I had a terrible dream last night about my turtles. It was so upsetting that I don’t want to remember enough to retell it here.
Some of you might have been following my Turtle Saga, so you know that my love for turtles is no secret. The nightmare was probably a manifestation of my recent outrage towards something I see every day while driving around for work:
I’m not squeamish by any means but that sight always makes my stomach turn and my heart does that thing where it constricts tightly in my chest.
In this area, diamondback terrapins make their homes in the brackish waters of the Intracoastal, and summer months are known as mating season. It is also when we get an influx of tourist traffic.
As with many islands, there is only one road that connects Tybee to the mainland. That road has two lanes (most of the way, if you don’t count about a half-mile stretch in either direction where there’s a passing lane) and the speed limit is 55 MPH until you get onto the island.
Posted all along the way: Turtle Crossing.
It seems to me that these signs are treated like part of the landscape or perhaps a whimsical addition to the quaint island atmosphere, like the ones made out of artificial driftwood that say “Beach Life.”
But for turtles, these signs are as serious as life and death.
The main reason turtle hits make me so furious: have you noticed how SLOW they are??
There are two possible scenarios that might explain why you hit a turtle with your vehicle: 1) you were driving too fast, listening to loud music with your rowdy car mates, didn’t see it, and couldn’t safely stop or move out of the way; or 2) you meant to hit it.
I have witnessed a driver refusing to change lanes for a terrapin (when there was a passing lane and no cars nearby). Nor did he slow down. Actually, this behavior is not surprising when you consider the studies on vehicular turtlecide. It turns out that about 6% of the human population might be psychopaths who get a thrill out of striking animals on the road.
Think about that for a minute. I do, all the time, and it makes me want to throw grenades in front of cars and see if they swerve to miss them.
But I’m not going to do that (I swear I am not a terrorist), for the same reason that I intentionally look for animals in the road: I am a sensitive human being. I am gutted when I see any senseless violence or loss of life.
Some people get the wrong idea about conservationists. They think we care more about nonhuman animals than we do about our fellow man. They come up with arguments about why conservation doesn’t work. While there are always extremists, for me the intention is purely this: whenever possible, preserve all life.
As citizens of this world who are creating the most environmental change, we should treat those with utmost consideration whose habitat we fracture with our roadways; whose migration is interrupted by our daily human activities; who cannot make decisions based on marketing strategy or urban sprawl.
On a small, personal scale, conservation often requires little more than practicing mindfulness in every moment.