Grand Opening
Truffula Fruits and taking the road to North Nitch

By GERRY GLADWIN*
This essay was originally written for Shunpiking magazine in September, 2002

"The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run."
-- Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)


WOLFVILLE, NS -- Recently I received two pieces of mail:

1. An invitation to attend the official opening of the K.C. Irving Environmental Centre and the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens at Acadia University.

2. The September edition of National Geographic Magazine.

The Irving Centre, a multi-million-dollar science complex at Acadia University, was financed by the Irvings, ostensibly to honour the family patriarch, K.C.Irving, and to augment the K.C.Irving Memorial Forest, a vast, chemically-controlled monoculture alongside the Trans Canada Highway in New Brunswick. The Centre was opened with great fanfare on 14 September 2002.

The National Geographic features an article by Michael Klesius entitled, "The State of the Planet", which discusses the following:

1. The danger to world-wide biodiversity caused by activities such as industrial clearcutting and the creation of huge forest monocultures. J.D. Irving, "the tree growing company" operates unabashedly in this manner.

2. The risk to marine ecosystems. Irving Oil is the infamous company which left the loaded oil barge, Irving Whale at the bottom of the Gulf of St. Lawerance for a couple of decades until it was finally salvaged by the Canadian taxpayer. The barge and the cargo were both returned to IrvingCorp and the Irving Whale, renamed with a number, has been engaged in hauling wood fibre from Nova Scotian clearcuts to the Irving pulp mill in St. John, New Brunswick, already one of the most polluted cities in the country, and a bastion of the Irving Empire.

3. Changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere as a result of the burning of fossil fuels and industrial pollution. Irving Oil's vested interest in promoting fossil fuels is obvious. It is, after all, oil that is the basis of the family dynasty. There is no way the Corp is going to encourage the ratification of the Kyoto Accords. Less oil burned means less profit to send to Bermuda where it cannot be taxed.

4. Creation of ecological dead zones as a result of intensive agri-businesses. Irving's Cavendish Farms operates vast potato acreages in the Maritimes based on this model: chemical food production and the drilling of deep wells to access increasingly scarce water resources -- irregardless of the long-term ecological effects.

5. Global warming exacerbated by clearcutting, industrial air pollution and the burning of fossil fuels.

My invitation to the grand opening featured a photograph of a beautiful black-eyed susan. I wonder if anyone else made the connection between the photo and the 'black eye' that Acadia University deserves as a result of eagerly taking what it hailed in a press release as "an unprecedented gift"? ("The Living Gift", 14 September 2002). "Living gift"? Such is the affectionate hyperbole of the office of public affairs at a university that is supposed to epitomize the highest standards of science and truth.

I am reminded of The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss. IrvingCorp is certainly the incarnation of the Once-ler, evidenced by rapacious clearcutting of the forests and the fouling of the air, the earth, and the water that life depends upon -- all in the name of the corporate bottom line. Surely, Irving is a shoe-in for a Greenwash Award.












A generation ago it seemed that there was some hope for the future as there were such inspired thinkers as:

Rachel Carson -- Silent Spring
Joni Mitchell -- Blue
Dr. Seuss -- The Lorax. The Lorax - by Dr. Seuss
(Random House, New York, 1971)

Who could fail to get the message that you have to take care of your own garden? Isn't that what Woodstock was all about?

Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and his other 40 books were read by adults to children, and soon by the children themselves, as a way to introduce phonics as well as to demonstrate just how much fun language could be. The deeper meaning in the words of Seuss was often lost on grown-ups who were, after all, grown up -- hardly paying attention -- reading these books to their children over and over and over until the children could do it themselves and would not have to be entertained any more.
But then, as now, the children were smarter, they understood. They have paddled, cycled, walked, jogged and run ever since, and many of them became the core of the ecological movement today while their parents became shareholders of the Once-ler Inc's of the world.

Seuss, the seer, wrote The Lorax in 1971. Today, thirty years later, it is as contemporary as anything ever written on the subject of ecology, corporate concentration, and greed.

The story line, like all of the Dr. Seuss creations is dead simple.

"At the far end of town
where the Grickle-grass grows
and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows
and no birds ever sing excepting old crows...
is the street of the Lifted Lorax."

The reader wonders, who was The Lorax? How did he get lifted? Was he resurrected? Seuss introduces a small, curious, boy who, in order to find out, is willing to pay the long-past-his-prime, Once-ler, holed up in his shabby, "... Lerkim on top of his store. "

"...fifteen cents and a nail and the shell of a great-great-great grandfather snail. "

To recount his memories of The Lorax, a lone voice in the wilderness, who realized that the actions of the upstart, Once-ler, entrepreneur-capitalist-extraordinaire, would lead to the utter destruction of all that was beautiful, good and balanced. For a price, the Old Once-ler reminisces:

"Way back in the days when the grass was still green
and the pond was still wet
and the clouds were still clean
and the songs of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space...
one morning I came to this glorious place.
And I saw the trees!
The Truffula Trees!
The bright-coloured tufts of the Truffula Trees!"

