Two modern environmental parables


Popular Internet Parable

Before Hurricane Katrina, when policemen went door-to-door telling people to evacuate, Jack refused. “I’m putting my trust in God,” he said.

Water lapped at Jack’s front steps. His neighbor Sam came by in a Jeep and offered to drive him to dry ground. “Don’t bother,” said Jack. “God will take care of me.”

The water mounted. Some firemen arrived in a boat, offering him a ride to a shelter. “No thanks,” he said. “God is on his way.” The water got higher. Jack climbed onto his roof. A Coast Guard helicopter flew over, and a man shouted down, asking if Jack wanted to be pulled up in a rescue basket. “No need!” said Jack. “God will be here soon.”

The flood rose up and washed Jack off his roof. Struggling to keep his head above the waves, he called out, “God, I’m drowning! Where have you been? Why haven’t you saved me?” Just as he was going under, Jack heard an answer from the eye of the hurricane. “My child,” said God, gentle and sad, “Did you not know me?” I was the policeman warning you. I came with Sam to drive you away. I accompanied the firemen in their boat. I flew the helicopter to pull you off your roof. I came, but you did not see, and turned me away.”


Hot Air Parable

After Superstorm Sandy, when environmentalists suggested adaptive land use regulation, Joe objected. “I’m putting my trust in Seawalls,” he said. “I support SB 459, which says no permitting will be required for Seawalls.”

Joe’s neighbor Sam came by to discuss rerouting the beach road farther inland. “Not through my backyard,” said Joe. “Keep the road where it is and put in a revetment. (That’s a Seawall.)” The town planner suggested some “soft” ecological solutions to future hurricane threats. “No way,” said Joe. “Armoring is my right as a property owner. I’m for SB 460, which makes approval mandatory for whatever shoreline structures I want to build and whatever ways I want to protect my investment. Especially Seawalls.”

One night, Joe had a nightmare. The legislators had passed bills 459 and 460, but sea-level rise and another hurricane had destroyed his property anyway. “What happened to my rip-rap, my armoring, the revetment—you know…Seawalls?” Joe cried. “Why didn’t they protect me?”

Then, in his anguish, Joe heard an answer from the heart of the planet. “My child,” said Mother Nature, gentle and sad, “Did you not recognize the seawalls I provided? I grew eelgrass miles out into the Sound to dissipate the waves. I seeded beds of oysters and clams to absorb energy closer to shore from surges. I maintained salt-marshes, ledges and dunes at the waterline as a third type of defense; behind them I cultivated buffers of hedges and grasses native to these coastal soils. I kept you safe, but you did not see, and destroyed my protections.”