The reports of a settlement on Sea Island, Georgia, are disturbing on many counts, not the least of which is that the Sea Island Company no longer exists. Not only have many of the assets of the bankrupt, family-owned firm been acquired by an artificial body that called itself “Sea Island Acquisitions,” as if acquisition were an honorable enterprise, but that Limited Liability (little responsibility) Corporation has now morphed into an alphabet string that’s not even a pronounceable acronym, SIA PROPCO II, LLC. So, it’s no wonder references default to the historical moniker, which may well be the intent. Then too, the community has an historical investment in an enterprise, whose shame they’d just as soon forget. Bankruptcy may be SOP on Wall Street, but it’s not welcome on Main Street. So, Sea Island Company survives in local discourse.
Mendacity, on the other hand, does not merely survive, it thrives. Indeed, it was the mendacity involved in the claim that a fragile spit of rapidly eroding sand had been destined for development/destruction all along, which raised the hackles of both locals and environmentalists from away. Development has been promised and underway on the Georgia Coast for several decades, with the result that the locals, the people trying to make a living on Main Street, are no better off. Neither the air, nor the water are fresher — better to breathe and drink. The fish aren’t fit to eat and neither are the crabs and shrimp. There are fewer jelly balls washing up on the beach because they’re being “harvested” and sold off to Asia, but that’s not much of a boon.
Development, as we might guess from the prefix, is kin to destruction, devolution, degradation and the general descent into the less useful. Environmentalists settling in to watch (monitor) is not likely to reverse the trend. Which accounts for why I’ve not had much truck with environmentalist in the past. But, that’s neither here nor there. What we have here in this purported “settlement” to seal the future of the Spit (that the word “settlement” raises the specter of the controversy in the Middle East is probably relevant) is a compounding of mendacity. For, although lawsuits and formal complaints have been bruited about, nobody ever went to court to get a fair determination of rights – of whether ownership comes with a right to abuse and destroy and trumps nature’s right to survive intact.
While a trip to the court house might have demonstrated anew that the “law is an ass” and needs to be changed, what we had here was merely a threat to disclose circumventions, elaborations and less than honorable intentions for the sake of outrageous monetary profits, of which the environmentalists are now content to get a modest share. We could say they were “bought off,” even as Mother Nature and the public at large were “sold out,” except for the fact that considering who initiated the action makes it look more like extortion.
When the attorney for the environmentalists asserts that they didn’t get everything they wanted, one has to conclude, since SIA PROPCO II, LLC gets to realize up to forty million dollars from the sale of eight McMansion lots, that it’s the environmentalists who didn’t get as many dollars to fill their coffers, as they might have wanted. But, since none of them had any personal skin in the game, they’ve got no complaint. The threat to withhold their consent from the building of sea walls and groins, which was never an issue, put money in their purse, just as surely as the threat of hellfire fills the collection plate. It’s an old tactic, but it’s not a virtue. It’s extortion, pure and simple and not very different from the scheme Solomon had to resolve.
Honorable people would have gone to court.
An environmentalist is to the environment as an apologist is to an apology and a philatelist is to postage stamps.