For those of you that have been living under a rock instead of living under a tree, The Lorax is a character that was created by Dr. Suess in his popular children’s book of the same name, published in 1971.
This modern fable casts the Lorax as an advocate who “speaks for the trees for trees have no tongues” and tries to teach a young boy about the importance of protecting his local environment. Opposite the Lorax plays the Once-ler, a money-motivated industrialist who satisfies his customers’ “needs” with a commercial product made from the same trees the Lorax aims to protect.
Suess very clearly paints the Lorax as the hero and the Once-ler at the villain, but aside from that, the story does well to describe the tension between how different people assign different values to natural resources. And therein lies some interesting parallels with urban forestry.
The land upon which our cities are built–be it allocated for buildings, transportation corridors, public parks, or other uses that make our cities functional, livable places–is a scarce commodity with high economic value and lots of competition for it.
Urban trees are always at risk of removal due to the give-and-take between the diverging needs, opinions, and desires of those who want to see land used for different purposes.
Yet, at a time when people in cities “need” more and larger homes, more parking spaces, wider transportation corridors, expanded public facilities, more robust utility services, and, more tax revenues, it can be tough to make the case that cities also need more trees (and, more space to plant trees).
As our population grows, so will our cities, and with that, so will our collective need for the benefits and ecosystem services provided by urban forests. However, this need not be an ‘either/or’ type of conversation.
If we are diligent to engage stakeholders of our urban landscapes to understand their needs, we can advocate for urban forests in the process. We can have functional, vibrant, well-designed, economically successful cities with healthy, thriving urban forests, but to get there, we will need a bigger choir of advocates who will sing the praises of trees.
Arbor Day is upon us, and thus a timely cue to speak for the trees. Thank you for supporting community trees where you live.
Develop your inner Lorax by exploring the following resources:
Forbes’ Magazine: 8 Essentials of Creating a Sustainable Advocacy Program (written for business and marketing purposes, but helpful if you consider trees to be your product)
Trees are Good, a website by the International Society of Arboriculture that provides homeowners with information on proper tree care