Several readers took WC to task for his Lincoln City Syndrome post. The Oregon Coast, they said, is still beautiful, is still relatively undisturbed, is still a wonderful place to visit. WC, they said, is a cranky old man.
The sea wrack is laced with plastic fragments. This is not healthy, normal or even sane. Animals ingest these indigestible chunks of petroleum by-product and the stuff clogs their guts. Albatrosses in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as far as you can get from large numbers of humans outside of Antarctica, inadvertently kill their chicks feeding them plastic chunks that resemble albatross’ prey. There’s an estimated 165 million tons of plastic in the ocean now, with somewhere between five and thirteen million more tons added each year. The stuff is damned near immortal, and if not always actually toxic then extremely dangerous. One in three fish caught for human consumption contains plastic fragments in its gut. Inevitably, some of that plastic washes up on Oregon’s beaches. Beachcombing involves finding something other than plastic.
Clearcutting in the Coast Range continues. Never mind that the clearcuts permanently damage the soils and waters, that what grows back eventually is a pitiful imitation of a mature old growth forest. The coastal counties are trapped in an economic lose/lose relationship with the lumber industry. Timber is a major source of direct and indirect revenue for them, but less than ten percent of the old growth forest is left, and that’s what draws tourists. Increasingly, it appears both the U.S. Forest Service and the Oregon Department of Forestry are cheating on designating and harvesting. But the end result is the mountains look like they have mange, the streams are full of silt and still the clearcutting continues.
And then there’s the urban sprawl. The Lincoln County Syndrome. “Wild” animal parks. Ripley’s Believe It or Not exhibits. Every fast food franchise in North America. Junkyards and junky yards, filled with rusting debris. Bleached and stained billboards offering dubious attractions. It’s the exact opposite of beautiful scenery and unspoiled places. In John MacPhee’s words, it’s as if Colonel Sanders ruptured open and spilled suburbia all over the wilderness.
As WC said before, it’s still beautiful on the Oregon coast. But in too many places, in more parts of it all the time, you have to focus on the Pacific Ocean and not look too closely at anything else.