Thursday, July 10, 2014

Whatever were they thinking?

I’m not an environmentalist or tree-hugger, and I have a huge carbon footprint. The most I do to keep the environment clean is to recycle paper and plastic at work and at home.  I do, however, notice the effect different constructions have on our earth and wonder if the builders ever even considered the future impact on nature.

My husband and I have a vacation spot in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. These mountains are truly amazing. They seem to go on and on, rolling along one after the other, while a smoke-like fog hangs over them. They are full of evergreen trees, wildflowers, and wildlife. When I’m on these mountains and inside the clouds, I experience a sense of peace, and I wonder at the majesty of this planet on which we live.

The view of the Smokey Mountains from the top of Grandfather Mountain, July 2014

Nestled among the evergreens on these mountains, every now and then you see lovely homes and cabins. Most of them are tastefully built to blend with the surroundings, but some of them catch your eye because of the large size. However, others are definitely a blight on the beautiful, natural landscape. In Avery County, North Carolina, the most atrocious building that you can’t miss is located atop Sugar Mountain -- Sugar Top Condominiums.  Your eyes can’t help but be drawn to this 10-story, white, concrete monstrosity.   

This picture of Sugar Top Condominiums is taken from the top of Grandfather Mountain.

Another picture of Sugar Top Condominiums taken on Grandfather Mountain.
One interesting note is that the condo's website never shows the resort
from this view, only the view from the building. Their pictures of the
building are all close-up photos:  Sugar Top Condominiums

The condo’s website tells the story of its conception, even personifying it as a female like a ship or hurricane. The original plan was to construct a 5-story condo made of wood to blend in with the mountain. After testing the wind speed, however, the contractors decided that this design couldn’t withstand the hurricane-force winds that occur at times on the top of the mountain. So, someone with zero taste came up with this design which caused much unrest in the state. The residents of Avery County protested for months about the construction and design, but couldn’t stop the project: the condos opened in 1983. After that, the NC legislature banned constructing high-rise buildings on mountains. Too little too late.

Today, my family and I visited Grandfather Mountain, a state park that boasts being a mile (5,280 feet) above sea level. As breathtaking as the views were, I couldn’t help but notice Sugar Top Condos and wonder if the residents feel superior because they are above everyone else. I thought about the story in Genesis 11:1-9 about the Tower of Babel. The Babylonians built a huge tower to be close to God and Heaven. Do the Sugar Top residents feel like the Babylonians?

On a similar level (but totally opposite sea level), in my adult life, I lived in Panama City, FL, for 25 years. While growing up, my family and I visited the beaches there every summer. We stayed in the family-run, 2-story hotels or the rental cabins scattered along the beach. The fishing pier was/is a favorite attraction for locals and tourists. On our vacations, we would park at the pier, pay a small fee, and enjoy the walk out on the pier to behold the view of the vast shoreline, sand dunes, and skyline.

The Panama City Beach shoreline at the pier in the 1960s.

Today, that view is totally different. After several hurricanes in the 1960s and 1970s, everything changed. Money-hungry developers, as well as self-promoting bureaucrats, destroyed the serenity of the beach by building high-rise condos, sprawling night clubs, and souvenir shops galore. These, like Sugar Top did to the mountain view, destroyed the beauty of the sugar-sand beach that was rightfully called The Miracle Strip.

This picture is taken from the Panama City Beach pier in 2013. 

In recent years, the well-lit shore has almost destroyed the sea turtle population. The hatchlings, by instinct, swim toward moonlight to find the ocean. Today, however, the blaring lights of the shoreline buildings confuse the turtles, making them crawl inland, resulting in death. It was only when advocates/scientists noticed the decline in the turtle population that laws were made to restrict lights on the beach. Again, too little too late.

As I said, I am not an environmentalist, but I don't have to be one to notice what this thoughtless construction is doing to our planet. Maybe we need to all come together with a similar language/goal like the Babylonians, not to erect a tower to reach Heaven, but instead to keep the beauty that we already have. 

How do we do that? The biggest way is to become more aware of what's going on around us. Question what and why some new shopping center is going up or why a certain new road has to be built. Stop marveling at grandiose construction that can only benefit the wealthy or those getting wealthy by sacrificing our planet. Find out which politicians are "in bed with" big construction and vote against them. In essence, educate ourselves.

Sorry for preaching, but I'm preaching to myself first. I need to hug more trees.