Saturday, April 19, 2008

Part III: Grains of sand

It’s crazy, isn’t it, that things have gotten to such a state of crisis that we feel helpless? The idea of taking personal responsibility for it is daunting. Although I would like to, I cannot personally save the polar bears or the ice cap or the rain forests or the ocean. I cannot even save the little lake that borders my city. And so everything I do seems inadequate and a little pathetic, and I want to put my head under the pillow. No wonder a lot of people decide that there's no point in doing anything at all.

But I think of it like this: have you heard about the shell mounds that were built, for reasons unknown, by the now-extinct Calusa tribe in Florida? (stay with me, I do have a point here somewhere.) Our foreign ancestors wiped out every last Calusa back in the 1700s with imported violence and disease, and as far as scholars can tell, there are no descendants. So the Calusa are long gone, but even today, some of their shell mounds remain. More than merely remain, some of them are still 30 feet high, and we have no idea how tall they were before they were worn down by wind, rain, tourists and vandals. I have read that whole good-sized islands were created by human design, by some of those piles of shells. Now, I visit Calusa territory when I can and pick up shells, lots of them, every time I go to Sanibel Island. In fact, I have bowls and vases and baskets of shells. But, despite all my best efforts, I do not have anywhere near enough shells to build a mound, much less an island.

And this, finally and obviously, is the point. Yes, I know it sounds smarmy, but that doesn't make it any less true. Just as a single Calusa couldn't build a seashell island alone, I can’t fix the problems of the world alone. Until I have the support of our social structures, there will be some things - like using mass transit - that are out of reach for me. But that doesn’t excuse me from doing everything I can, because even my small contributions might matter in the long run. So I keep putting my environmental "seashells" on the pile, and hope that you are doing the same.


Shama-Lama Mama said...

That's a helpful post. I often feel the same way. After watching An Inconvenient Truth I was left with this despair that the ONLY people who could fix this is the politicions. And if Al Gore can't convince them, how they hell could I??

I have never been one to write to my politicians asking for things, but I think I might make that my number one change of life habit.

gpc said...

Good for you! As you know very well from having toddlers, if we each make a noise, eventually we will create such a big sound that they will have to respond! :)