Posted by: Bart Welling | October 3, 2011

Michele Braden, Blog 2

                                    “The way that humankind is driving the loss of

                                     biodiversity on land is well documented – and

                                     is cause for serious alarm.” 

                                                                                    Sylvia Earle

                                                                                    The World is Blue

I’m the product of the concrete jungle – metal, steel and concrete structures, sidewalks, noise, pollution, cars, busses, trucks, trains, restaurants – the list is endless.  The victim of a corporate takeover, the last place I ever expected to find myself at this point in my life – a little prematurely I hope — is in what I consider to be God’s waiting room: Florida.  After all, isn’t that what all those retirement brochures are about?  Come to Florida and live an active lifestyle in a beautiful and serene place until death do you part? 

I found beauty and serenity in St. John’s County, known for its golf courses, upscale resorts, and natural beauty; namely, the Guana Preserve and what is left of undeveloped beach, along with housing developments. Lots and lots of housing developments, one of which I have to plead guilty to occupying. 

Succumbing to the wiley ways of the real estate agent, the house that I purchased sits next to a pond. “Ponds are noted for their abundant and rich varieties of plant and animal life, which all are maintained in a delicate ecological balance. Life forms range from microscopic bacteria to insects, fish, small animals, and birds. As ponds age, the number of species living in it steadily increases until, finally, the growth of larger plants, algae, and the accumulation of wastes convert it into a marsh or cause it to dry up.”

 The recessed land in the shoreline of the pond forms a little cove that was created by the sharp and jagged-edged gaping jaws of a hulking piece of construction machinery.  The brackish water of the pond houses gators, snakes, skinks and other creatures.  Surrounded by lush green grass, towering, leafy, live-oaks and gently bending palms the grass slopes down to the water’s edge of the pond where the cove forms a sheltered nook. Ospreys are often seen skimming across the pond’s surface in pursuit of dinner, while white egrets and great blue herons are sometimes seen standing in the cove fishing for something to eat. The water in the pond can be deep at some points, but not so deep that one cannot see the very small fishes and plants in the cove right below the water’s surface that play a role in maintaining an ecological balance, and have somehow survived the disruption and destruction of their environment during the development and building. I contacted Dr. Dale Casamatta “the algae guy” in the Biology Department at the University of North Florida and asked him about ponds and their role in the environment.  Turns out they play a critical role with microorganisms and plants found in ponds providing oxygen for the atmosphere, but they don’t provide as much oxygen as their land counterparts.   

Where this development sits is truly a beautiful environment and parcel of land, but being able to live in that environment has not come without a price and is it worth the long term price still to be paid.  Ecocriticism has made me become more and more aware of our environment and — because of its natural beauty – more curious about the area where I live.  A quick trip to the St. John’s County Property Appraiser’s website allowed me to provide a guesstimate about the amount of land developed for this neighborhood.  Approximately 12.64 acres were developed to accommodate those 28 houses that comprise the development where I live – and that is only one, comparatively small development.  Although the sounds of the city are a distant past and no longer audible to me, the slow and steady destruction of our environment has become deafening.



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