Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sharing our space

It hurts my heart every time I pass the dried-up remains of a certain turtle, on the shoulder of a certain stretch of I-95 that I traverse daily on my way home.

It takes a long time for a turtle to grow to large size. I wonder how long this one had lived before it met its demise on this unforgiving freeway. I wonder, too, if its ill-fated decision to try to cross the freeway was motivated by the recent obliteration of the adjacent forest to create yet another useless new development to put money in somebody's pocket.

I read a bittersweet column today by a resident of my city, offering ways that we can -- having stolen so much from nature -- give a little back. Poignant was her depiction of the annihilation of a large meadow near her home where killdeer birds once nested. It is now eye-sore sprawl and roadways.

We have claimed so much of the earth as our own -- cleared it, paved it, spread buildings across it. We never consult the previous occupants, whether plant or beast, as to their opinions in the matter. In some cases, we don't even regard the feelings of the human occupants. Ask any Native American, or the Bikini islanders, or the descendants of the Appalachian mountain folk driven out by 20th-century government decree, or the victims of that pernicious evil called "eminent domain."

Can we ever say enough is enough? Can we please just assess what we already claim as ours and clean it up and deal with it more efficiently? Can we accept as a fait accompli what we have done in the past and have the decency to wreak no more misery upon our beleagured world?

Can we end our addiction to destruction,and once and for all declare that what little we have left in a natural state should stay that way? There are thousands, perhaps millions of acres of so-called brownfields, homes standing empty, poorly planned industrial complexes. Those are ours. Let's clean them up and make no more.

If I ruled the world, the bulldozers would grow cobwebs and rust away, damn them all! No bloated developer would ever again waddle onto the edge of a woodland with his golden shovel and his Jabba-the-Hutt grin, announcing yet another gas station to go up where birds once sang, unless and until we had fixed the messes we have already made.

And even then, the lousy ogre would have to move every single plant on the site to another location at his own expense, even if he had to get down on his hands and knees with a trowel to do it. And if a single birdnest or rabbit burrow were found it's sorry Charlie, take your blueprints and stick em where the sun don't shine.

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