UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

South of Lake Erie, a businessman arrives in a pristine wilderness. He builds his first manufacturing plant and begins reining in enough profit on a product that “everyone needs” to allow him to open a second plant. And then a third. And a fourth. Soon the whole purpose of that once pristine natural environment seems to be the production of this good. The collateral damage of the production process is massive. Local waterways become poisoned with chemicals and waste, forests and fields are cleared for the expansion of industry and toxic emissions are pumped into the air at alarming rates. Eventually the industry runs its course, factories close and people move away in search of greener pastures, as it were. In their wake they leave contaminated brownfields and rundown infrastructure. Sound familiar?

1890s, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA --- Smokestacks from factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, belch black smoke into the atmosphere, 1890s. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
The Lorax Television Special, 1972.











Today is Dr. Seuss’s birthday. (It’s also Read Across America Day.) Dr. Seuss is of course best known for The Cat in the Hat and, in December, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. When I was a kid, my dad would read The Sneetches to my brothers and me almost every night. To this day I think he can recite it from memory. But my favorite was always The Lorax. While it may be a story directed toward children, its lessons about environmental degradation and greed resonate with me even more so today. If you don’t have a copy of The Lorax, head over to your local library! They may also have the animated television special, which is quite good in and of itself. No offense to Danny DeVito, but I’m sticking with that version.

The Lorax sets up a choice for its audience. Will we allow ourselves to become the Once-ler, someone who “meant no harm . . . most truly did not,” but nevertheless was too shortsighted to see that his profits were both unsustainable and destructive to the fantastical flora and fauna around him? Or will we choose instead to be the young boy listening to the story, to whom the repentant Once-ler bequeaths the last Truffula Seed in existence?

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.

The Lorax shows just how fragile the environment is. But it also shows that all it takes is one seed to reclaim the land that the Once-ler’s industry destroyed. How inspiring is that? Small actions by people who care a whole awful lot can green old industrial land, bring back native plants and animals, and bring us back into sync with the natural world. At GTECH we believe that we each have a seed, and that Pittsburghers DO care a whole awful lot. We see this in our Ambassadors, who pour their hearts and souls into their ReClaim projects. We see it in communities coming together to build new Green Playces, investing in their children, their communities and their environment at the same time. We see it through our participation in the 100 Resilient Cities Initiative, in which our whole region is looking toward the future and preparing for what lies ahead in regard to transportation, weather, infrastructure and community health issues. As winter turns to spring this year, stop for a moment and take a look around. People and groups all over Pittsburgh are planting Truffula Seeds.

Allow me to close with another favorite Dr. Seuss quote that highlights all the opportunities we have every day to make our world a better place.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go . . . .

Dr. Seuss, The Lorax, 1971.

We hope you’ll decide to go plant your Truffula Seeds this spring, this summer or whenever you have the opportunity, with us or with friends. After all, as the Once-ler finally realized, Truffula Trees, not Thneeds, are what everyone needs.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss, and thank you for reminding us that it’s never too late to start thinking about our neighborhood, city, region and planet.

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