Monday, July 27, 2015

The infection in Bruce Osborn’s leg and the myth of the eternal return ... by gimleteye

Barbara and Bruce Osborn are a couple living in Stuart, Florida; that much I know from their Facebook page. Also, they are activists involved in the community effort to protect the Indian River from pollution. The state of Florida has left them and the river they treasure, defenseless.

Over the weekend, Barbara posted news that after an ordinary weekend outing on the Indian River, her husband’s leg became infected with a dangerous bacterial infection associated with pollution. Pollution they have been striving to stop. Just because they went swimming in a river they loved.
Why is this story important? First of all, my heart goes out to the Osborns and any family that has endured the anxiety and consequences of being victimized by a bacterial infection that would never have occurred in the first place if our elected officials did their job; protecting the rights of people over the rights of corporate polluters. This is a familiar story in Florida, the Sunshine State, where shielding polluters from accountability is the highest and best use of elections.

About a decade ago, my youngest son was surfing in a remote and inaccessible part of Costa Rica during rainy season. On a phone call, he made light of an infection in his knee that followed the progress of a staph infection. With the help of a Miami physician and then Tico locals, I moved heaven and earth to get him medication that was unavailable in Costa Rica. Unlike some infections reported from exposure to Florida’s toxic waters, my son probably doesn’t even remember his encounter. I will never forget it.

Although I have this connection to the Osborn’s frightful story (and hope for Bruce's quick recovery), and in addition to shared anger at Florida legislators who refuse to solve the crisis of Lake Okeechobee and the Indian River in Florida — there is more to my interest.

The capriciousness of nature is woven through the threat of climate change to alter civilization. I am on the look out for the small story that represents the whole. Preventable disease, if only we protected our environment, is one of those stories.

It turns out these stories have any even deeper connection to our shared and common past.

Long before Christianity or any other religions we identify by name, our ancestors worshipped what the writer Mircea Eliade called, the myth of the eternal return. In the study of comparative religions, Eliade discovered traces of ancient beliefs and cultures revolving around common fears of uncertainty, of disease and crop failures, and of generations that burned brightly, burned out and then returned thanks to the power of nature to regenerate, not only to destroy. He called the phenomenon, the myth of the eternal return, and it echoes through all our named religions. In this way, we are connected to pre-history tens of thousands of years before Christ.

In only six decades that frame my own life, I have observed the destruction of parts of nature; Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island where I was raised, Florida Bay where I experienced, in my youth, the glories of a diverse, shallow water wilderness, of sea grass meadows vibrant with fish and birds as far as the eye could see.

I witnessed something else: how a generation younger than mine failed to keep the flame of indignation burning, once the older generation of observers burned out.

It happened in Rhode Island, where the last generation of bay men and families connected by history to Native Americans who sustainably populated the land and rivers, dissolved. It happened in Florida Bay, where fishermen woven from the same cloth as their brethren in New England, disdained government, treasured independence, and lost what they valued; what nature offered freely.

The same will happen in the Indian River, unless river activists successfully mobilize in ways that keep the fire burning longer than it did in South Florida and the Florida Keys.

It is human nature, perhaps, that unless one has experienced directly the value of something, one doesn’t know what was lost. The promise that this is not universally the case depends on education and understanding of those stories that connect us, as Eliade observed.

What is most upsetting about the loss of estuaries and ecosystems elsewhere within just a few decades and the span of just a few generations is that these will not return.

When our waters become so toxic that swimming becomes an existential threat, there must be a majority of people willing to overturn the threats.

The ancients understood perfectly well that our hubris, or denial, can conquer us. They did imagine a time when civilizations could be ruined by a leader’s single decision. What gave people hope — long before the written record even existed — was the belief that nature can provide the conditions that return economic security and safety to people.

With Narragansett Bay, Florida Bay, with the Indian River and the Caloosahatchee in Florida, with Lake Okeechobee and the springs of North Florida; all these places have lost protections under a government and elected officials who nonetheless professed and pledged their oath to protect under the state constitution.

