I love this book – I think it should be on the reading list of any environmental course. It tells the tale of the Once-ler who “biggered” his business far beyond what the local environmental and resources could sustain:
“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 waggons. I biggered the loads.”
As the success of the Once-lers product (a Thneed which is “a fine something that all people need”) grows, he starts to require more and more resources with no thought to the sustainability of the local raw material which is the tuffs of the Truffula Trees:
“Now, chopping one tree
At a time
Was too slow.
So I quickly invented my Super-Axe-Hacker
Which whacked off four Truffula Trees at one smacker”
This degradation of the local environment is much to the dismay of the Lorax who appears out of the stump of the first tree the Once-ler cuts down and is responsible for the Truffula Trees and the various animals and birds who live in the forest. Eventually the inevitable happens and with what I think is one of the most heart-breaking sentences in literature, Dr Seuss describes the final moment of the Truffula forest:
“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!”
This leads to the immediate closure of the Once-lers factory and the departure of all his family members who worked in it. With no horizon scanning or consideration of the sustainability of his operation, the Once-ler is left alone under the “smoke-smuggered stars”.
Sustainability is a balance between the environment, society and the economy which is considered essential to the meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (explanation paraphrased from the Introduction to ISO 14001:2015), the Once-ler is a clear example of the consequences of only focussing on the economy to the detriment of the local environment and society. Both ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 require organisations to identify the operational context (internal and external issues which may affect the business, positively or negatively) then to manage the risks and opportunities arising from these issues. ISO 14001:2015 goes further and requires consideration of the impacts the business has on the environment during the lifecycle of its operations, products or services and this can help identify where improvements in sustainability can be made.