Back to Nature (Published on - Dec. 13, 2007)
’Tis the season to celebrate life
“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.” – Chief Seattle, a Suquamish chief

Up north winter marks the season when northerners begin planning mid-winter and spring-break get-aways and retreats to warmer climes.

Sea, sand, water, hotels, fine dining and promises of unforgettable journeys expound the headlines on brightly colored, alluring travel brochures to Florida. But something comes over these decorous visitors that are normally considerate, neat and tidy persons with fairly normal appetites. “They’re on vacation!” As Florida residents graciously offer their homes, beaches and water ways to relatives and friends they are abruptly brought face to face with what visitors really mean when they say, “We’re on vacation!”

Over Starbuck’s coffee and croissants, my neighbors grumbled.

“I just can’t tolerate nor understand why when I offer my home to people they then leave their wet dirty towels and laundry dropped onto the bathroom floor or their open luggage spilling out onto my living room furniture?”

“Yeah, how ’bout underwear hung to dry on the shower bar or all that dirt and sand tracked throughout the house.”

“For me it’s the wet hair prints on the couch and chairs. Yuk!”

“This is not a hotel!” my neighbor burst forth.

“So far as I know, my house does not come with maid and room service,” another joined in.

What happens to people when they go on vacation, whether they are out-of-towners or residents just taking a break? When leaving responsibilities of work and domestic chores behind, some people seem to leave their consciences behind, to boot.

A former neighbor of mine shared her solutions for the voracious appetites of her in-home tourists. She bought an extra refrigerator, stocked it with pop, juice, snacks and breakfast foods. She directs her visitors to the “guest fridge,” stating that she will prepare one meal a day and serve it at 5 p.m. “If guests are present then they may join us in a gourmet dining experience, otherwise, they may feel free to go about their own business, on their own schedules.” Then she clamps a large hinge over the main refrigerator door and drops in a padlock; click. Serious measures, no doubt, but having experienced “my cupboard is bare syndrome” myself, on several occasions, I do empathize.

In addition, casual and careless attitudes roll over into other areas. Careless boating is one of the major reasons for the decline in the numbers of manatees, dolphins and whales. This behavior seems to be taught and learned from generation to generation preparing the next generation of human adults to contribute to the same tribulations.

A recent sea turtle rescued in our local gulf waters had to have its flipper amputated because of a careless boater injury. Destruction and loss of nesting and foraging sites is a serious dilemma as is the destruction of beach nests. These unfortunate casualties are responsible for the failure of reproduction of sea turtles. As well, lights left on at night at beachfront properties lure the hatchlings away from the sea to a certain death. They think the light is coming from the moon.

These are easy problems to solve. Altering this behavior, whether vacationers or residents, would not inconvenience us in the slightest, but might save an entire species from extinction. Then why don’t we do it?

The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute recently sent out a press release containing wildlife alert Information: “Long-term monitoring program reveals a continuing loggerhead decline, increases in green turtle and leatherback nesting analysis reveals a significant decline in loggerhead nesting numbers around the state.

An updated analysis of Florida’s long-term loggerhead sea turtle nesting data, carried out as part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Index Nesting Beach Survey, reveals a continuing decline in loggerhead nest numbers around the state. Nest counts have decreased nearly 50 percent from 1998 to 2007. In contrast, nest counts for green turtles and leatherbacks are increasing. A record number of nests of these two species were recorded during the 2007 season.

Allow me to repeat that alarming statistic. “Nest counts have decreased nearly 50 percent from 1998 to 2007.” The earliest homo sapiens found to date are 200,000 years old. Loggerhead turtle remains have been discovered under geological formations tens of thousands of years old in the Caribbean. Green sea turtles have evolved for over 150 million years.

The breeding populations of Atlantic green sea turtles in Florida and on the pacific coast of Mexico are listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and protected under U.S. law. One of the primary reasons for the decline of the green turtle is over-hunting, due to the use of its flesh in certain types of soup.

Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973, the green turtle was listed as threatened or endangered, but continued to be heavily exploited by humans. Humans have already caused the extinction of large green sea turtle populations, including those that once nested in Bermuda and Cayman Islands. Turtle soup starts at about $7 for a small bowl and goes up from there. Is it worth the price?

Karen can be reached at

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