Spring and summer mean carnage on Rappahannock roads. Mechanized, so-called civilization in the form of gasoline-powered cars and trucks collides with the very life-force that awakens and propels our still-wild co-inhabitants to get to the other side of the roads that carry the cars and trucks.
Roughly 80 percent of this roadkill, according to researchers who study such things, is in the form of fellow mammals; about 15 percent are birds. Less than five percent are reptiles and amphibians.
But it is the relatively rare turtle crossing the road, as memorably drawn in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” that shows the world neatly divided into two kinds of people:
“A sedan driven by a 40-year-old woman approached. She saw the turtle and swung to the right, off the highway, the wheels screamed and a cloud of dust boiled up. Two wheels lifted for a moment and then settled. The car skidded back onto the road, and went on, but more slowly. The turtle jerked into its shell, but now hurried on . . . .
“And now a light truck approached, and as it came near, the driver saw the turtle and swerved to hit it.”
A third category of people, however, is arguably the worst, certainly just as dangerous and potentially lethal to creatures crossing the highway. They are those of us who don’t even know (or care to know) what their cars are killing.
And that third category would include the majority of us who, happily oblivious, continue to think it’s all right to rely on fossil fuels — conveniently forgetting about the unintended but inevitable consequences, as most recently evidenced by the huge oil catastrophe off Louisiana, moving now to Florida, and probably up the East Coast.
Even the highest authorities admit that when it comes to such an unprecedented deep-water spill, they have no clear idea of the consequences for life — whether it’s underwater life, avian and amphibian creatures or that type of mammals who mostly get around in cars.
We don’t know what hit us.