Nature is awesome. Nature is beautiful, and wonderful, and essential to our very existence. But whenever we forget that nature is at her very core wild, and that good does not necessarily mean safe, we are making a grave and possibly fatal mistake.

In 2004 many Floridians learned the hard way what their long-term neighbors (and insurance companies) had been trying to tell them: a hurricane is a lot more than just a strong wind.

People in our neighborhood are learning that the highly successful program that brought the Florida black bear back from near extinction means that we must take extra precautions with our pets, our children, and ourselves.

We have all been reminded recently that wild animals in a zoo are still wild and unpredictable.

And last night a family paid the ultimate price to learn that even the Happiest Place on Earth is no shelter from Mother Nature at her cruelest.

I've seen people complain that no signs warned of the possibility of alligators in the lake where a toddler was snatched by those fearsome jaws. "No swimming" is not good enough, they say. I say that if Disney World is at fault, it is in its complicity with all who profit by tourism and try to make people forget that this is Florida, and Florida has wildlife, and some of that wildlife is dangerous. We who live here are saddened, but not shocked, when we hear, as we do at least once a year, of yet another little dog, cavorting happily at the edge of a lake, suddenly snatched and dragged under the water. It happens. We know it, and we try to take precautions. But Disney would rather its guests not be thinking about death.

Florida is not uniquely dangerous. Colorado has grizzly bears. Arizona has rattlesnakes. Even the farmer's apparently placid cow could easily kill a careless child. Nature is risky wherever you are. No matter how they are portrayed in movies and as stuffed animals, once past babyhood wild creatures are simply not cute and cuddly. They are definitely not our toys. They deserve respect, and that includes recognizing their wild nature.

In all likelihood, that Nebraska family's tragedy was largely the fault of unknown tourists who treated the lake's alligators as toys. By and large, alligators will avoid people and the places where people congregate—unless they have been fed. The tourists who repeatedly toyed with the alligators by tossing food from their balconies, taught the beasts not to fear humans, and to come to the beach hungry. In consequence, a two-year-old boy paid for their sport with his life.

And so did several alligators, who have since been trapped and killed in the effort to find and recover the child.

Nature is good, but it is not safe.  We ignore that to our peril.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Edit
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