Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 October 2022
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.Dr Seuss, The Lorax
As outlined in the introductory chapter, care is a word that has evolved substantially over time, gathering different meanings and associations. These subtly vary depending on whether care is used as noun, a verb or an adjective. Adding complexity, care can denote a disposition, as in ‘caring about’ something, someone or an issue. But care also denotes a wider set of activities, as in ‘caring for’ a person, collective or thing in a practical sense (Noddings, 1984; Fine, 2006). Both meanings of care can of course be, and often are, interlinked within single uses of the word.
In the early days of writing this chapter, I was reading to my young son The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (1971). It is a story of a tree species being exploited almost to extinction, with those involved in deriving economic benefit from it failing to comprehend its crucial importance for the health of a biodiverse ecosystem. Finally, at the end, once that ecosystem has been all but destroyed and the economy is on its knees too, a little boy who learns the story from former industrialist the Once-Ler and is given the last remaining seeds of the tree is motivated to plant them and take care of the emerging seedlings. The recovery of the landscape will depend, the Once-Ler tells him, melancholy with hindsight, on people like him caring ‘a whole awful lot,’ with the word care denoting both a disposition of deep concern about the damaged state of the world and the vast labour of care that would be required to make it a better place again. In an age when children across the world, inspired by Greta Thunberg, are taking on these sorts of labours of care for the environment for the sake of their own and their children’s futures, the story is no longer prophetic as it would have been in the early 1970s but rather reads as a commentary on the state of contemporary action against climate change.