Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Post-modern living, with a dash of sunshine

In places like Florida, former swamps have lost their prominence, as yards of fill delivered via gasoline-powered dump truck transform centuries of ebb and flow, in the blink of an eye, or the time it takes to develop a subdivision. These former wild areas with their corresponding fowl, fauna and fern, are now juxtaposed with three bedroom/two bath villas and two car garages, replete with lawns that require constant attention and irrigation.

Nature has always had a high capacity to adapt to its environment—trees bending to the light, root systems twisting and curling to find water, however scarce—and the introduction of human interlopers smack dab in the middle of untamed southern backwaters are no exception.

Progress rolls on, unchecked. Whether we welcome it with open arms, or view it with increased concern and even ambivalence, the modern comforts placed on our doorsteps at the beginning of the 21st century have barred the door to ever going back to a time that wilderness took precedence over laptops and a Lexus.

Some seem aware and even acknowledge the tension that accompanies living at a time when the conveniences of life avail themselves at a button, handclap, or the turn of a key. To have been born in the second half of the 20th century permits pangs of liberal guilt, emanating from merely living. Unless one is willing to adopt the lifestyle of a hermit (or Unabomber), the options are to live, love and laugh, while knowing that those actions impact others adversely, further down the food chain. Maybe this is the Faustian bargain that we’ve all struck with modern consumerism and easy motoring that accompanies cheap petroleum, provided for us, courtesy of the Carlyle Group and Haliburton.

Despite the onward procession and promise of better living, post-modern life allows us some “wiggle room” with which to assuage our consciences. Rather than completely fill in the swamps, cut the cypress groves and drive the native herons, pelicans, bobcats and alligators from their homes, we build around them, maintaining a tenuous partnership between the animal kingdom and the post-modern, easy motoring, way of life. While we sit enclosed in our backyard screened-in patios, wildlife frolics far enough away for us to enjoy, providing us with comfort and the illusion of safety. At the same time, we pat ourselves on the back, with our consciences clear—we’ve allowed part of nature to remain wild, and untamed.

There is a certain satisfaction that comes at dawn, up early, freshly brewed coffee in hand, listening to the pulse of the wild, while loons offer their lonesome call and ‘gators idle by, 50 yards away. While developers continue to fill their pockets with the gold that follows the exploitation of people and place, remnants of the past remain. Mother earth has managed very well, long before we came and will continue to survive and adapt, long after we are gone.

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