Lawrence Brown: Preserving Cape Cod

Lawrence Brown: Preserving Cape Cod

“You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod,” goes the old classic. But what about the new Cape?  Our population doubles every summer as folks pour in. It seems people are coming for the same things they’ve always been coming here for – and it’s more than any physical asset specifically.  It’s an experience.

A little pre-history: Historians are convinced that modern humanity survived the Pliocene Drought by hanging out along Africa’s shorelines. Some theories suggest we became more erect and lost most of our body hair by becoming semi-aquatic, wading into deeper waters to escape predators, learning to swim – and liking it.

“Look,” they point out, “see what human children do when you bring them to the beach!”  First of all, there’s this unbounded joy – like a homecoming. Then the kids fan out along the beach and just like little hunter-gatherers, they bring back the husks of crabs and smelly things that were at least recently alive and pile them up at their parents’ feet.  Dogs, our ancient best friends, do the same thing with the same boundless delight.  This goes way back.

Thank God our predecessors created our National Seashore and began to preserve our public beach system.  We might well look like Miami Beach if they hadn’t, the ocean views walled off by high-rise condos and hotels. 

It’s a tightrope act, balancing the commercial interests in monetizing the Cape and its tourists with the ecological and aesthetic interests in preserving the natural beauty here. We can’t wreck the place in a diminishing-returns struggle to extract every penny from each square foot of land — and from the pockets of the folks who come to be on it.

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