A couple of months back I was walking one of our glorious beaches on a cool Saturday morning when people dressed in black started showing up by the dozens.
There were a few hundred of them, old folks, little kids and everyone in between, gathering by the water. Strangers took each other's hands to make a paper-doll line of people. The effect was not subtle: Across the clean white sand, they were the color of an oil spill.
As waves rolled and gulls squawked, some of the protesters said over and over: "Not here, not now, not ever," a quiet counterattack to the mindless "Drill, baby, drill." They were a remarkable sight, a human chain across a beautiful beach, a scene repeated that day on shorelines around the state.
It's one of the best things we have, protesters were saying, and we won't get it back. Don't sacrifice our Florida for a drop in the bucket.
But up in Tallahassee, legislators were pushing — again — to allow drilling in state waters. Earlier this month it was tabled. At least until next year.
And more trouble, further out: President Barack Obama announced a shortsighted and sweeping plan that would, among other things, kill a ban on oil drilling off Florida's west coast — a political poker chip in his bigger push on the energy bill.
Given all this, could anyone have asked for a better — or worse — object lesson than the disaster currently playing out in the gulf?
And how ironic, if a catastrophe gets across what protesters and environmentalists and just regular people who care enough to save this state could not.
The story isn't new: An oil rig, this one called the Deepwater Horizon about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, exploded and later sank. Forty-two thousand gallons of oil were gushing into the gulf daily as workers desperately tried to stop the flow. Out there are miles and miles and miles of oil.
As the story played out, the headline in Tuesday's Times seemed almost inevitable:
Gulf oil spill could threaten Florida.
This is bad news we need to keep from repeating.
We dippy tree huggers were told not to worry, that improved technology and tighter regulation would limit the potential for this kind of thing to happen. The rig that blew was considered one of the more advanced.
But even that doesn't matter when you consider the damage that one good hurricane — and they have been known to make their way into the gulf now and again — can do to oil drilling operations.
So here's the pitch, as we watch and wait and hope for the best in the current crisis: Drilling in the gulf will not do enough to render us energy independent, which makes it not worth the risk of devastating the best things about our state. It will not even make us feel appreciably better at the gas pump.
And if protecting our pristine beaches isn't enough, remember those critical tourist dollars those beaches bring in.
And if a 125-mile buffer seems adequate to you, check the map on how far away from us that spill is as all that oil seeps out.
Imagine our beaches fouled, our marine life threatened. Then again, we may not have to imagine.
Drill, baby, drill?
Here's a better one.
Not here, not now, not ever.