The infection in Bruce Osborn’s knee is our problem today. If we don’t take care of today’s infections, they will spread like wildfire and not just any wildfire; they will end nature and the myth of the eternal return.


Anonymous said...

You write like a sage. You zero in on the problem of apathy's results impacting us individually and as a whole. Terribly sad.

Geniusofdespair said...

That is one ugly sore. They just had a TV special that there are bacteria strains resisting all drugs and the drug companies don't think it is profitable to produce new antibiotics. C Diff comes to mind. I think they said Fleming warned this would happen. We are there. And it is not just in the hospital anymore. It is on the bottom of 39% of shoes according to the University of Houston (but do we really believe ANYONE from Texas). Maybe zombie shows will become documentaries someday as we poison ourselves...

Yes sometimes switching channels I happen upon an educational show.

Anonymous said...

As we all know matter can be neither created nor destroyed, only changed in form. I empathize with your eulogy for our childhood ecosystems of the 50s and how they have changed with time and neglect.. However just like the 1st law of thermodynamics, realize these systems will always exist in some form in some time and place, just no longer here and now.. (a blatant example: while our Florida beach sand erodes it is carried North.. the homeowners on Sunset Beach North Carolina are furious their 1960's ocean front beach homes are now land locked behind hundreds of feet of goverment protected sands dunes which continually build up each season along the NC coast.

IMO it is not our job to save this snapshot geologic history like it is the end-all-be-all dynamic. We only past through this world in a heartbeat on the scale of the millennia and it is to those who follow to decide how they wish to interact to the ever changing sands of time.

But hey, your ranks take me back to the good old days, both entertaining and informative

Anonymous said...

it is not our job to save this snapshot geologic history...

Is it our job to leave poisons that kill our own kind? It's not the Earth that we need to save, it's humans. Earth will survive. Odd species that can overcome the poisons will evolve. Our children's children will not be so resilient.

cyndi said...

That was beautiful and heartbreaking knowing the Narragansett Bay, Bruce and of course our Indian River Lagoon. Bruce is the salt of earth btw and and was our Mista Big Sugar at one of our protests. He was fabulous.
This weekend my grandson comes to visit and instead of bringing him down to the little beach at the bottom of the hill at Indian Riverside Park where when I bought my house was the perfect spot for kids to go play in the sand and by the waters edge. I'm taking him to splash park where at least I know there is no staph infections. My kyack sits in the backyard. I wouldn't even dare bring him down there and take him for a spin.

cyndi said...

PS If you have not seen the documentary the corporation. its online for free. Its great. At about 1:49 it talks about Bolivia and its water issues but the whole thing is worth the two hours and change to watch.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly why Citizens for Clean Water exists! We are the younger generation and we are all about refreshing the minds and experiences of the people who are living it...

HBernstein said...

while the total collapse of ecosystems may be a truly existential threat,even the beautiful places that we care so deeply about are tattered remnants of what once was 100, 200, 500, 5000 years ago. The accounts of Florida's past marine fecundity, for example, remind us that we live in an ecologically impoverished world. We lack the memories to chart the losses, as more slip away in our lifetimes.

Our grandchildren won't know or understand any of this.

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Adam Locke said...

A 65-year-old Port St. Lucie man died Monday, two days after being stuck by a fish fin while fishing in the Indian River Lagoon.

David John Trudell died from a blood infection as a result of a bacteria that entered his body because of the fin prick, said Treasure Coast medical examiner Dr. Roger Mittleman.

The type of bacteria could not be determined, Mittleman said.


Mittleman did not perform an autopsy on Trudell but said he consulted with Dr. Wagdy B. Tadros, who signed the death certificate.

Trudell was declared dead at 1:53 p.m. Monday at Tradition Medical Center, Mittleman said.

Chad Trudell of Port St. Lucie, a son of the deceased, said his father had been fishing about noon July 18 in the lagoon near Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute north of Fort Pierce when a fish pricked him in the foot.