My 12-year-old daughter Rebecca runs summer track with a local track club. They have meets every Saturday and the summer sun is intense.
A couple of weeks back after a track meet in Dallas, I took Rebecca and some of her 4X400 relay teammates to NRH2O. While they played on the water slides and made the rounds in the “lazy river,” I grabbed a lounger and camped out near the “NRH2 Ocean” wave pool.
The park was cool and refreshing and a great way to beat the heat. But as I sat in the lounger watching the chlorinated waves crest and subside on the concrete beach, I couldn’t help but think of the BP oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. I wondered what real beachgoers were seeing along the coastlines in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. It occurred to me that artificial beaches might be the wave of the future.
As we begin to kill off larger and larger expanses of ocean or at least sully them enough that they’re too oxygen-depleted or nasty to live in, much less swim in, will Mother Nature be able to revive them? Will She be able to save the coral reefs, biodegrade the garbage patches, eliminate the dead zones or dissipate the oil plumes?
I often hear people say that technology will save us. I wonder if they don’t conveniently forget that technology got us into this mess.
Wiser folks than me contend that we should try to do less harm than good during our time on this planet–that we should try to leave this world better than we found it.
It may be a hard pill to swallow, but as a species we’ve been an utter failure at this. In fact, we may be the most destructive lice in Creation.
Let that sink in for a minute. Me and you. The human race. Planetary enemy number one.
It should be keeping us up at night.
The only serious, out-of-state fishing trips I’ve ever been on were to the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Mississippi. That was the first place the oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig made landfall. The first beach I ever got to play at as a kid was Pensacola in Florida. Now, like the rest of the Southeastern U.S. coastline, it’s a greasy bank on the edge of a petroleum soup.
Ultimately, as I attempted to get a tan in a lounger perfectly placed at the center of a pristine concrete beach on a sparkling blue artificial ocean, it was hard to get excited about what’s happening in Pensacola, Destin or Ft. Walton. It was no skin off my sunburned back, right? If they disappeared tomorrow, we’d still have NRH2O, Hurricane Harbor and Great Wolf Lodge, fun in the surf without the growing swarms of jellyfish or the disturbing death throes of oil-covered pelicans and dolphins.
We like to pretend that what we’re doing in our every day lives has no bearing on the disaster in the Gulf. And we desperately try to believe that technology is curbing the catalogue of destruction that we’re responsible for. But the unpleasant truth may be that technology isn’t solving the problems so much as distracting or insulating us from them. If the mountains we like to ski are low on snow, we just have to turn on a snow machine or visit one of the new indoor ski lodges. If it’s too hot outside, we can go inside and turn on the air conditioning. If the beaches are poisoned or the local waterways are too polluted to enjoy, well, I have my concrete beach. And if my surroundings are dreary or my existence seems ineffective, I can turn on the TV and escape into a drama or action flick where the characters are doing something that matters or at least enjoy some level of empowerment.
Our artificial comfort zones and playgrounds are nice, and the vicarious living we do in TV land is usually harmless, but, in this case, there’s too much a stake. The most valuable, sacred fluid in our entire galaxy is not oil. It’s water. Water is the nectar of gods, the puddle from which we sprang. If we can’t take better care of it, we’re doomed. And we’re a disgrace to life.
At the rate we’re going, by the time we hand off the baton to my daughter’s generation, the race will already be lost. It won’t matter how graceful or gazelle-like she or they can run. They’ll never be able to outrun our excesses or the horrors we’ve wrought. Wake up, folks. Please lose some sleep over this.