In 1971, one year after the US Environmental Protection Agency was established, Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel (nom de plume Dr. Seuss) published The Lorax, about a curmudgeonly creature who speaks for the trees. The book ends with a dire warning: Unconstrained business will eventually make our environment unlivable, unless we become better stewards of the planet.
Weeks after his election, then President-elect Donald Trump announced that his pick to head the EPA was Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who spent years fighting agency regulations. What would Dr. Seuss’s story look like in the Trump era? Quartz presents The Lorax II: A 2017 tale:
Once in the land of the Truffula trees
lived a Lorax who fought against dumping and greed.
When things there went south, he flew up and away
to the US, where he worked for the EPA.
He railed against pipelines! And carbon! And fumes!
And the Companies all said, “What should we do?
This Lorax is no good for us businessmen.
Somebody should make this good place great again!”
Then came an election. The polls were so wrong!
Trump won! And it sure did not take very long
for the things that the Lorax and friends had all done
to be rolled back and overturned all one by one
Trump said, “These silly old EPA rules are the pits!
I’ll get rid of them all, ‘cept for little tidbits!
But I’m busy, so I will have someone else do it.
The best guy. Your new EPA chief: Scott Pruitt!”
The companies cried, “This could not be better.
We know him. He likes us and signs all our letters!”
But the Lorax was angry. He’d seen this before
when the Once-ler had opened his very first store.
“This never goes well!” he squawked at the hearings
“You roll back protections in favor of earnings.
But one day, I promise, you’ll wake up to find
the destruction you’ve wrought has hurt your bottom line.”
Pruitt just laughed. He said, “Lorax, nice try
but I take my orders from a bigger orange guy!
The Lorax, he frowned and slinked off like a cat
thinking, “my, that’s just bluster, he can’t do all that!”
But do all that he did, and then did it some more.
After all, he was Pruitt! He’d tried this before!
But suing the agency wasn’t enough
From inside he could be so much more tough!
First he came for the rules that keep the air cleanish
and stop water from getting all mucky and greenish.
Then he looked at the programs that keep sciences going
and promptly decided to stop the cash flowing
and dried up the cleanup of Superfund sites
and lead in old houses, and lead in the pipes.
He said, “what’s the point? Our country can’t thrive
paying money for things that make more money die.
We’ll keep the chlorpyrifos. It’s cheap and it’s great!
And if it hurts kids’ brains? Well, those are the breaks.
The farmers, they need it. It takes care of bugs.”
So the studies were tossed out with barely a shrug.
Next the waters, he said, must not be protected—
it’s bad for the farmers and miners subjected.
“They’re everywhere, everywhere, those wee little streams
(and wetlands and marshlands, those small in-betweens).
Too much law to follow, too much money to pay
if those were protected the federal way.
So waters that are bigger, okay, we’ll watch those
but small little waters? No, not by my nose.
Never mind the small fact that they all flow together.
What’s important,” he said, “is which of them are wetter!”
And the Companies smiled as they said with relief,
“Thank goodness we’re friends with the EPA Chief!”
To the rules about air, Mr. Pruitt said, “Dammit,
Emissions that choke, and warm up the planet
Are not so bad really. Let’s take them all out
So energy companies have no need to pout.
It’ll kill lots more people, but save lots more bucks.
Then we’ll drill lots more wells! And drive great big trucks!”
But people can’t live when the air is all smoggy
and water is filled up with poisonous globbies.
“Where is the Lorax?” a few people cried.
Maybe he’s hiding. Maybe he died?
Maybe he’s off with the Bar-ba-loot bears.
Perhaps he is waiting and watching somewhere
Still hoping that hey, it can’t get worse than this?
And maybe it’s nothing that Democrats can’t fix?
Or maybe he’ll show up and things will be great
Before we are screwed
Before it’s too late.