“… true, [the La Jolla seal rookery] attracts the tourists, but it's tourists versus children here.”
—Tony Perry, L.A Times' San Diego bureau chief, on KPBS' Editors Roundtable
And here we have yet another example of ye olde “For the Children” fallacy.
If you've read this column before, you probably know there are few things in this universe I loathe more than when somebody argues from the “For the Children” (FTC) position. And though it seems—given that the Children's Pool was donated to kids—that this debate might be one of the rare instances when it's reasonable to make the FTC argument, it most certainly is not.
For one thing, what does, “for the children” even mean? Can there ever be consensus on what's best for kids? Unless you're arguing to legalize the farming of infants to sell their body parts as soup ingredients (baby-marrow bisque, anyone?) the truth is, anybody can use the FTC argument to support their position and, therefore, nobody should.I have nothing against kids (especially in my soup); it's just that, if everything was designed to benefit the young, wouldn't that actually be bad for the young? For one reason, children eventually grow up. Then what? They'll have nothing to do but watch the new batch of kids having a blast at their expense. Furthermore, isn't it good for children to be surrounded by healthy, happy adults?
The point is, what is best for the children is almost always debatable.
Take the La Jolla harbor-seal controversy. An argument could easily be made that the pro-seal side is actually more for-the-children than the pro-children side is for the children. One could easily argue that kids benefit in myriad ways from being able to observe—up close and personal—a large group of wild animals, un-caged and behaving as they normally behave, unconcerned that humans are nearby. This is a rare opportunity for a child, especially at a time when, all across the planet, humans are destroying entire habitats with a couple of swipes from our massive, mechanical hands.
Right now, there are exactly 807* locations for children to swim in the San Diego area and only one harbor-seal rookery. If we evict the seals, then the children will have 808 places to swim and zero harbor-seal rookeries.It seems to me that a child with options is better off than a child without options. Besides, are our kids so spoiled that 807 places to swim are not enough? Wanna know what else might be good “for the children”? How about not spoiling them? How about for once telling them, “No, dears, you can swim at any other beach besides this one.”
What is it about this beach, anyway? We live in San Diego, fer crissake! As in, hello, California! We have 70 miles of coastline. See that enormous, green wet thing over there? That's called the Pacific Ocean. It's an ocean! It's not as though your family spent 10-grand on a new swimming pool and the raccoons took over the shallow end. It's an ocean! Tony Perry said, “It's tourism versus the children,” implying, I think, that children are more important than tourists. He may have been playing devil's advocate, but either way, it's nonsense because tourism and children are not mutually exclusive. Tourism, as it turns out, is good for children—especially in this economy. Tourism means more monies for more daddies and more mommies, which means, for most kids, maybe an extra gift on Christmas morning; for others, it means shoes on feet, roofs over heads, foods on plates—all of which, experts say, are extremely beneficial to the well-being of the youth.
“For the children” is for the birds. It's an emotional buzz-phrase that pushes people's buttons. And the pathetic truth is, by focusing on that angle, the FTC people have neglected the soundest argument for ousting the pinnipeds, an argument that would give any free-thinking environmentalist a reason to reconsider.
It's the argument that states that the unnatural concentration of seals at Children's Pool is harmful to the ecosystem and a burden on other species in the area, specifically:
1. Smaller fish, which are now being predated upon by the seals at a much higher, man-manipulated rate.
2. Seal predators, namely white sharks, can't feed on the seals as easily because they have been unnaturally protected by the breakwater wall. And while seals are far more cuddly than sharks, it's sharks—which are being massacred for their fins—that need a stimulus-package bailout, not seals.
3. Small organisms, which live in and around the Children's Pool, are being destroyed by a high concentration of seal waste, the loss of which could be catastrophic to the health of the ecosystem.
And if none of this was convincing to the more stubborn seal-huggers of your group, you could also argue (if you would just get over that urge to jump up and down and repeatedly shout, “But the children, the children!”) is that, history has shown, when man interferes with and / or favors one animal species over others, it usually ends with an ecological meltdown, and the most devastated victims of the meltdown are almost always the animals we were trying to protect in the first place.
What I'm trying to say is, fuck the children! We've got some serious and complicated shit (pun intended) to consider here. For once, could we please make it about the science, the facts and the solutions instead of emotions and buzzwords? That's what's best for the children, in the end, after all.* Actually, I have no idea how many places to swim there are in San Diego, but I'm guessing a bunch.Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Come to the beer summit at www.edwindecker.com.