They say the road to heaven is paved with good intentions, those good things we plan to do but never quite get around to doing. Any resolutions we make to change, to be more proactive, ebb and flow like the tide with its ensuing highs and lows.
I was reminded of this recently while walking the beach at Bertra on the west coast of Ireland. Recent storms had shifted stones from the beach up on to the car park, the power of the waves undeniable. Once you could have walked the length of the dunes, but the dunes are being breached as the raging torrents of the sea attempt to slice through the sand into the calmer inlet on the other side. Stand on top and look left and you see a force to be reckoned with. Look right and you see calm, peaceful water. And in between, separating the two, are walls of sand.
A fellow walker stopped to chat. He pointed out that had nature been left to run her course, this wouldn’t have happened. But in trying to prevent breaches, by caging rocks and stones and making walls, the natural direction of the current had been redirected and thus the damage. I don’t pretend to know what he was talking about or whether what he was saying was true. But it did get me thinking about interventions and good intentions.
Perhaps some well-meaning team of souls, armed with degrees in marine architecture or some such did get together and decide to take on Mother Nature by building these barriers. And perhaps that was all for the good. And perhaps things would have been a lot worse had they not intervened. But there’s a little part of me that worries about man’s interference with nature – and the price that sort of progress might entail.
In Ireland in 2013, over 470 people received a letter from the President to make their hundredth birthday along with a cheque for €2540 – the centenarian bounty. We’re living longer than ever and yet we don’t have the infrastructure to support our ageing population. I think of projects in developing countries that were the brainchild of development study graduates who may or may not have taken the time to ask the locals what it was they wanted before imposing on them what they thought they needed. I’m not doubting their intentions for a minute; I’m just wondering at their effectiveness. I think of the damage done by well-meaning conservationists who simply don’t understand the ways of the elephant. I wonder how often our good intentions do more harm than good. I wonder what Bertra would look like now, had no one intervened.