The Once-ler got busy chopping down a tree and knitting a Thneed, attracting the attention of the Lorax.

"He was shortish. And oldish.
And brownish. And mossy.
And he spoke with a voice
that was sharpish and bossy."

"Mister!" he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
"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"-
he was very upset as he shouted and puffed-
"What's that THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?"

The Thneed -- a useless item that the Lorax deemed un-sale-able. But,

"...the very next minute (The Once-ler) proved he was wrong.
For just at that minute, a chap came along,
and he thought that the Thneed I had knitted was great.
He happily bought it for three-ninety-eight."

And the Once-ler was in business so he telephoned his relatives and said,

"Listen here! Here's a wonderful chance
for the whole Once-ler family to get mighty rich!
Get over here fast! Take the road to North Nitch..."

"And in no time at all,
in the factory I built,
the whole Once-ler family
was working full tilt.
We were all knitting Thneeds
just as busy as bees
to the sound of the chopping
of truffula trees."

Of course, in true, economic reality, production had to increase so the Once-ler,

"...invented my Super-Axe-Hacker
which whacked off four Truffula Trees at one smacker."

The Lorax pointed out to the Once-ler that,

"...the Brown Bar-ba-loots
who played in the shade in their Bar-ba-loot suits
and happily lived, eating Truffula Fruits.
`NOW... thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,
there's not enough Truffula Fruit to go round.
And my poor Bar-ba-loots are all getting the crummies
because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies!"

To which The Once-ler replied,

"I meant no harm. I most truly did not
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads
of the Thneeds I shipped out. I was shipping them forth
to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North!
I went right on biggering...selling more Thneeds.
And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.

But The Lorax came back with more gripes:

"I am the Lorax," he coughed and he whiffed.
He sneezed and he snuffled. He snarggled. He sniffed.
"Once-ler!" he cried with a cruffulous croak.
"Once-ler! You're making such smogulous smoke!
My poor Swomee-Swans...why they can't sing a note!
No one can sing who has smog in his throat.

And about those bi-products, the Gluppity-Glupp and the Schloppity-Schlopp:

"You're glumping the pond where the Humming-Fish hummed!
No more can they hum for their gills are all gummed."

..."And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!
From outside in the fields came a sickening smack
of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall.
The very last Truffula Tree of them all!"

And the economic empire of the Once-ler came tumbling down around his ears. Years later, deserted and defeated, but as scheming as ever to get paid a few pennies, the Once-ler lives out his future hidden away in his Lerkim, admitting, grudgingly, that:

"...the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear.
Unless someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not.

In an apparently selfless act of generosity at the end of the tale, the Once-ler says to the small boy,

"SO...
Catch!" calls the once-ler
He lets something fall.
"It's a Truffula Seed.
It's the last one of all!"

Given his record of callous disregard for his surroundings, you have to wonder if the Once-ler is simply down-loading his responsibility to the local community when he says,

"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."

But will The Truffula grow in soiled water and smoggy air? What has the Once-ler been doing all that time holed up in his Lerkim?

Is this a Once-ler scheme to get an experimental planting done by student labour, for nothing? Will Once-ler Inc. be known as "The Truffula Planting Company"? Could the proffered Truffula Seed possibly be a Genetically Modified Organism for creating Super-Thneeds, or could it be a Truffula tree on steroids that will eliminate all other vegitation? Has he found out that you can smoke Truffula in a pipe? Is there room in a Truffula Plantation for Brown-bar-ba-loots, Humming-Fish and Swomee-Swans? And what about the Gluppity-Glupp and the Schloppity-Schlopp?

Thirty years ago was anybody really listening to Rachel Carson, Joni Mitchell, or to Dr. Seuss?

So far, admission to the K.C.Irving Environmental Science Centre and the Harriet Irving Botannical Gardens is free to the public. In time it will surely fulfill Joni Mitchell's prediction in her song, "Big Yellow Taxi":

Cut down all the trees
Put em' in a tree museum
And charge all the people
A dollar-and-a-half just to see em'.

* Gerry Gladwin is a longtime contributing writer for shunpiking magazine, a volkskayak teacher and an activist with the Small Wooden Boat Association of Nova Scotia. He may be reached at whynot@volkskayak.com



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