• Ed Flattau

A Happy Medium

The ancient Greeks were a pretty astute bunch, and a mainstay of their wisdom was the “Golden Mean”, a venerable precursor to the modern day “happy medium”.

A Golden Mean is just as indispensable now as it was in ancient times, given its purpose to circumvent the irreconcilable extremes that produce gridlock. Normally, the Golden Mean is the product of compromise, and as such, is the essence of democracy. Peace, prosperity and, indeed, salvation are to evolve from a meeting of the minds by all sides through a fair give-and-take. Each side in the past usually has had enough redemptive points of contention to at least foster negotiation.

Sadly, the Golden Mean is currently out of fashion because our society and political divisions have become so polarized.

A textbook case of this gridlock involves the use of sunscreen that leaches off the bodies of swimmers exploring the coral reefs off the coast of the South Florida community of Key West. It turns out that some of the most popular sunscreens are toxic to coral reefs. Reefs in general shelter the most biologically productive ecosystems on the planet and specifically are a tourist-magnet for Key West.

Some of these protective lotions against skin cancer upon contact with the corals weaken those creatures’ immune system, making them susceptible to climate change and disease, culminating in fatal bleaching. Reproductive rates of marine life residing in the reefs are lowered.

Key West officials in response enacted a ban on harmful sunscreens to take effect in 2021.

Prompted by medical concerns, a Florida State Legislator, in turn, moved to prohibit the cancellation of sunscreens by Key West authorities.

Environmentalists in effect were pitted against dermatologists. Surely a middle ground could be reached between two such worthy vocations.

How about limiting the sale of sunscreens to only the most benign formulations? A zinc oxide compound is 100 percent certified natural in the marine environment and certified 94 percent organic to boot. The CVS drugstore chain has already taken the cue and removed the most ecologically lethal sunscreens from its shelves.

There is even a more foolproof version of a Golden Mean for this controversy. Reef visitors can wear hats, long sleeve shirts, sunglasses, and other protective garb while seeking shade at every opportunity in lieu of applying lotion.

Sunscreen is not coral reefs’ only problem by any stretch, but every bit helps, courtesy of the Golden Mean.


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