I've been prearranging my posts this week for my actual vacation - as you read this, Mom and I are cruising in the Caribbean - and we started out, as we do, in Miami, to catch the cruise.
Don't get me wrong, we've had a lovely dat and half here... but every trip to Miami reminds me of just how stage managed the American landscape can be... and puts a much finer point on the environmental problems we face.
I'd been thinking, for a few weeks, about writing a darkly cyincial (and rehashed) point about the failure of the "green" movement to really make effective inroads in the American psyche, but being here kind of stopped me cold (or, er, warm). I am sitting in a hotel overlooking carefully manicured palm tree lined vistas surrounding man-made lakes. And it's not the artificiality, but the sense of the sheer amount of labor involved to manufacture this that has me flabbergasted.
Up in New York, I live in and around the woods. And some of it, clearly is artificial creations - we have resevoirs and dams and carefully manicured estates galore in Westchester. And yet, in a way, it all feels kind of organic. Many of the lakes were already there. The woods already existed. We've moved some things, built some walls, planted some trees... but much of it came that way.
Miami is swampland. Sea level property and mud flats that have been carefully filled in and paved over and dug up and dressed up to look like a tropical paradise. The sense of waste is palpable. The reality that it's unsustainable strikes me as obvious. And that's before we talk about the tornadoes and the hurricanes.
Lying by the pool yesterday (on Earth Day!), nar the artifical waterfall, facing those palm trees and fake lake, I was at once comfortable, staisfied... and unnerved. I don't like the idea that we have to change so much of our American culture to get things more envronmentally correct. But on the other hand, there's something just kind of twisted and sad about the lengths you would go to make an office park where every building fronts a lake. And I can't say I'm opposed to stopping that.
I've long thought that the environmental movement is a failure both because it tends to have the goal of making us all feel worse about ourselves and it proposes unrealistic things that don't really solve our problems. I'm not especially impressed with anything I've read about carbon emission taxes. I don't feel like there's enough focus on ending sprawl and scaling back suburbs. We need better urban planning because we really could do more with less; re-centralize our cities, make them more walkable and approachable, reduce the need to drive and our lust for excessively artificial spaces. Or we can live in the actual woods. But this thing about living surrounded by palm trees and fake lakes... it's creeping me out, man. Seriously.