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Oil on the Water, Blood on the Land

Opinion by M. Ellis | November 10, 2007

Few places on earth have majesty or beauty to compare with what the people of West Marin see every day from the windows of their dwellings in Point Reyes, Inverness, Bolinas, Tomales, and Olema. The soul is uplifted, the eye is wonderfully refreshed by even a few moments' contemplation of local scenery. We are blessed to be living in a place that more than a million outsiders journey to every year in quest of peace and pleasure.

But now, it is November in West Marin and within the past few weeks, the actions of a mere handful of human beings have invaded our precious home with violence, deception, toxins, and death.

For just a moment, try to imagine yourself looking through the eyes of a Supreme Being. Imagine looking down at the verdant Point Reyes peninsula in its blue ocean setting, like a jewel on the map of the world. It is night, and most of the human inhabitants are sleeping, but there are owls traversing the quiet skies and the night animals are busy. While the local people sleep, armed gunmen open silenced fire on the peninsula's most gentle beings - the Fallow and Axis Deer families who have come to the meadows for food. The evil work is kept hidden from any who would protect the deer; it is done under the cowardly cover of darkness. But, you are the Supreme Being and no shadow is deep enough to hide an infamous deed from your eyes. You see your splendid deer destroyed by a few willful men.

Turning your eyes in sorrow from the land, you look toward the San Francisco Bay as the sun illuminates this corner of the little globe. You see a tremendous ship crash into a tremendous bridge and begin spilling countless gallons of poison into the life-filled waters. You hear the horror of your whales, migrating along your coast. You see the sea lions foundering onto the beaches, stomachs and lungs glutted with oil. You see your migratory birds landing in Bolinas Lagoon for their winter rituals. They are so covered in toxic ooze, even your eyes can hardly distinguish one species from another. How can the mistake of one single human being have done this to all of the waters upon which all of your creations depend?

I pity the Creator, looking down on West Marin this November. For thousands of years, He watched the Miwok peoples live in this paradise in exquisite relation to the exquisite land and sea. In less than seven generations of industrial European occupation, we have left our mark here in a way that numberless generations of the region's traditional inhabitants could not have conceived of. Our belief in conquest, official systems, and unlimited rights for moneyed men is what is responsible for putting the kind of power into the hands of the few that is capable of exterminating whole species and ruining the sea. A ship steered by one man has spoiled the water for every living one of us. A company owned by one man is responsible for the ever-rising total of deaths of the rare deer who dwell in our hills. The balance of power is ludicrous.

This November, I must face that I am guilty of enabling the industries and governmental systems that put oil in the water and blood on the land. My money allows these things to happen. I see the beauty of West Marin. I know the feeling in my heart for the creatures of this place. Yet, tomorrow I will drive my car, pay my taxes, knowing painfully that my actions are responsible for this destruction of my home. Like so many local people, I feel trapped in systems I cannot seem to get out of. Even as I write my letters of protest, those few men with the power to effect such vast harm must know that, as a Californian, an American, I am funding the very outrages I claim to despise. It puts me in a foolish situation.

I have watched with esteem the efforts of other local people to demand that the men in power take them into account. Nothing has come of this valiant effort. I read the articles, watch the news, hear the talk, but the war goes on, the oil keeps pumping, the deer are vanishing. I live in discomfort and conflict, desperately wishing some Supreme Answer would arise that would show us all the value of our world, that would fill our hearts with such abundant love that no man would ever again pick up a gun or spread poison around himself. It is difficult to have hope in November this year, but like many people, I will keep looking for the answer.

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