Today I went downtown with my mom. She drove-I haven't
been driven anywhere in a long time-which meant that I had nothing
to do. I tried reading at first but my mom's driving (typical of someone
who's driven in Miami as long as she has) was too-distracting. Looking out
the front was terrifying, so I looked out the side of my window at the cars
that we passed. Unabashed I stared at the other drivers; I counted males vs.
females, tried to create a correlation between the driver's gender and the
type/color of cars, but I gave that up after a while and just looked. I
noticed that but for the one driver, most cars were empty. And many of them
had huge cars. My mom for example drives a white Honda Odyssey (I like to
call it Moby) normally alone. As I was looking out the window I thought to
myself, "So many people...so many cars...so much street to make for the cars..."
my thoughts ran on and on and on.
Later on, looking out the window of the 21st floor of
a building, I stared. If I looked directly down I saw individual people
walking across the street. I saw cars cross red-lights and change lanes
inappropriately (which is basically in Miami the only way to do
things appropriately). The further out I looked...Buildings. Construction.
Cars. Concrete and steel everywhere. It all eventually faded away into the
smog of the city. The more I stared the more convinced I was-"It's Ugly" I
told my mother. "What is?" she asked. I waved my hand at the view, "All of
it. The expressways, streets, traffic lights, cars, trucks, buildings,
construction, cement, steel, toll booths, AC vents, telephone poles, street
lights, vendors...people. The people. It's all ugly."
Last Friday I went slough slogging. In the end I was
exhausted, my forearms had scattered saw grass scratches, I had a mosquito
bite just under my eye-the most sensitive area of skin on my body-my feet
and legs hurt, I was soaked, cold, and despite my big lunch-starving. But
out there, in thigh high water, sweat dripping down my face and back, I saw
something completely different from what I saw, comfortably, from the
climate controlled conditions of the front passenger seat of my mom's car
and the 21st floor of a modern building. From the seat of comfort I saw the
hideous creations of humanity. In the Everglades I saw beauty-untouched,
unspoiled, tranquil-yet fragile, threatened, and struggling to exist. But
For a very long time-before the Americas were even
discovered by the white man we've had this idea, "And God blessed them,
and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,
and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the
fowl of the air, and over every little thing that moveth upon the earth"
(Genesis, 1, 28). I'm not suicidal enough to question Christianity. But
Christianity and other religions aside, this is a very common human idea
that has reared its ugly head repeatedly all over the globe in almost
every society. The idea that we are supreme. That we have every right to
"be fruitful, and multiply", that we should "subdue" the earth and "have
dominion" over everything. Because we are perfect, we are wonderful, we
can do no wrong, because we are everything.
We want everything to be easy. We want the
temperature just right. We don't want to walk. We want to go
faster. We want more food, more water, more fat, more money, more flavor,
more cars, more fun, more houses, more room, more time, more
Everything. Everything has to be ours, it has to ours now,
and it has to be done the way we want it. Most of us would smack our child
silly if s/he acted this way. Sadly, the human race is a spoiled
Looking out those windows I felt a strong sense of
helplessness. All this was once Everglades. All this was once beautiful.
And now.... The humans saw it and decided that they didn't want all that
water, and they used their grubby hands to dig canals and build levees and
dikes drying out the world and leaving the fish and birds thirsty and
homeless. The humans saw the pine rock lands and decided that they wanted
it for paper and buildings so once again they lifted their grubby hands and
with razor sharp axes and saws separated the slash pine from the earth it
loved. The humans saw the rich soil of the Pond apple forest and decide
that they wanted it for themselves, so once again they lifted their grubby
hands and evicted the trees and shrubbery from its own home.
When we want wood or space, even endangered trees and
the animals that depend on them have no protection from us. When we want
water we take it. Feathers and fur, vital to the animal that grew it, can
be snatched away on the whim of a temporary fashion. A pretty plant from
another land can be brought in to decorate our lawns-and within a few
years-can take over and crowd everything else out. When it rains too much,
water can be sent downstream at an incredible pace, drowning an entire
generation of snails, starving the animals that eat them-for what? Sugar
that we sell abroad. We don't even grow it for ourselves.
Greedy, grubby, lazy, stupid, impulsive, selfish, and
careless. It makes me ashamed. Right now I sit in my own room. In front of
a computer. The AC is on. I look out my window I see my mother's car. I see
my car. I see the houses of my neighbors, and their cars. I see light posts.
I see mailboxes. I see fences. I see streets. I see more cars
going by at a fast clip. I see the windows of my neighbors. If I look
carefully I see them. I wonder if they are looking out the window. I wonder
if they are thinking the same thing I'm thinking-or have ever thought what
I'm thinking. "What have we done?"