Shared Beach

I go to Destin every summer with my entire family.  We rent a house on the beach and all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and my immediate family all stay together and enjoy a week of fun and sun.  I really enjoy this time, and it is so special to me.  This is the rare opportunity that I get to be with all of my cousins and really build and make memories together.  We do puzzles, we play corn hole, we play Frisbee, swim in the ocean, and just simply relax on the beach.  Every year all of us reserve beach chairs that are setup every morning in a horseshoe figure near the water’s edge.  The guys that setup the chairs are always so nice, and since we have such a large number of people, they try to setup our chairs as close to the beach access as possible.  This past summer something happened that has never… ever… happened before.   I came down to the beach with my Aunt Ella in the morning.  As we approached our beautiful beach chairs with umbrellas neatly in a horseshoe, we noticed the unthinkable.  A group of people had set their beach chairs up right in front of us.  It was unthinkable.  How could they?  My aunt calmly walked over and said to these beach goers (who had NOT rented chairs) that we had a very large group that was coming down.  She advised them that it would be best if they moved voluntarily.  This group stood their ground and told my aunt that the beach is open to anyone and that they were not moving.  I nervously sat down in my chair.  I just knew when my uncles showed up there would be a problem, and there was.  My Uncle Jason, who is an ex-marine, came down toting a Yeti full of beer and was immediately ready to address the situation.  He told them to move and one of the men in the other group stood up and said, “This is a public beach and we aren’t moving.”  This is when Jason dropped his Yeti cooler and calmly said, “You can either leave now, or I can make you leave.”  This was the most intense moment I ever had at the beach.  I was shocked, and I didn’t know what would happen next.  My Uncle Jason is very intimidating.  He is a very muscular guy, with a bald head, tons of tattoos, and an enthusiasm to defend his position whatever that may be.  The family ended up moving.  But it really brought to mind, how this is a shared world.  It is a shared beach.  Everyone sees their right to consume what is available.  But do we all have that right?  Or are we all doing it wrong?

Sustainability is defined by two things, the rate of consumption versus the rate of renewal.  It is something that is hard to really envision for many of us.  It is hard to for me as an individual to really think about the changes that are needed for sustainability.  My current role as a college student challenges me to consider it, and think more globally.  However, when I run out of anything that I need the Amazon app on my phone will quickly replenish that in two hours or less.  Additionally, the article “Does the Market Work Better than Government at Transitioning to Sustainability” really is powerful in its arguments that climate change is real and will culminate into a catastrophe.  The article goes through the global crisis that is happening due to the burning of fossil fuels.  This debate has been taken further, and in 2015 the United Nations agreed on the Paris Agreement.  All of the nations pledged to take new and unprecedented efforts to battle climate change.  The United States under the Obama administration had signed the agreement.  Obama is a democrat and it is noted in the article that democrats are very supportive of climate change initiatives.  Conversely, the article also states that conservatives are opposed to these resolutions, and argue that it will hurt the economy.  I wonder if the authors had a crystal ball or tarot cards, because one of the first things President Trump did was to pull out of the agreement.  Climate change initiatives are hotly debated and mostly opposed for economic reasons.  Just like the nursery rhyme, conservatives run around like “Henny Penny” saying “the sky is falling.”  The sky isn’t falling but the climate is changing, there’s scientific proof.  Currently, the democrats largely support “The Green New Deal” and conservatives largely oppose it for economic reasons.  This bill proposes huge changes for the sake of climate change; calling for an entire overhaul of the transportation industry eliminating gasoline.  Interestingly, this piece of legislation’s namesake, “The New Deal” was introduced by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  This was a democrat led initiative, and was one of the catalysts for prying the United States out of the Great Depression.  Roosevelt championed many far-reaching socio-economic changes including the minimum wage act of 1938.  This was also fought against by republicans, and yet when passed did not cripple the economy.  Many law makers are fighting to get the minimum wage raised to $15 per hour, while conservatives think it will take our economy off the proverbial cliff.   Climate change is scientifically proven and globally significant.  The question we should be asking is, “Does it matter how good the economy is if the climate change kills us all?”

The wicked problems today are global considerations that touch us all.  It is impressive to see companies that are forming in order to address wicked problems.  4Ocean is a business that formed to fight pollution in the ocean.  The company sells bracelets that are made from mostly recycled materials.  The revenue from the bracelets is then used to fund efforts to clean up the ocean.  For a beach lover like myself this is fantastic news.  In researching this company, I have already ordered my own bracelet, and want to get involved.  All wicked problems have two aspects, a social responsibility aspect fighting against an economic impact.  Sweatshops is a real socio-economic problem that has real impacts to the everyday lives of those that are exploited by them.  Sweatshops also have an economic impact to those who purchase the goods made there and those who work there.  The money versus morality struggle has played out in all wicked problems including climate change.  Metaphorically speaking, as global citizens we are all sitting at one giant public beach, and we are all wanting to consume the best view.  But let’s keep in mind that when we consume the best view, that means that we are blocking that view from those that we put behind us.  When I think back to the beach I was on, and see how selfishly those people behaved who put their beach chairs in front of ours, it makes me wonder why couldn’t we have come to a compromise.  We all need to collectively come together and plan out a solution to our wicked problems, and enjoy the beach together.

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