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Dr. Seuss, Petrochemicals, and the War on Bugs

While movie-goers recently lined up to see the Disney-fication of The Lorax (replete with marketing tie-ins to dish soap and automobiles … hmm), we here at Chelsea Green were reminded of an unflattering side to that beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss — one you don’t read about very often.

Before I give you the dirt on Dr. Seuss’ dark side, I’ll be the first to say that Dr. Seuss has brought us some of the great allegorical books of the modern age — The Lorax, The Sneetches, The Butter Battle Book, Dr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? (OK, maybe not so much the last one) — and each of his tomes is dog-eared and readily recited in my household. However, before Dr. Seuss emerged as one of the great children’s book authors he toiled away as a cartoonist under his given name — Ted Geisel. Geisel inked cartoons for some of the nation’s major chemical companies who were looking for ways to dump their wartime nasty concoctions on an unsuspecting US public. Voila! Pesticides and other agro-chemicals were born. Author and farmer Will Allen (of Cedar Circle Farm here in Vermont) wrote about the rise of chemical farming in his 2007 book, The War on Bugs. As a result, we here at Chelsea Green are offering —for a limited time — a salient chapter from Will’s book as a free download. In this chapter, Allen delves into Geisel’s early cartooning work replete with pro-pesticide, pro-patriotic toons for the agrichemical industry. In particular, Geisel helped to make Flit — and the Flit gun — a household word in this “war on bugs.” As Allen notes in his book, many believe the positive, pro-environmental themes of The Lorax stemmed from Geisel’s own attempt to scrub clean his early cartooning legacy that helped to introduce chemicals into the food supply and everyday life. Allen notes, “Perhaps Dr. Seuss realized his earlier mistakes and indiscretions with Standard Oil’s Flit and tried to make amends with The Lorax. Geisel must have known that Flit’s cartoons and his World War II cartoons for DDT had an enormous impact on the public’s use of pesticides and acceptance of DDT.” He must have known, right? Unless. PS: Will Allen is also pretty active right now in Vermont’s effort to pass legislation requiring food that contains GMOs to be labeled as such. Check out his AlterNet article detailing Monsanto’s threat to sue if the law is passed, and find out how you can help by chiming in on our Facebook page. WaronBugs: Pesticides, Household Poisons, and Dr. Seuss


10 Books to Curl Up With This Winter

William Wordsworth was right when he said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Nevertheless, the cold, dark days of winter can still get the best of even Nature’s most tenderhearted admirer. What’s one to do? We here at Chelsea Green have concocted the perfect cabin fever remedy with our suggested winter reading […] Read More..

Top 8 Chelsea Green Books the Self-Styled Oregon Militia Should Read

The ongoing armed militia occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon is showing no signs of ending — so, rather than send them snacks, or sex toys, we had an idea: Send them a book! Better yet, send them several Chelsea Green books. Don’t worry, we’ve picked five key titles that we think […] Read More..

Tracing the History of Cheddar with Cheesemonger Gordon Edgar

Cheddar is the world’s most ubiquitous and beloved cheese. You can find it nearly everywhere from macaroni and mousetraps to McDonald’s and mansions. Any cheese with so many fans has a story to tell, and Gordon Edgar is just the cheesemonger to tell it.In his book, Cheddar, Edgar traces the unexplored history of America’s most iconic cheese. Traveling […] Read More..

Winter Survival Tips From Mat Stein

Now that temperatures have started to dip below freezing and most folks living in colder climates have witnessed their first snow flurries of the season, it’s time to get serious about winter preparedness. Make sure you are ready for stormy weather and extreme cold on your next road trip with these winter driving tips from […] Read More..

A Book for the Fruit Nerd on Your Holiday Gift List

Have a fruit enthusiast on your holiday shopping list this year? Then give the gift that Booklist calls, “a thorough investigation of one wonderful fruit”—The Book of Pears by Joan Morgan.Sure cherries, plums, peaches, and other fruits have their unique qualities, but nothing quite compares to the pear’s luscious texture, richness of taste, and fragrance reminiscent […] Read More..
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