A Haunting Environmental Experience

Something happened my last morning in Florida that has stayed with me. I find myself mulling it over in my mind and the images and smells won’t leave. I was taking a walk with one of my colleagues in a well appointed, gated community across the street from our hotel. The air was unseasonably crisp and cool. The sun was shining on the water of the canals and the path we were on was shaded and well manicured. It felt really good to breathe and I was breathing deeply as we walked.

Suddenly we were both aware of a heavy chemical smell. It felt toxic to our nostrils and we both commented immediately that something had to be really wrong to have that strong, toxic smell in this beautiful place. We could not figure out where it was coming from and we distinctly did not want to spend anymore time breathing it in order to figure it out. The smell lasted only about twenty feet and then we were breathing clear air again. We both were relieved and we walked on wondering what it could have been.

On our way back we passed the same area, and again the smell assaulted us. At that moment a female mallard duck came scurrying out from under the hedge where the smell was the worst. She was wobbling horribly and her neck was cocked oddly as though she was really disoriented. She was quacking in a distressed way and she hardly noticed us at all. She wobbled down the path, trying unsuccessfully to fly and then once she was in clear air she scurried back under the next big hedge she came upon.

I wanted to help her in some way, but I felt helpless to do so. There was no one to speak to about the hideous chemical smell and we continued on our way with no way to report or fix the situation. And, I cannot forget her weird disoriented wobble down the sidewalk quacking all the way.

It occurs to me that in our society today we are forgetting to take care of those without a voice, those who cannot speak on their own behalf – the environment, the children, the animals, the birds, the elderly and those who are too ill to take care of themselves. Funding is being cut right and left on government organizations that are the watchdogs for our environment and the safety of our food. This experience has brought home to me the fragility of life and how easily it can be fouled and poisoned unless we take actions to protect it.

I am haunted by the memory of that duck, and her experience with that foul chemical being poured right into her home environment and damaging her. I realize I am now awake about what can happen even in the most beautiful of places. I am looking into how to report something like that should it happen in the future. Anyone have any ideas?


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