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What you see depends on your generation

The heat surges inside when I open the front door of our seaside cabina this morning. My daughter Leila and I are on Rhodes, Greece, and we’ve managed to find a tiny cove with, maybe, 30 cabinas circling the still, clear bay. We’d been told last night that it was going to be much warmer today and the rest of the week.

Oh well, after one month of cold, rainy weather in Norway (the coldest, wettest June in 52 years our host told us), we’ll stay in the shade of the awning, and as long as the wind brings a breeze off the cold water—and it is very cold—we’ll enjoy the day.

The “glass bottom boat” blows a horn louder than its size warrants as it swings around the rocky mountain that creates this small bay. The boat again today is filled with tourists expecting to see colorful tropical fish in the waters beneath the boat. But they won’t see any fish. Leila has swum across the bay, and I have swum into the middle and lingered for a while. The water is so clean and clear you can see the bottom many feet down. But there’s not a fish to be found.

It was the same 10 years ago in the US Virgin Islands. The submarine took us 90 feet down, and I spied one small turtle, one foot-long fish, and bleached out (dead) coral. Later the captain admitted to me that the sea was just as void of fish in the Cayman Islands. But on the submarine the young families “oooh-ed and ahhh-ed” about the sea floor.

When traveling with my daughters, all in their early 30s, I feel there is a generation gap. They see what is there in front of us, and I see what is no longer there. I grew up in the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa being the largest island), and the East China Sea was filled with brilliant corals of purple, orange, red, and yellow, and colorful tropical fish. They were visible 20 feet down—one didn’t need to scuba dive to see them. The World Wildlife Federation says that 40 percent of the oceans’ life is gone from what it was 50 years ago. Personally,I think that’s an underestimation.

On a safari in Kerala, India, some 10 years ago with the youngest daughter, Laura, we went out at dawn to find the animals. The only animals we saw in three days on this wildlife reserve was elephants at work and monkeys scurrying around. “Then only animal that I see the tracks of is the Adidas,” I remarked one morning. It took her a moment to catch my humor.

So the wind is blowing cool air off the sea, the sun is bright in a cloudless sky, and I’m going to join Leila for a swim in the beautiful bay.

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