At the time of the March for Science in 2017 a very special t-shirt came out. It had a row of colorful truffula trees and the big word UNLESS. People familiar with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax know what that means. In Seuss’ words, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not!” The word was a call to care, and to act on the caring.
The Ohio Sea Grant Education Program (OSGEP) has always cared – about the science curriculum’s relevance, about teachers’ preparation, about students’ engagement, about making a difference where we are. In the OSGEP office in 1986 (Ohio’s Year of the Lake) were two graduate students who acted to make a difference.
We invited Dr. Seuss to speak at the Lake Erie Symposium as part of the National Marine Educators Association meeting coming to Cleveland. Claudia Melear and Marjorie Pless had watched in workshops as we talked about the positive changes in Lake Erie, but how one person like Johnny Carson could influence millions of people’s opinion of the lake with a casual quip, “isn’t that where fish go to die?”
They saw that children reading The Lorax were also encountering a view that no longer fit the better environment. Because of pollution the humming fish were leaving the pond “in search of some water that isn’t so smeary.” Dr. Seuss rhymed that with, “I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie.”
The students asked if Dr. Seuss would consider changing that line since it was not accurate. To everyone’s delight he answered and agreed to remove the line in future editions of The Lorax. He also thanked the writers “for the great Loraxian work you have been doing.”
UNLESS these young women cared, the change would never have happened. We hope that all children who read The Lorax, like the boy in the story “care a whole awful lot,” so things will keep getting better in the environment.