Saturday, March 11, 2006

The creatures, two by two

As late as three years ago, the island of Exuma was a scruffy, backwater sort of place, asleep in tropic languor. Even the rich and the very rich snow birds tucked their homes unostentatiously into the landscape and lived close to nature and Bahamians.

Now, suddenly, the island has been discovered by people -- mostly Americans -- who build five star hotels and pretentious gated communities of "Look-at-me" houses. These projects invariably begin with bulldozers clearing the land down to bare rock and sand -- dunes, ridges, vegetation, all. One magnificent landscape of rolling vegetation and wildlife on the road to George Town was reduced to a flat, sterile desert in anticipation of selling half-million-dollar sites. For some reason the project collapsed, and now we have a many-acre scar where once there was beauty.

These projects, when completed, are expensively landscaped, but also dosed with pesticides to keep down the bur grass and sand flies -- and, inadvertently, the rest of creaturedom. We are already seeing the impact of scrape-and-build development. Fewer snowy egrets, butterflies, bat moths, boas.

We take aboard on our property whatever refugees come skittering or flittering our way. Soon we may be skittering ourselves.