recorded people’s thoughts and ideas and preserved them for others to chew on.

What if the chemical industry had been successful in its efforts to ban Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring, the book that many consider the catalyst of the modern environmental movement?

What if The Lorax wasn’t available for me to read to my sons? It’s such a gentle introduction for children to taking care of the earth and also a powerful inspiration to adults.

What if my sixth grade teacher hadn’t been allowed to read my class A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (a book that has been challenged many, many times) and my eyes hadn’t been open by Ms. L’Engle’s words to the greater world around me?

When I think about the answers to these “what if’s,” I realize that I need to take a stance against book banning, as an environmentalist and as person who believes in everyone’s right to think, say, and write what they believe, even if I disagree with them vehemently.

My other reason for writing about this is that many people may think that the only books that get challenged today are those about having two mommies or The Harry Potter Series. But it’s not so. Today on one of Green Option’s other blogs, Eco Child’s Play, Jennifer Lance wrote about the fact that some people want to ban author Mem Fox’s children’s books, not because of their content, but because Ms. Fox said something they didn’t like about childcare.

How dangerous is that? Banning someone’s books because of her opinion!

We environmentalists have a lot of opinions. What if someone tried to ban our writings because they didn’t like them? Or our opinions scared them or went against their religious beliefs?

Banned Books Week is a reminder that we have the right to say what we want to say and write what we want to write. We should never allow anyone to take that away from us, and we should never try to take that away from anyone else.

Photo credit: Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com

  1. Patricia

    Hey — does anyone know what books Sarah Palin fired the librarian over when she wouldnt remove them from the library? I have been really curious about which books they were and why they rubbed Sarah the wrong way — and why she wanted to ban them. Does anybody know?

  2. Robin Shreeves

    Patricia – From what I’ve read, the reports of then Mayor Palin wanting to ban books have been blown way out of proportion in a whisper down the lane type way. There was a bogus list of regularly contested books (Catcher in the Rye, Huck Finn, etc) that was attributed to her, but some of the books were not even written yet when she supposedly asked to have them banned.

    It seems that she questioned the librarian about books but never mentioned specific books. At least that’s what I can determine.

    Snopes.com has a write up that clarifies a lot of it.

  3. Bobby B.

    I tried posting comments on this topic on two separate occasions. I have noticed that oftentimes, “sustainablog” will not post comments that include links to other URL addresses. Maybe someone can explain why.

    Anyway, it should be worth noting that the ALA Banned Books Week is a bit of a sham. The ALA – like most liberal organizations – only seeks to protect the free speech with which it agrees. There are countless examples of the ALA banning books itself. Since I cannot provide the links, I guess I will provide search engine tips for those who are interested.

    Let’s start with searching the title “Apparently 99% of Books Have Been Banned” by Randall Hoven at American Thinker. It is a great piece on the censorship that goes on at the library. Their stock of books usually reflect less than 1% of those on file at The Library of Congress.

    Next, search the title “The Library Diaries” by Ann Miketa (pen name), which according to WorldNetDaily cost the author her job. The ALA even has an article about how her former boss, Robert Dickson, defended her firing because he considered the work an invasion of privacy. You see, in her work of fiction she only changed the names of the unsavory patrons that she observed during her fifteen years at a public library. If you dig a little more, you will find that Ms. Miketa is not the only one to lose her job at the local library for standing up for decency.

    Moving on, take a look at what pops up when you search how the ALA and ACLU joined together to oppose the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 2000. Even thought liberal President Clinton understood the dangers of the internet, these two organizations opposed it on the basis of free speech and the inability that internet filtering software cannot stop 100% of unsavory traffic.

    I could go on for days, but most of you will not even bother to read the first article. For those of you that care and believe that the local library is a pillar of decency looking out for your children, you really should dig deeper. Think about what you would like to have made available versus what gets showcased during “Banned Books Week”. BTW, on many local levels, the libraries are awesome but the ALA still exerts some control over them.

  4. Robin Shreeves

    Bobby – sometimes Sustainablog won’t even post comments that I’ve made with links in them – even when they are comments to my own post. So don’t feel singled out.

    I don’t have the time at the moment to read the articles you are suggesting, but I”ve hunted them down and bookmarked them because I am interested. But I would like to comment on this: “For those of you that care and believe that the local library is a pillar of decency looking out for your children, you really should dig deeper”

    I don’t believe that the library is looking out for my children. No one should expect the library to look out for their children. It’s not their job. It’s the parent’s job to be aware of what is being borrowed from the library. I go though every book my children bring home. If they want to read something I’m unsure of, I read it first. Same with music. I check out the lyrics to every single song my 9 year old wants to download.

    Because although I’m against booked banning – as it is widely understood today – I am very much for censorship in the home. I have no problem saying to my children “not in our house.”

    I grew up with a mom who checked out everything and had no problem telling our town’s children’s librarian that I was not allowed to check out Judy Blume books (which are great books by the way, but there’s no way I’m allowing my nine year old son to read Then Again, Maybe I Won’t for several years.) She took albums away from me that I had paid for with my own money. And I swore I would never be that mean to my own kids.

    But here I am, and in the end my mother taught me well. I am that mean to my own kids.

  5. Bobby B.

    I do not feel singled out, just a bit distraught when a killer post of mine vanishes.

    I also agree that censorship and filtering are primarily parental responsibilities. However, the underlying premise of Banned Books Week is for the ALA to showcase books that may have been censored or removed from the shelf by “the man” (i.e. religious or conservative social architects, and capitalists). Most of the featured titles are anti-establishment, especially with regard to the respective time periods in which they were published. This is not a big deal to me personally, but people should understand that the ALA takes an active role in keeping books that don’t align with its political and ideological views off of library shelves.

    The beauty of the “public” library system is that they are at liberty to practice their own version of censorship with the blessing of taxpayer funding. As a taxpayer, you actually do have the right to apply the “not in my house” logic to what’s available at the local library. A peaceful, non-threatening request to remove – or limit access to – “racy” material is not necessarily censorship, so much as a call to respect common decency.

    Today’s gateway into the mind goes far beyond books and periodicals. The advent of the internet has opened doorways never imagined by even the most seditious radical author. Should anyone – including children – be allowed to access pornography at the public library when internet filtering software is available and cheap; even if not perfect? Should child predators have free use of the library’s computers to target their next victim? Should an anarchist be able to study bomb making at the corner library? Although most citizens would say, “No.”, the ALA says, “Yes!”

  6. Tessa R.

    I’m writing a paper on banned books for my rhetoric course, and I found this blog through google. It’s quite intriguing and I love how you tie in sustainability and banning books. I think the idea of the Lorax is amazing, and it’s one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories. I was wondering if I could quote this blog and you, in my paper if it wouldn’t be a problem.


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