I have never considered myself a hugger of trees.
I certainly enjoy them, they are in part what makes the Port City Trail such a wonderful walk, but as far as climbing trees to save them, never thought of myself as that extreme.
Live in Gulf County long enough, though, and that spirit can arise at any time.
The recent “Turtle and Trash” exhibit at the new arts center in Port St. Joe was a vivid demonstration, with artistic flair, of what our species can inflict on the rest of the world that surrounds.
And turning on news reports and observing the wildly destructive power of nature, in wildfires that are destroying lives in the west, in flood waters destroying lives in the Northeast, even wildfires destroying lives just down the road, a pause is almost required.
One question certainly comes to mind: after so many years, when will Gulf County and a hurricane become more directly acquainted again.
This is the hottest year on record, which follows the three next warmest years on record.
This summer Death Valley recorded the highest temperature ever documented by humans.
Whether or not one believes the vast majority of scientists concerning climate change, something is going on that our species has not seen before.
And it is unnerving.
But, to the focus on the point here, Leave No Trace, it seems from this tiny corner of the world, is really about more than tagging and taking items, objects, off the beaches.
It really is about a state of mind, about a consciousness to leave no marks, to care for what makes life here so enjoyable, so pleasurable, relaxing, pick one or pick all.
On the peninsula beaches or the sidewalks of downtown there are signs Leave No Trace should pertain to a lot more than sand.
It is almost depressing, and ruinous for the walk, to meander the Port St. Joe Trail around Buck Griffin Lake, this body of water meant to filter stormwater on its way to St. Joseph Bay, and observe the trash, the plastic, along its shores.
It’s baffling that anybody who would make the effort to enjoy this stretch in the middle of Port St. Joe, to fish, to walk, to bike, would be so careless, unthinking about tossing away a plastic bag, a can of adult beverage.
The animals that often lay waste to the trail have an excuse, no concept of protecting the outdoors; we humans have none.
If we wanted to dial this down even further to the very small, if it was allowed and not incredibly dangerous.
I am consistently tempted to get out of my car or off my bike, retrieve a cigarette butt and return it to the simpleton in the car ahead who apparently figures somebody comes by once a day to pick all those up.
Okay, maybe there is a tree-hugger chromosome hiding somewhere in my cells after all.
In any case, reading and watching news reports out of South Florida it is jarring to see waters turned to lime green by algae, a situation the governor deemed a state of emergency earlier this week.
The cause is, in a way, beside the point.
This should not be about blame, about a winner and a loser. It’s not a MMA contest.
Septic systems certainly seem anathema for coastal areas and development and sugar production on a massive scale is likely not nurturing the land, either.
What it is is a tragedy for the wildlife and natural beauty of that area of the state, a state that millions flock to each year to bask in that natural beauty and wildlife.
And that opportunity is being impacted by impacts that, on surface, seem little to do with that wildlife and beauty.
Those concerns can migrate to those living near St. Joseph Bay, who have seen scallop season interrupted the past two years by algae blooms of mysterious origin.
Not in their impacts, but in the causes.
I just finished re-reading Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Almost Everything” and toward the end is a line from a prominent scientist about this planet we reside on.
“One planet, one experiment,” the Nobel Prize winner said.
This is it.
There are no more St. Joseph Bay’s in the closet, no spare Gulf of Mexicos lying around.
There is no reset button.
And that, from this tiny little corner of the county and opinion, seems the real point of Leave No Trace.
It’s a philosophy, a frame of mind, to which removing the tents and chairs from the beach at night, giving the sand, the turtles and the like a break, is just a small, small part.
And maybe as much as something to enforce, it is something to market.
Just a suggestion, but the next Tourist Development Council spring campaign, instead of the highly successful “Engulf” or “Inspire,” should be “InHonor” with folks submitting Instragram photos showing them doing honor to the local environment.
Picking up tents left behind on the beach, planting a tree, gathering up litter along the coast, whatever suits the fancy.
Okay, maybe I could be called a hugger of trees.
I’ll blame the canvas I am surrounded by each day.