Oh I'm not talking about the affect that the extinction of these ancient killers will have on the oceans or the loss of a species. Nor am I talking about the legacy that a generation which is still debating global warming is leaving our children. I'm talking about a generation of kids who are still afraid of the ocean because of that movie. And I just can't reconcile the two.
It was the mid-1970s when the Stephen Spielberg movie "Jaws" came out and I was on a Florida vacation with my family. We had kids ranging in age from 8-15. No one had told my father about how it rains in Florida the entire month of June, although he probably would have taken us anyway, so we had to find things to do until the late afternoon when the torrential downpours finally stopped. He took us to see this cool new movie about the oceans and sharks.
That lead-in to the attack music will never leave my head. Nor will that wash of water as the shark attacked a person off the coast of East Hampton. We sat in the dark clutching each others' hands terrified but unable to tear ourselves away. Of course the older kids tried to be cool about it and chased the little ones around later going dumm, dumm, dumm, dumm, and pretending to be sharks.
The result: None of us wanted to go in the ocean again.
Thirty years later when I swim out into the ocean past a certain point, I turn around and come back in. It's not fear of drowning as I swim a few miles a week and am very comfortable in the water. My fear is of the great white shark. Yes I've read all the data and know that there are very few shark attacks in our waters. But I've never managed to shake that fear.
So there is a part of me - albeit a small one - that doesn't mind the looming extinction of the great white shark. An emotional part, born from the first real horror movie I ever saw. And I wonder how many others there are like me out there? Who can't shake the feeling that it's not safe to swim past breaking waves in the ocean.
One night, maybe 7-8 years ago, I was walking along the cliffs just about La Jolla Cove on a crystal clear night after a long, languid dinner in the village. The sky was a blizzard of stars, and my ex-husband and I paused to gaze at the ocean below us, lit from beneath with a milky phosphorescence that made it glow almost clear. Suddenly we heard the frantic squeals of sea lions followed by a flash of white churning the ocean for a brief moment and then all was silent.
We were convinced we'd seen a great white shark come to feed on the den of adult sea lions and pups that live in the Cove. I felt like I'd witnessed a kill, a ritual that had gone on long before I ever existed and would continue long after I am gone.
Now future generations may never see that, as they may never see so many species that are disappearing on the planet we are rapidly destroying. And of course it begs the question, can science still save us? Maybe you can help me answer it so I can look at my 11 and 15 year-old and explain it to them.