Monday, September 17, 2012

What Is Dr. Seuss Teaching Our Kids About Elephants? Revisiting the classic children’s book: Horton Hears a Who!

If you remember anything from this story, it’s the line:
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Even if that does jog your memory, follow the two links below to watch the animated special:

Not only does Horton hear a Who, it’s probable that Horton’s impact on the biodiversity in his environment is to credit for sustaining the entirety of Whoville. But who here will hear Horton when it’s his life that’s in danger?

Dr. Seuss deliberately wrote the book as an allegory for post-WWII US-Japanese relations. Whether he intended to or not, HHAW also creates ample space for an allegorical interpretation of wildlife conservation. The animation’s final scene so clearly portends a time when Dr. H. Hoovey and the Whos will have to save another just as Horton saved them.

From the deft precision with which Horton’s trunk grasps a speck of dust, to his incredibly perceptive ears, to the overarching themes and lessons scattered throughout, HHAW can teach us a great deal with remarkable applicability.

In Horton we have an elephant that is hell-bent on saving an endangered population of people. Meanwhile, the rest of the inhabitants in the Jungle of Nool call Horton crazy for speaking out on the behalf of those who cannot. The fear-mongering Wickersham Brothers overdramatize Horton’s behavior, rendering it as a political scheme. They accuse him of attempting to brainwash the community and literally point the finger at Horton for “trying to kill free enterprise.”

Poaching is still a huge problem for the elephant, the African species in particular. As long as there is a demand for ivory or other elephant products, the wild population of elephants will continue to shrink.
If we want to eliminate the demand for elephant products, we need to convince the consumer that elephants are not a commodity. There is not simply a supply of elephants out there in the wild, but a population of highly social and intelligent animals, the removal of which would have a tremendous effect on the plant and animal life within the environment.

At Think Elephants International, we strive to educate the residents of our “Jungle of Nool” about elephant conservation. Without an understanding of the issues surrounding the elephants, you can’t legitimately care to protect them. If we continue along in the direction we are headed and don’t change our view of the species, then we may as well boil the population in Beezelnut Oil.
Jo-Jo, a bull elephant at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, can be incredibly loud when he’s not preoccupied eating bananas (Photo Credit: Supat Sutti).

A piece of ivory is not an elephant. Traditional Chinese medicine is not an elephant. A cut of elephant meat is not an elephant. An elephant’s an elephant.

An elephant’s an elephant. No matter how massive. No matter the demand for it in various markets. No matter how valuable it might be to an individual in death, it’s far more valuable to the world in life.
The elephant’s time is running out, it’s their time to be heard.
Dr. J. Plotnik and the TEI team hear an elephant. Do you?

1 comment:

  1. I hear you! Thanks Dan. I'll post a link to this on my blog.
    Peggy Thomas