News Columns & Blogs

Teachable moments in the news

Geesh, there have been some really iconic images out there lately:

n President Barack Obama sitting down during a teachable moment over beer with Professor Skip Gates, Sgt. James Crowley and Vice President Joe Biden.

n Former President Bill Clinton sitting stone-faced next to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.

n Justin Matthews with yet another python, found lounging in an unsuspecting Manatee County neighborhood.

For any of those, you could just about write your own caption.

If you’re Conan O’Brien or David Letterman, you could take a few liberties and come up with some really funny commentary.

But underneath the glib jokes, there are huge, serious issues at work, crystallized in a freeze frame.

How do we heal the fractures of race relations in a society?

How does anyone persuade a rogue nation to embrace peace with its neighbors?

How to protect this delicate thing we call the environment?

With reasonable minds on all sides, there are solutions for all these question marks. It could be so easy, if we just didn’t make it so difficult.

The pythons represent our habitual disregard for the planet.

And I’m not just talking about the irresponsible pet owners that turned them loose. What about the laws that allowed pythons to be imported into the United States?

Fortunately, for each python aberration, there are examples of wise stewardship.

On Saturday, volunteers counted scallops in Sarasota Bay. Years ago, scallops were virtually wiped out in the bay through unwise dredging and development.

While it may seem like a miracle that scal- lops are back, we can thank scientific research, including reseeding efforts, better treatment and disposal of sewage, and safeguards for coastal construction.

The scallops are back in encouraging numbers, but they are not all the way back. It is still illegal to harvest them.

Experts say a big reason scallops are rebounding is improved water quality in the bay and healthy beds of sea grass.

Contrast that with the still pending toxic cleanup of Tallevast.

Then on the flip side are plans for trails, and developing new neighborhoods, following a green road map.

We’ve got a ways to go before we can say we’re showing true love to planet Earth.

As for world peace and racial fraternity, let’s leave that for another time.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 7080-7916.