The Tree That Inspired Dr. Seuss's The Lorax Has Fallen Over

Rhododendrites, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
Rhododendrites, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

The Truffula trees at the center of The Lorax may have been a product of Dr. Seuss's imagination, but it's believed they were inspired by a real-life tree in La Jolla, California. Nearly 50 years after the environmental parable was published, Smithsonian reports that the iconic Monterey cypress has fallen.

The tree had grown for 80 to 100 years in what is today Ellen Browning Scripps Park in Southern California. It was clearly visible from the observation tower where Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, lived in La Jolla following World War II.

While the children's book author and illustrator never stated that the tree inspired his work, locals started referring to it as "The Lorax Tree." The resemblance it bears to Seuss's Truffula is undeniable: Both have skinny trunks with whimsical curves and thick, fluffy canopies of foliage concentrated at the top.

In The Lorax, the Truffula trees are threatened by the Once-ler, who wants to chop them down and turn them into garments called Thneeds. The title character "speaks for the trees" and conveys the book's environmentalist message.

Unlike the Truffula, La Jolla's Monterey cypress appeared to be in no danger until it recently toppled over. Arborists aren't sure what caused the collapse, as they hadn't noticed any prior health issues with the tree except for some termites. The past year's uncharacteristically wet winter and the effect it had on the surrounding soil may have played a role, so experts are looking into that possibility.

Most of the tree has been removed from the area, and the city plans to plant another tree in its place. There are also plans to salvage and repurpose the trunk from the fallen tree, though they haven't been made official.

[h/t Smithsonian]

An Underpass for Turtles in Wisconsin Is Saving Dozens of the Little Guys’ Lives

Anthony Cedrone/iStock via Getty Images
Anthony Cedrone/iStock via Getty Images

Why did the turtle cross the road? Because an underground tunnel made it safe to do so.

In 2016, the Wisconsin Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to construct a tunnel beneath Highway 66, hoping to cut down on high turtle mortality rates, reports Robert Mentzer for Wisconsin Public Radio.

The tunnel, with Jordan Pond on one side and wetlands on the other, was a noble venture, but the turtles had no way of knowing it was a crossing point rather than a dark and potentially dangerous hole. So Pete Zani, herpetologist and associate professor of biology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, installed aluminum flashing outside of each opening, which would reflect the sky and let turtles know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Zani also installed grates above the tunnel to make it less shadowy, and a small cul-de-sac in a nearby piece of the fencing to encourage turtles who had missed the tunnel to turn around.

Zani and his team found that in the first year after construction, 85 percent fewer turtles were killed on the road, and no baby turtles were among the casualties. In the last few years combined, only 40 turtles died, compared to 66 deaths in 2015 alone.

That’s great news for local turtles, of course, and it’s great news for local humans, too. The intersection in question is always busy with truckers, commuters, and families en route to Jordan Pond, and turtle crossing can exacerbate traffic congestion and increase the chance of accidents.

Not all turtles have caught on, however, and it looks like some might never get the memo. Zani found that about 30 percent of snapping turtles and 20 percent of painted turtles make it through the tunnel, and those numbers have been consistent each year since construction. “They either get it or they don’t,” Zani told Wisconsin Public Radio.

Other animals are getting it, too. As part of the experiment, Zani set up a turtle-wrangling program in which students monitored trail cameras for turtle activity outside the underpass. In photos captured by the cameras, they noticed that rodents, mink, skunks, raccoons, and even house cats were traveling by turtle tunnel.

[h/t Wisconsin Public Radio]

Canned Aquafina Water May Be Coming to a Store Near You

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Like boxed cereal and egg cartons, bottled water is one of the most pervasive and familiar examples of consumer packaging around. But PepsiCo, which produces the LIFEWTR and Aquafina water brands, is looking to change that. The company recently announced a new strategy that would reduce its use of plastics and ultimately wean consumers off bottles entirely, turning them on to sipping water from aluminum cans instead.

According to The Takeout, Pepsi says it plans to change how its water is packaged in significant ways begining in 2020. The LIFEWTR brand will use plastic bottles, but the company plans to source those containers from 100 percent rPET, or recycled polyethylene terephthalate. Its bubly sparkling water line, meanwhile, will be sold in cans, rather than in both bottles and cans, as it currently is. So will Aquafina, one of the leading bottled water brands, though it will initially be offered in cans only at food service establishments while the company tests retail preferences. If all goes well, retail consumers will eventually be able to buy Aquafina in cans, too.

Such alterations would make for sweeping changes to the bottled water business, which has exploded in recent years. In 2016, the average American drank 39.3 gallons of packaged water per capita, edging out soda’s 38.5 gallons.

The move to cans stems in large part from consumer habits. Over half of all beer and soda cans are recycled compared to just 31.2 percent of plastic bottles.

PepsiCo expects the changes will result in saving more than 8800 tons of virgin plastic and 12,125 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The company is looking to make all of its packaging recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable by 2025.

[h/t The Takeout]

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