My wife and I moved to San Diego from Washington, DC almost eight years ago. DC is a city of politics, activism, and engagement. World affairs are present in people’s minds and protests are a daily event in our nation’s capitol, and good thing too. Our National Mall is perfect for massive civil events, from inaugurations to marches. On the West Coast we found a very different lifestyle far removed from the industrious and heated debates on Capitol Hill. Yet we’ve learned that San Diego has its own political hot spots, its simmering volcanoes which occasionally erupt in massive displays of magma and fire. Behold, the site of our biggest protest!
Maybe it’s a little small, so I’ll zoom in for you.
See those brown lumps in the sand? Those are harbor seals, and beside them are their pups, just born earlier this winter. The man-made cove was originally built for children, a tiny protected area of beach sheltered from the large waves in La Jolla. Now the cove has mostly filled with sand and, searching for a nice protected harbor of their own, a colony of seals. They look pretty vicious, don’t they, lying on their backs in the sun? What, you can’t identify the controversy yet? It’s a whopper, all right. Some folks have decided that the beach belongs to humans, not to seals.
Let’s take a break for a second to sum up. The human population has grown from a few Neanderthals to a planet-covering swarm of 6.8 billion. The California harbor seal population is around 25,000. The California coastline is packed with gorgeous beaches, coves, and shoreline that is accessible to the millions of tourists that come here year round. Even in La Jolla there are many fine beaches and rocky cliffs for people to explore, including the ones a hundred feet north and south of Seal Beach. You’d think, as a species that’s undeniably overwhelmed the planet and every other type of life, that we’d be willing to, say, cede a tiny strip of sand to some seals. I should point out that, despite its name, Children’s Beach is one of the most ill-suited to children, with its rocky and icy water, strong currents, and the feeling of being in a punchbowl ringed with spectators.
While we there admiring the seals and their pups, a woman had walked within twenty feet of the seals, igniting a barrage of bullhorn-delivered warning messages and propaganda from pro-seal protestors set up at tents on the sidewalk. The woman was evidently well-rehearsed and shouted back her own pro-human beach messages and the two parties continued to parry while onlookers, seal and human alike, wondered when everybody would just shut up and enjoy the beautiful day.
Really it’s an issue of entitlement. When people get the infection of entitlement it sours their mind and clouds their vision. The truth is, we aren’t entitled anything in life. The things we receive are a gift, not a right. Being able to coexist with marine life is the sign of an advanced species. The seals are taking it rather well, so why can’t we?