Time, Change, and Complacency

Image courtesy Edwin Barkdoll.
We dropped our son off at college a couple of weeks ago. After returning from the 16 hour round trip drive, my husband and I and our three dogs walked down to the ocean at sunset. At one point we were standing by a pool formed at low tide by a ring of rocks. I recalled that when my son was three years old, he waded and played in this pool, and I took a photo of him. Now my husband was taking a very different photo, and our son was in college. The mark of time was suddenly so stark.

But while the passage of time has altered his life, and ours, enormously, little seems to have changed on Patten Bay. The long-tailed ducks still come and congregate in the winter in chatty groups just offshore; the seals bask on the rocks and bark in summer. The loons call. The ospreys return in the spring, as do the herons. The grass and beach heather still grow in the same spots. And while the small rocks move and shift, the big ones stand as seemingly everlasting totems. The sun makes its arc, sometimes narrow, sometimes wide, depending on the season, but predictably, year after year.

And so it is easy to imagine that it will always be this way. The changes we make to the environment – unless they entail clear cuts or mountaintop removals – usually happen slowly. A housing development here. A new shopping center there. A new cottage on the shore. And only over time do we notice how much has changed; how the growth in our human population results in an inexorable encroachment on wilderness.

I’m lucky that the 16 years between the photo that I took of this pool when my son was three, and the photo my husband took a couple of weeks ago, present a generally unchanged landscape. But I remind myself not to be misled. The landscapes, here and across the globe, are changing. The water comes up higher as the seas rise. The oceans are acidifying, and the corals are dying. So many species of fish of are disappearing. It’s critical that we don't let our inability to easily see visible changes blind us to the realities occurring all around us. If we love this earth, as I so dearly do, we must protect what we love and not become complacent.

~ Zoe

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDxConejo talk: "Solutionaries"
My TEDxDirigo talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"


Get tickets now for the October 13 NYC debut of my 1-woman show -- My Ongoing Problems with Kindness: Confessions of MOGO Girl -- at United Solo, the world's largest solo theatre festival.

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