When any system is under stress, certain symptoms usually appear in groups. In the human body, we might have a fever and then get a fever blister. A pimple may erupt or a rash might appear. If the system is our Earth, the symptoms of stress are earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and hurricanes. If the system is our economy then we see giant bubbles and crashes and swindles.
When man presumes that he can control or exploit large systems like our ecology and the world economy, inevitably he reaches the vanishing point of his understanding and mastery and disaster often ensues. We have observed two recent examples of this. The crash of our economy is the result of a bunch of thieves who overestimated the number of golden eggs they could steal without killing the goose. The Gulf Oil Rupture is the result of either the pride or hubris of engineers driven by capitalists who imagined that they were masters of the natural world and entitled to her booty even a mile deep in the ocean where fish can’t breath and the atmosphere crushes bones. They all got in over their heads. They were in worlds beyond their command or comprehension. They made mistakes caused by the myopia of greed and ego and the first thing you know people are diesel-surfing on Pensacols Beach because they can’t get a loan on their fishing boat which this time last year was hauling bounty from the Gulf.
When they found the big asteroid crater footprint in Yucatan, everybody said, “OK, now it’s solved, we know how the dinosaurs died.” Makes me wonder, when we are extinct from benzine poisoning or have mutated into some kind of grease-loving salamanders and the archeologists of the future are trying to figure out what caused this mass extinction which occurs right here where there is a layer of asphalt in the sedimentary record, will they be able to find that tiny hole in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico that caused it all, some residue of the misadventures of reckless little boys who tried to give the Earth a root canal and she bled to death in the chair?
If you analyze this asphalt layer on a molecular level you can find plastic pottery and trashbags and cheap sunglasses and the fossils that pixels leave when a computer decomposes. We know these creatures had some sort of basic civilization. We believe that they launched their dead into space, at least those who could afford it. We know they had giant temples where they worshipped artifacts given to them by a god named China. Legends say that this civilization perished in a black flood that started at the bottom of the sea. I know that sounds fantastic. It’s just a crazy legend but sometimes legends are based on a shred of fact.
Pardon my imaginary paleontology but in the ironic workings of the larger tragedy, it’s as symbolic as the bobbin pin pricking sleeping Beauty’s finger, such a small wound but lethal to the fairy tale. So, they figured that they would at least save the pelicans. They gathered up the survivors and put them in a camp for the duration until the oil had evaporated or been swabbed up by ex-shrimp fishermen who looked like beach babooshkas sweeping the black streets of Moscow. The pelicans thrived in captivity with their Dawn detergent hot tubs and multiplied. The only problem was that when they were released they didn’t know how to make a living and the little crustaceans they were accustomed to munching had all moved to the suburbs so the government had to feed the pelicans which became a burden on the tax base because pelicans have absolutely no commercial function but to tell us that the system is stressed.
There will be a tear in The Poet’s Eye when we lose the pelicans, but the tears will stream when the manatee goes. Manatees die of stress. I have always felt it an honor to be a part of a world that allows such an ugly, defenseless impossible creature to exist. I don’t know if I can live in a world without manatees. It would stress my system. I will grieve for the manatee. Who will grieve for me?
Maybe just my vanity
makes me love the manatee
he has no enemy not crab nor anemone
wants you just to leave him be
in his languid buoyancy
I will grieve the manatee
Who will grieve for me?–Lrod