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Writing Prompt - The Lorax
and the Tragedy of the Commons

The Lorax (1972 TV movie version) is really all about the tragedy of the commons. The entrepreneurial Once-ler arrives in a diverse natural area that must be a commons -- there is no ownership by anyone nor is there any regulation. The Once-ler does what often happens to commons, he overexploits it for short-term gain. While this is highly successful for him initially, in the long run, the land becomes polluted, deforested, and completely worthless.

This is an excellent movie to show students during the first unit. Not only does it illustrate Garrett Hardin's point in his Tragedy of the Commons essay, but it also illustrates all of the major environmental issues that have arisen from human development -- pollution, resource consumption, and loss of biodiversity. Students can draw parallels from what happened in the movie to real-life examples, such as the international waters area of the oceans or the atmosphere.

Essential concepts:Environmental ethics, anthropocentrism, resource depletion, pollution, biodiversity, Tragedy of the Commons.

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