Duck Soup: Look Both Ways

I have previously confessed that I brake for turtles. When I see one crossing the road, I stop and help it on its way.This week I pulled over and stepped out of my truck intent on rescuing a handsome yellow and black box turtle. I watched, helpless, as another truck sped by and smashed it into the pavement. Blood and organs were splattered amidst a pile of crushed shell. I was nauseated, overcome by a profound sense of injustice at the death of a creature who had crawled through fifty years of summer heat and winter hibernation to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I seethed with anger at the driver who hadn't even tried to miss the plodding reptile. I experienced once again and intensely, the constant sense of loss that sits on my shoulder, whispering Dante's lament. "Abandon hope."The things I love are dying.I don't suppose that desolate feeling will go away. The next thirty years of my life will make the last thirty seem like a party as our planet is crushed beneath advancing human numbers.I once gazed out at night time darkness, now more than a dozen porch lamps and security lights have crept up the valley. Not long ago I listened to morning bird calls in the quiet breeze, now barking dogs and machine sounds filter into the dawn. The farm at the foot of my hill has been subdivided and subdivided again. Roads have been widened, woods have been cut, traffic has increased. Litter, smoke, horns, sirens, jets and helicopters and friendly realtors with beckoning signs move in and in. They tell me my home gains in value when more houses spring up nearby. They don't remotely comprehend that the only value that makes any sense to me is being destroyed forever.We received a phone call this week from a person upset about bears. It seems a mother and three cubs have been getting into her garbage, and she wanted someone to remove the offending beasts. Our best suggestion was to build a sturdier garbage enclosure or haul it away more frequently. That idea was rejected. They don't have time. They can't afford it.Since meat scraps are the strongest garbage lure for bears the simplest solution would be to stop eating dead animals, but having offered that idea to folks in the past, I know it is a non-starter.The problem is not bears, it is people moving into bear territory. This person's land backs up to national forest land. Where else could you possibly take bears to give them a chance to survive? Why move to the edge of wild land and then complain about the wild? Polls suggest most folks want to protect the environment. Do they imagine we can save the whole without saving all of the pieces?A constant sense of loss. Re-introduced wolves are shot. Japan resumes whaling. The governor wants more highways. Hog farms poison rivers. Another oil spill. Another baby every other second. Rwandan revolution kills gorillas. Dogwoods, spruce, hemlocks and beeches are dying. Detroit makes bigger cars that use more fuel because an environmentalist nation demands sports utility vehicles to drive more miles into more wild places to plant more lawns to spray with more diazinon. Put the bears in a zoo. Bottled wildlife watching people drinking bottled water. Let them eat cake.I saw a green snake this summer, a first for me in the Carolinas, about sixty seconds after it was disemboweled by a car tire. Sic transit.I try to harden my shell and get beyond the pavement that surrounds. I try to nurture hope. See this! There is beauty here! There is life! But the looming machine is large and fast, fueled by ideas and purposes that do not include me. My hope seems puny and slow, a forty-six year old boney bubble stranded on life's highway -- unsure whether to tuck or run.Three days later I saw that turtle again. A stain on the pavement and a few bits of shell. No one coming after would recognize that tiny tragedy. No one coming after will know.

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