Do I keep jumping on planes to seek the unspoiled hidden treasures?
Aircrew from the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing survey Hurricane Irma’s destructive force from the helicopter over the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017.

Do I keep jumping on planes to seek the unspoiled hidden treasures?

‘I hope I can look more often in appreciation for what I have, for where I live, and for how lucky I am — and that I can figure that it’s good enough’

WILLIAMSVILLE — About a month ago, two years after making my reservation, I finally received my deposit back from Cinnamon Bay Campground on St. John.

The U.S. Virgin Islands were shattered by Hurricane Irma at the beginning of September 2017. Gusts were reported at 250 mph. I have no idea what happened to the island's birds, fish, and other species. Not many leaves remained on the trees. I can't imagine how much garbage is in the surrounding sea.

Cinnamon Bay Campground was destroyed with little sign of coming life. I know that many people love St. John as I do and are working hard to rebuild what they can with limited resources. I have been there many times.

* * *

Last spring, as an alternative winter escape, my partner and I camped on a barrier island off the west coast of Florida. After hearing nightmarish stories of fish-killing cold snaps and red tides, it was was no surprise to see a sum total of two fish as a reward for two extensive snorkeling sorties.

I recently returned from the same area. From the time that the southbound jet hit the Gulf of Mexico's coast near Tallahassee until we landed in Fort Myers, the red tide was visible in the water, a scant number of boats plowing through the mess.

The agricultural runoff from Lake Okeechobee appears to be instrumental in feeding the red tide conditions that have been there for months. Florida locals share tales of smelly black gunk covered with flies oozing down the rivers into the Gulf. Not too many folks go swimming down there.

News of Florida's environmental woes have traditionally been kept pretty quiet. Who can blame the people there? Many of their livelihoods depend upon the tourists' money. But this time, when the proverbial *^#% hit the fan, the story, now too big to hide, was covered inThe New York Times.

Florida is not alone. I recently viewed a small video revealing a fissure two-miles long and growing in Arizona (discovered by a Google satellite image) that is being attributed to aquifer depletion.

My partner's cousin was just here from Napa, Calif., with firsthand, terrifying stories from the fires there and expressing relief here for his lungs that have been chronically fatigued from constant smoke irritation.

* * *

After a canoe camping trip this summer, which required us to portage tight places that we usually paddle through because of low water in the Adirondacks, we returned to our southern Vermont terrarium home, where the entire kitchen was coated with some kind of science-experiment growth that one might normally find only in the rotten-vegetable bin of the fridge.

I arrived at Wellfleet, Mass., on Cape Cod one week later, only to find that a 26-year-old man had been fatally bitten by a feeding shark very near to where we were staying with family only the day before. A month earlier, another man had been bitten by a feeding shark in the same area. A couple of kids were bitten on Long Island recently, as well.

I don't call it an attack. Do we say that fish attack other fish? No, they're just feeding; that's what they do. They're not evil, just because we consider ourselves the supreme beings.

Two other stories took place within the same narrow time span. Surfers close to the shore had to beat it out of there hastily due to great white sharks stalking them from behind.

The sharks are coming up farther north, apparently due to warmer waters and in particular are drawn to the Cape due to an abundance of seals, of which we saw many.

The sharks apparently like to slip in close where the little ledge forms from the wave interplay between the incoming and outgoing waves and then make their move. That's pretty close in.

Monday morning's local Wellfleet paper showed a picture of an unnamed surfer surfing alongside a seal the day after the attack in the same area. Go figure. Some scientists are calling the Cape Cod area the “sixth white-shark hub” in the world. I think that we can write that one off as a place to bring our kids to swim.

* * *

It seems that every which way I turn I can no longer swim. So what do I do? Keep jumping on planes to seek the unspoiled hidden treasures promised by the travel-industry-mongers?

I remember from years ago someone kvetching about Purdue Farms' chickens traveling East to the markets here and some other company sending them West. I live in a beautiful place that many people travel to visit while I go off to someplace else, kind of like the chickens.

I hope to hell (an easy place to access these days, apparently) that I dig in a little deeper and manage my own house a bit better.

I hope I can look more often in appreciation for what I have, for where I live, and for how lucky I am - and that I can figure that it's good enough.

Climate change has reduced many people's living conditions to marginalized, unsafe rubble. What's the lesson to be learned from all of these blatant messages from the Earth? What's not to be learned?

The alternative is for me to continue to burn lots of fuel, effectively stressing everything that lives on the planet, including myself.

* * *

It sure feels a lot better to climb right onto a bicycle and immediately ride, rather than drive for two hours in the car to arrive at a trailhead in search of recreation.

There are all kinds of cool little bushwhacks right in our neighborhood which reveal treasures that have existed unseen right under our noses for years.

Here, we can walk dirt roads in the moonlight, don water shoes and wetsuit shorties, and slither-snorkel through the local streams. I'm not going to write a Complete Idiot's Guide to the present moment here.

All I'm saying is that climate change is clearly closing in.

Meanwhile, the stock market continues to climb upward.

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