In 1987 and 1988 beaches along the shores of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey were awash with sewerage and medical waste, including used syringes. Those were days of panic, fear and finger-pointing.

The situation was so dire that because of the “Syringe Tide,” beaches along the entire Atlantic coast were closed.

The problem was finally traced back to a landfill in the Tri-State area, but that did little to restore one’s faith in heading back to the ocean for a dip, let alone walking along the sandy shore, for fear of treading upon a syringe contaminated with who knows what. What exacerbated the panicked reaction was that it happened during the surge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States.

It was such a national problem that it gained a line in singer-songwriter Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” The song came out in 1989 and contained 118 references to major events in politics, medicine, war, crime, sports and significant social concerns and worries, since 1949, the year Joel was born. One line states, “Hypodermics on the shore, I can’t take it any more.”

The song’s verse is a message to humanity: “We didn’t start the fire. It was always burning since the world’s been turning. We didn’t start the fire. No we didn’t light it but we tried to fight it.”

Our oceans, God’s oceans more correctly put, are things of majestic beauty, power, and life. But humankind has had a long-time disrespect for and neglect of one of the Almighty’s greatest gifts. Genesis 1:21 says, “So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds.” Mankind’s reaction: “So what?”

Countless times humans have trashed the magnificent seas with total disregard. Well, it seems that Mother Earth, the Good Lord’s daughter, is fighting back.

Just take a look at the summer of 2022. Countless beaches on both coasts have shut down because of shark attacks or sightings. It seems to me that good old Mother Earth has amassed an army to protect one of her most precious possessions. Not only sharks, but she’s summoned Portuguese Man-of-Wars, jellyfish, and bacteria infestations to keep us pesky humans at bay, so to speak. Those are the elements we can see. Beneath the beautiful blue waters are sea urchins and sting rays that, when stepped upon, slice, cut, and infect human flesh. Other natural elements shutting down beaches are rip tides, undertows and sink holes; and oh yes, don’t forget about the jagged rocks and shells that when engaged can make the most agile of humans dance like they are on hot coals.

I love the beach. I’ve been a beach-goer since I was a puppy proven by the 35 mm movies my dad took of me as an infant kicking around the shore of Horseneck Beach in Westport. And, I hate what we are doing to such a vast and crucial piece of Mother Earth’s puzzle.

It may be inconvenient for us to take a break from the breakers, but just maybe we’re being taught a lesson. 

Oh, it’s not just in the waters where things are getting a bit askew. More and more we see bears, wolves, and other creatures who would just as soon stay away from the meanest of all animals, mankind, but with all our development and land purging, we’ve invaded their spaces. They have no choice but to make appearances in places that God had assigned to them and we gobbled up.

We didn’t start the fire. But sometimes we do add fuel.