Who Speaks for the trees?
The small orange forest-creature The Lorax does in the recent Hollywood movie inspired by the Dr. Seuss picture book.
So do the protagonist Ted’s grandmother (voiced by Betty White) and his love interest Audrey (voiced by Taylor Swift). Grandma remembers the old days when real truffula trees grew in the neighbourhood of Thneedville, not the fake lollypop plastic, and remembers too that people breathed real air, not the kind that comes in plastic jugs. Audrey doesn’t remember the tree-days but she longs for them and spurs Ted on to his quest to fetch a seed from the Once-ler. The Once-ler was responsible for the original deforestation and, now holed-up hermit-like in an empty house, needs to redeem himself.
The Na’vi in James Cameron’s Avatar also speak for the trees. When human capitalists and colonizers invade the tree-paradise of Pandora for profit and development, and they witness the uprooting of their Hometrees, they retreat to the Tree of Souls (Ayvitrayä Ramunong in Na’vi). This Tree of Life, a vast biological network, enables the Na’vi to connect with their ancestors and the god-force of Eywa and ultimately repel the invaders.
Through technical innovation, Cameron’s movie creates a visually enchanting world of bioluminescence where organisms produce and emit light. In this world, woodsprites, seeds from the sacred tree, float like airborne jelly-fish and Pandora’s flora and fauna resemble the earth forms of ferns, palm trees, mosses, grasses, bamboo and succulents.
Who speaks for the trees? Unfortunately we can’t rely on the fictional characters of the Lorax and the Na’vi, although we can take the Lorax’s words to heart:
UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
We can say no to bottled water and bottled air. We can stop cutting down trees. We can stop making business and profit the centre of our ethical thinking.
We can care a whole awful lot.
– J.S. Porter