A lovely day at Zuma Beach volunteering for Oceana at the Malibu triathlon. Last summer, I asked surprisingly willing triathlon swimmers to sign a petition to protect California’s great white shark population (ultimately the National Marine Fisheries declined despite the dwindling numbers). This year: loggerhead turtles. I had that same squishy uniquely human whose-side-am-I-on-anyway? feeling as I talked about the increased need for habitat for sea turtles, knowing that tiger sharks particularly love to feast on them.
Ultimately I realized that my position as a human isn’t necessarily to root for one side, but to attempt to restore some part of the balance that humankind with its plastic, its miles of nets and hooks and acidified seas has destroyed. Nature, of course, is often brutal and so I’m moved when people fashion artificial flippers for a sea turtle crippled by sharks.
I know that human belief in our separateness from nature is the root of most of our problems. But my humanness will always make me feel like a distant admirer of animals, an apologist for my species, a loving outsider. As a kid, I wanted to be like Fern in “Charlotte’s Web,”–so much a part of the animal world that they “forgot” I was there and gossiped freely. Now, I don’t know if I seek a window into animals’ secret world so much as I need an alternative to the crowded, relentlessly human one I inhabit. Maybe it’s as simple as the epiphany I had a few weeks ago when admiring the crazed smile of a moray eel: “I like the other.”