It started as everything in the US does- with a post on social media. A post that quickly gained the followers and opposers. A post that could have been a joke taken too seriously and photoshop done a little too well. Maybe it was real- I don't know, and frankly, none of it matters any longer. My two cents- had I the ability to go back in time and completely obliterate that post from existence- I would do so in a heartbeat.
"LET'S RECLAIM OUR BEACHES! HOW LONG WILL WE NEED TO ENDURE THIS?"
"Ha, now the picture; tagging: FLORIDA" She sits back in the chair, slamming the table with her dry palm. She has never been to Florida, has never even seen a live shark, but who is to know? Such amazing photoshop and social media hysteria will cloak the truth and hopefully five minutes of fame will promote her channel. "DING" "Ooh my first comment!?"
"OMG GIRL! Just last week we were walking down the beach and saw the shark warning! So done!"
DING "LOL! Glad to know I'm not the only one with irrational fear of sharks!" -20 Laughs 1 Heart 1 Crying face
DING "Irrational? I can't bring myself to try surfing because God created these monsters! Lol I wish they just disappeared" -40 Likes -20 Applause
DING "Hey, the voice of reason here- if sharks disappeared the fish population would explode and pollute the oceans" -1 Heart 1 Laugh 2 Likes
DING "more for us!" -10 Likes
DING "Ummm, Sara tell me this puppy is ok!!? otherwise I will personally find the shark responsible and strangle it LOL" -14 Likes
"Oh my goooooosh, two hundred comments! Who are these people? Twenty direct messages? Let's look!"
"Dude, your post is idiotic, do your research"
"Whateva" She opens a different message
"Hey, I'm in Miami and we totally support your idea- " "What idea?" "-Last night we gathered a group of enthusiasts and kinda went fishing. Went rogue LOL" "Oh my god is that a shark? I'm gonna be sick" She stares at the picture of bloody shark added to the message. A small creature, lying on it's side, round wide eye reflecting the camera flash.
"Oh my god.. there are more"
The TV is blaring. She sips her coffee, watching the morning report with content.
"..Several volunteer groups have formed over the past few days to ERADICATE the "menace of the ocean" as they call it. Rumored to be inspired by a social media post they call them selves the "Ocean Cleaners". Here is what they have to say.."
"Oh my gaawd... I'm famous!!!"
"Yeah, I'll give the interview but after 2pm, because Channel5 invited me over for a segment"
The police is stationed outside her house. Last night somebody threw the red paint on her door and spray-painted threats on her sidewalk. Is this what fame is? It doesn't feel right..
Channel5 studio is pretty spacious. A nervous woman is powdering Sara's face. The chair squeaks. Camera, countdown, the news jingle..
"Ms. Wallen, your post has gained you quite the notoriety, how do you feel about that?"
"Quite good, I.."
"Many ocean conservation organizations are urging people to abandon rash actions warning of irreparable damage to the ecosystem of the oceans, do you have anything to say to them?"
"I.. I'm not a marine biologist.."
"BUT! This is America and if people will feel safer swimming in the oceans by killing off a few sharks, then it's their God-given right!" She stands up and raises her fist in the air.
"Ms. Wallen, did you know that you have supporters in Emirates as well? Several Tour Agencies started Shark-fishing tours?"
"I guess that's good? They can support the economy this way.. Sell shark meat and stuff.." She doesn't sound so sure and is a little aggravated that that the interview questions weren't discussed in advance.
She is watching the news at her mom's house. "..Civil clashes are leading to public unrest in several areas, The coast guard is patrolling the waters.."
"Sara, just take the post down" Her mother is tense.
"I'm not gonna do that! Pff.. It has a life of it's own now. This- " she waves at the tv "This will subside tomorrow." She changes the channel and the anchor's voice announces:
"The coast of North Carolina is under a threat of losing the scallop population due to overfishing of the sharks.."
"Whatever" she clicks again
"..Keep ecosystem in balance. If you're in Palau, killing a shark will cost you two million U.S. Dollars.."
"Thank God, we're not in Palau, right, Ma?" She turns back for support, but the room is empty.
A year has gone by. A wondrous year for those who were held back from surfing, a magical year for those who dreamt of trying shark fin soup. An exciting year for thrill-seekers and hunters, who turned to fishing. Jaws of Great whites were hanging in many coastal homes, small leopard sharks were taxidermized and sold in souvenir shops for a few dollars. The world has finally sighed with relief. A successful year of popularity for Sara Everyone except the restless Ocean Conservation Organizations were thrilled.
The scallops were the first ones to disappear. Eager stingrays devoured them and populated the coasts. After a short debate their population too needed to be curbed. Algae spread and coated the coastal beaches, which at first was considered to be utilized in spirulina production. Unfortunately, it was spreading much faster than anyone could decide what to do about it. And then the poisonous kind grew, causing massive die-offs of shellfish, turtles, fish, seabirds, and seals that consumed it. Some carcasses washed ashore, some floated, decaying and bloated on the surface. Before the coral reefs started feeling the full affect of shark absence, something in Sara woke up.
One day, idly flipping through a pop magazine with her own face on the cover she received a phone call. A low, pleasant voice addressed her:
"Ms. Wallen? My name is David, I work for "Predators in Distress"." Sara listened. Either bored of fame or tired of threats, she didn't interrupt the man. "Would you like to meet for coffee?"
It took twenty years. Twenty long tumultuous years. Surprisingly, several American rappers, who owned multiple sharks stepped in, providing their money and animals for repopulation. Aside from the world wide conservation organizations, actors and singers have become the biggest lobbyist for sharks and synthetic meat production. All the money gained by fame Sara multiplied announcing her fight for the shark population, and invested into shark conservation and repopulation fund, helping scientists discover a way to repopulate several species. The damage was done and still is being done. There is still so much to repair, so much to educate about. Luckily the fame is a double edged sword and when Sara lost half the followers she gained twice as many supporters. The influx of volunteers has helped with the labor and education. The world is getting better, we need to be vocal about the right things and dream the right wishes.
My name is Sara Wallen and if I could go back in time and bring awareness to the cause instead of seeding hysteria- I would do so much sooner.