It had been a long time since I took a vacation, but as a child we used to visit the beach every other year. I would always sit on the shore and collect shells. Piles and piles of shells that I would then reduce to one small bucket of favorites. Last week, I sat in the sand and collected shells. I have been to many of the tiny coastal islands, but I have never seen the beach shells look quite like they did where we stayed. At least 80 percent of the shells were huge chunks of oyster shells. The spiral shells that look like ornate ice cream cones were almost non-existent. There were huge, intact conch shells being found by people all around me. In our family alone, two were found. Most striking to me, huge gelatinous jellies were dead everywhere. The beach looked like someone had picked up a reef, crumbled it and dropped it along the shore. I questioned someone about the odd shell mixture and they explained why things seemed odd. The island had been ravaged by recent storms and they pumped in tons of sand from the ocean to try and slow down the destruction. A lot of deep sea sand dwellers came to the shores with the sand. He suggested that we visit the end of the island.One of the roads was completely unreachable as all the houses had been condemned. Once we did get to the beach, we walked past mountains of sandbags that were almost completely underwater. The first line of defense seemed to have failed. Remnants of the bags floated in and out with every wave. Some of the pieces were tiny, but others were large and resembled bodies. People stood and stared at the disturbing sight. The next thing that we saw were mountains of fresh sandbags piled around houses that survived and houses that didn’t. It was like a ghost town. Large cables remained where houses used to be. Did the people whose property used to be a block away from the beach rejoice when they got a phone call telling them that their property is now ocean view? It was all very sad and more than a little bit scary. We built expensive homes on a sandbar. Storms destroyed them and we responded by destroying part of the ocean floor. What chain of dominos did we knock down when we responded as we did? We came back to Knoxville to hear stories of bears running through our part of town. Now, there’s a bear loose in Oak Ridge. No matter what Colbert thinks about bears, this is not normal bear behavior. Something is wrong when bears venture out of their territory and into the dangerous land of suburbia. If a nobody like me can see that things are going wrong, why can’t the experts see it? I understand that humans are at the top of the food chain, but with that privilege comes responsibility. Irresponsible, egocentric behavior has made us parasites upon this Earth. Shouldn’t we be loving caretakers instead?