Holiday Hero: A Real World Lorax Speaks for the Trees

Written by Alana Lea,

Think replanting a rainforest is a good idea? So did these guys.

What they didn’t count on is that no one would buy their trees before they got too big for their grow bags.

My name is Alana Lea and I speak for the rainforest.  I’m kind of like The Lorax (in case you’re not up on your Dr. Seuss, this children’s book chronicles the plight of the environment and the Lorax, who speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler!), except I’m a work of nonfiction.

I was born in the midst of the most diverse and endangered rainforest in Brazil and it is that same rainforest, the Mata Atlantica, that gives me purpose.  It took me a lifetime to discover how being a horticulturalist, a Smithsonian botanical artist, an entrepreneur, a traveler and a public speaker could serve my purpose of rainforest renewal. In 2009, I founded Rainforest ECO, a team of eco-fashion and environmental visionaries on a mission to connect customers to sensuous sustainable fabrics that tell the story of rainforest renewal.

Today I am in Brazil to help 13 fair trade nurseries…a nursery cooperative that in following the Ministry of Agriculture’s regulations for sustainable seed harvests and distribution of native trees, have found themselves priced out of the market by rogue nurseries.

These shady nurseries (pun intended) are taking advantage of the lack of enforcement of environmental and labor laws to drive down costs. And as if that wasn’t enough to un-level the playing field, several are subsidized by US corporations who are seeking smokescreens for their environmental degradation practices in a country ill-equipped to crack down on them.

More than 200,000 trees stand before me with hardly a buyer in sight. That’s enough trees to replant 296 acres this year.  Some are 5 feet tall already and getting stressed out in their little bags (as are the growers who are ready to plant new seeds for next year’s crop).  We can’t afford to give them away, or to pot them up.

Funny thing (that’s not very funny at all, actually) is that so far their biggest buyer appeared from the US – yours truly – bringing funds raised from school children and private donors who want to contribute to sustainable, fair trade reforestation.

We’re in the business of global cooling. Our ultimate product are clouds, produced by rainforest trees. The people who grow these trees deserve to be paid fairly, without being muscled into the use of chemicals or green washing, to make a living wage for their entrepreneurial efforts.

The trees grown by these unsubsidized, organic nurseries could ultimately sink 250,000 tons of carbon. They have complied with all government regulations, even though there is no enforcement of penalties for those who don’t.

Brazilians are proud optimists and aggressive problem-solvers. But if the problem can’t be fixed, we say “fique tranquilo” – just relax and forget about it.

Here on the front lines of the vanished rainforest, I am nowhere near saying forget about it and you, 5,000 miles away, shouldn’t be either.

Related Stories:

Palm Oil–A Rainforest’s Most Deadly Commodity

Brazil Will Tax Oil Profits to Fund Climate Change Adaptation

America Has Higher Percentage of Deforestation than Brazil


Photo credit:
Written by Alana Lea,

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Alana L.
Alana Leaabout a year ago

Just wanted to give a 2014 update on the project. The little nursery pictured in the article went out of business at the end of 2013, unable to even give away the trees they had grown, but could no longer afford to maintain. Someone commented that this project wasn't well thought through. From some viewpoints as North Americans, that's true. But when simple country people learned that their own state government wanted to buy BILLIONS of trees for reforestation of the waterways, they dug deep into their own pockets to create nurseries, grow the trees and supply the need. What they didn't expect was a very well planned strategy by US chemical companies. No one wins this round. Sao Paulo has suffered the worst droughts in history, and there are dire predictions for their running completely out of water in the near future. The Association of Nurserymen who didn't want to use chemicals are being driven out of business. The poor people who wanted the trees weren't able to get them in time with the rainy season. I'll write a new post when I cool down. But you can get some of the background from this post:

Cynthia Blais
cynthia B.2 years ago

Wonderful Thank you so much Trees are this planets lungs
May you be blessed

Bette M.
Bette M.3 years ago

Some day the earth will weep,
she will beg for her life, she will
cry with tears of blood.
You will make a choice,
if you will help her or let her die,
and when she dies, you will die too.

Wherever you are there once was a forest.
Plant & protect Danny's trees for life.
Trees are the lungs of the earth.

Alana L.
Alana Lea3 years ago

I'm this Lorax and would love to give everyone an update on the growers! We've moved 3,194 more trees to the field since this article was written last year, and have a great network of support in place for the future. Hope you'll come see us on Hugs, Alana Lea

Alicia N.
Alicia N.4 years ago

Great idea,more trees for the planet...

Cheri P.
Cheri P.4 years ago

Why not apply for a grant that will pay the growers and actually see that the trees get planted? Or ask for contributions to sponsor a tree to be planted?

It seems that you have good intentions and a feasible idea, but the project was not thought through very well.

Good luck in the future.

Julie F.
Julie F.4 years ago

great story, thank you!

jane richmond
jane richmond4 years ago

thanks for sharing

David N.
David N.4 years ago

Thanks for sharing this article.

Gita Sasi Dharan
Gita Sasi Dharan4 years ago

What a wonderful way to serve the planet! Thanks for sharing.