When Communities Erode

this book will save your life

Thanks to William for another spectacular guest post. You can follow him on twitter at @willibaldoea

We live in a time when no one wants to remember. We pretend we are where it starts. Look at the way we live—we build houses on cliffs, on fault lines, in the path of things, and when something happens, we don’t learn history, we build it again, right on the same spot, bigger, better… Fallout accumulates. What we’ve got now is a blend of fact and fiction that we’re agreeing to call reality.

– A.M. Homes, This Book Will Save Your Life

There’s a fantastic article titled “From Coast to Toast” in the August issue of Vanity Fair. It looks at two communities, one in Malibu and another in Nantucket, that are facing serious erosion problems and the increasing possibility of disappearing for good. I’ll let you read it for yourself, because I think it’s a fairly interesting and involved piece that merits attention and thoughtful consideration. Besides, I can’t tell you what the right answer is.

What I can say is that moments like this reveal something that goes beyond who’s rich and who’s not, which the debate here appears to be about. Admittedly, the debate is also about man and Nature, and we can’t seem to untangle the issues long enough to know what the most pressing facet of the problem is. Or what the most pressing facet is at this moment. That’s the real problem, in my eyes, and also the saddest part about this entire debate.

I can’t help but think about The Bling Ring, a film that’s simultaneously lauded for its beautiful direction but critiqued for its lack of anything resembling a moral stance. Sofia Coppola lingers among the teenagers she depicts in all their delusional and raucous splendor. She doesn’t say much about them, but her lingering instills a sense of discomfort. Or at the very least it did in me, because I recognized those teenagers. They were the same ones I went to school with who are now detoxing from heroin and cocaine addictions, removing tattoos they grew to regret, and dealing with the legal consequences of lives they put on the fast track long before the time was appropriate.

I can’t say my friends made the wrong choices and that I made the right ones. That all remains to be seen, really. What they do with their lives from this point forward, and what I do with mine, are the only true indications of what successes we’ll be able to claim later in life. So as Coppola did, I invite you to linger with the people you meet in the Vanity Fair article. Don’t judge them – because you’ll want to, and there are two sides that are equally understandable but also infuriating.

Just sit with them. Listen. And hope, for everyone’s sake, that this is something we can figure out.

If you want my opinion, I’d say let nature takes it’s course. It seems like the only humble approach possible, and maybe it’s what will ultimately save us from ourselves.


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