It's not a light bulb that
suddenly turns on. It's not a bolt of lightning that strikes you without
pain. It's more like a boot; a steel toe boot that literally drops out of
the sky and kicks you directly in the face, knocking out the majority of
your teeth and smashing your nose into a bloody mess. That's more what it's
like when you come to a realization. All that talk of a magical epiphany
is left in the dust while the boot moves on to its next victim. It doesn't
let you see through some new set of eyes; it dulls your other senses so
that all you can do is see. You see what you've been missing for a long
time. Being a person of many passionate convictions, its fair to say that
I've had to have facial reconstructive surgery quite a few times.
It most notably happened
my sophomore year of college, taking a class called "Cubans in the USA."
Of course my family warned me that the professor was a raging communist,
known for such ghastly evils as not believing in the embargo, questioning
the motives of the Cuban American National Foundation, and, dare I say it,
not thinking that Fidel Castro was the anti-Christ in the flesh! (Oh no!
Stone Him!) So sure enough, the first day I went in, wearing a Cuban flag
pendant, guns ablaze, ready to strike down this hedonistic infidel with my
passionate patriotism. But something happened. He told us to give him a
chance to ward off these notions our grandmothers instilled in us. (Oh no,
he's already using some evil mind control technique! ) But I did give him a
chance. And at the end of the semester, I was eager to learn more of how
to correct my mis-education, without loosing my sense of pride in my
background, while slowing recovering from the boot's most vicious attack.
But even more recently,
and more notably, it happened during our visit to the South Florida Water
Management District. I scanned the website the night before class and went
in on Friday morning, armed with my deep, uncontestable knowledge of the
everglades, ready to battle this evil government agency whose sole purpose
had to be to serve as a façade for the fact that the government didn't
care about the everglades.
"Ah-ha! Free pens, colorful
brochures, a cute paper alligator! Let the mind washing begin!"
As I sat through the first
two power point presentations, I took notes on things I could readily
attack. Instead I found myself scribbling down valid points and things I
actually agreed with. Then, when the class started asking more questions,
I felt like the lady who appeared out of no where was merely some PR super
genius who had been sent in to deal with people who pried too deeply. My
extreme passion flared inside of me. What do they mean we can't restore
The Everglades to its original state? Haven't they thought of the
possibility of making people move out? We have a responsibility to the
survival of humanity, and that includes preservation of the environment.
Just as I thought: another government institution set in place to make it
look like they really care.
But then as we took the
tour of the facility, I saw people who looked genuinely interested in the
environment, such as the gentleman who told us about the control room.
Then on the trip over to the STA's, our tour guides seemed to have a true
passion for their jobs, especially the lead biologist who swore by the
mission statement. I was immediately reminded of those characters from the
movie Independence Day who worked in the secret Area 51 laboratories, truly
dedicated to their field of study, not allowed out of their workplace.
(These people that we encountered however, were obviously allowed out,
though. Just to clear that up.)
It was when the female
biologist was explaining the STA's up in the observation towers that the
boot hit me. As the wind was smacking us, my first thought was that nature
was upset that we aren't doing enough to help out. Then the steel toe
smashed my face. Luckily enough, no one noticed. As the pieces of my
teeth were falling apart, the pieces of this fractured day were finally
coming together. In this biologist's voice, I heard the power of someone
who was coupling her knowledge and love for the environment with the
plentiful resources of the government. When she spoke of the SFWMD as
being premier, she did so to emphasize the fact that they were doing more
than anybody else. The goal was 10ppb, and she was proud that they had
gotten levels down to 30 ppb, in some areas. However, she emphasized that
it wasn't enough, and let us know that she would willingly work until all
her strength was gone to ensure that number would be reached. Even if the
agency is set up to look like the government does care about the
environment, here is someone who is, in turn, putting it all to good use.
She spoke of her job with pride, as did our other tour guides, eager to let
us know just how much they cared.
They also had the
understanding that, as much as we've disfigured nature, bringing it back to
how it was, is for now out of the question. Where I began my day was in the
mind frame that we owed it to the world to discomfort ourselves in order to
let nature take its course. These guides of ours, however, understood that
that wasn't a possibility. It would be completely irrational to make
people move out. Those who built the original canals and planned the
drainage were either dead or too old now. Those who live in what was once
The Everglades were not at fault. It is not only the responsibility of the
SFWMD to conserve The Everglades, but also to conserve the way of life of
those who live in its historic lands. Earlier that day I thought about the
hurricanes of '26, '28, '47 and '49 and thought that those early settlers
deserved it for trying to tame a natural process. I left that same
afternoon realizing that I was now one of those people, living in that same
land. Luckily I have never had to suffer the tragedy of a flood decimating
my way of life, so who the hell was I to start complaining now?
That afternoon I left West
Palm realizing that I still had a lot to learn about the balance of this
world I thought I so well understood. With my mouth fractured, however, I
couldn't open my mouth to complain about nature and mankind both taking
their rage out at the same time: traffic and rain on a slippery 826.