Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sleepy Isle

I went swimming yesterday at St Leu. More to the point, I went snorkelling and the lagoon here is one of my preferred places. There are plenty of fish and the coral isn't too damaged by the onslaught of progress - yet. Always the big Yet, all the monsters of fact and fable could be summed up by the big Yet. Yet is the final outcome of the human races' folly; a monster of our own creation. It would seem to be a thing, a terrible final ecological solution, that we have created in our sleep whilst dreaming of profit and progress.

Sleep, not the tender embrace of Morpheus (him before the matrix) but the blind atrophy of the conscious mind and a refusal to see the repurcussions of oursomnabulant rape of this planet.

If all this is beginning to sound like a morning rant fueled by a hangover, I'll offer an example...

Two days ago a large cargo vessel collided with the island.


Now, the island is a big rock reaching up some two miles above the Indian Ocean, it does not move - unless one is talking on a geological timescale - it has been sitting here for some three million years and so qualifies in my books as an unmoveable object. The force that hit it was not unstoppable and so the shiup stopped not far from the "capital" of St Denis. No loss of life, no one hurt and not much damage done. This all happened because the crew were asleep. You can see the analogy coming...

The press were up in arms and it even pushed puppies off the front page. Why the concern? The press are concerned that the island is not properly protected against terrorism. If the crew of the ship were sleeping, what were the coast guard et al doing? There seems to be an uncanny and incomprehensible desire on the island to prove that it partakes of all that is bad in the world out there beyong the sea.

It seems that we cannot be content to be an island with its own identity, but must prove ourselves to be "whiter than white". This is seen in the culture of being French. There are many creoloe of my acquaintance who yearn to be more French than French. It is as if being creole is not enough and the terrible process of assimilation throughout all the Frecnh colonies has worked by alienating a people from their own and true culture and making them aspire to the unattainable.

The point of all this is that RĂ©union seems to want to have all the problems of the world in order to prove that it is a modern "progressive" island. In doing so it is blind to the real potential and needs of this little Eden, that was.

Last year, a large fishing vessel run aground at St Leu in similar circumstance to the one of two days ago. At St Denis, there is no coral barrier but at St Leu there is. Last year the vessel tore through the barrier and landed itself high and dry upon the coral destroying a large amount in the process. There was much weeping and a wailing because of the damage caused to...

...the ship. The destruction of the coral was all but ignored, the ship was pulled off, damaging even more coral. Coral grows, given the chance, at some 3mm per year, we can build a boat in a couple of months - are we still sleeping?

To have the opportunity to swim amongst the coral, to glimpse the fish that dance there is something which I am grateful. I would also like it to be there still in generations to come.

When the ship surfed onto the pebbles at St Denis, it was three youths returning from a music festival who raised the alarm. Whilst us smug adults are dreaming of where next to make a profit maybe we should wake up and listen to those that are younger than us, more idalistic, less cynical and probably a lot more aware as to just what is going on in this great ship of sleeping humanity.

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