The Death of Florida
“Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.” – Chief Seattle
We’re deep in the back-country, following a path that claims to be part of the Florida Trail, yet ends up looking more like a pig-run. We move at a quick pace, confident in our steps and slipping through trees like Seminoles. Light banter is broken up by prayers and applications of homebrew Psychic Vision oil.
The oil has an immediate effect, even more so on my companion: he’s on mushrooms.
“Comrade,” my fellow traveler calls out. “Give me a rattle.” I take the rattle emblazoned with snakes from my Conjure Bag and begin calling out to the spirits around us. The rhythm is impromptu but Justin’s prayers are not: he learned them from a Native Elder who claimed to have dreamed of his visit to the South West.
Our energetic bodies feel linked, bound by some invisible current. As we make our way through impressive and breathtaking Florida foliage, there is a perceptible strange hum in the air. It’s a feeling common to outdoor ritual, an “unlocking” sensation that feels as if the land itself realizes what you’re doing and wants to join in. Which is perfect: we’re no mere hikers. We are seekers of power, shaman and sorcerer communing with the land. On this trip we’re hunting down an abandoned cemetery lost amongst the jungle, unsure of just who might be waiting there or why.
Suddenly we stop.
The micro-climate has changed. We’ve now left the Pine Scrubs and stumbled into an awe-inspiring marshland fed by a moving stream. Golden sunlight bathes the plants and palms as mighty oaks rise like sentinels from the water. Moving water means no mosquitos so it feels as if you’ve been given a special view into territory not normally ceded to human footprints. I stop Justin from walking any further, words almost stuck in my throat.
“This is a sacred place,” I whisper, “do you mind if we pause here for a minute?”
“Sure.” He understands, he knows. His eyes say it all: he feels it too.
I take off my sandals and get my toes in the tiny ferns that take the place of grass. I go into some Healing Sounds Qui Gong, specifically the sound and movements for the liver. The exercise focuses on drawing up moisture into the body and cooling the blood, something this ecosystem specializes in. Justin does pillar exercises, his singing prayers now carried on a light wind that seems to greet us from nowhere. We finish and give thanks, tossing tobacco into the water.
In an untouched stretch of Florida we felt and communicated with numerous beings, places of power, and gateways to other realms that day; mere yards away from where weekend backpackers might tread were vortexes and sacred spaces more powerful then any held by rotting castles or stuffy lodges. Here in my backyard the forces of Spirit were so ever-present it felt as if they might rip through the very fabric of reality if you sneezed hard enough.
Such places are hallowed, numinous, naturally consecrated and living wonders of the world. They have made me, formed me, and are as much a part of my existence as the air I breathe and the organs in my body.
And all of them will be underwater in 100 years, along with my birthplace, my home, and everything I’ve known since I was a child.
The Beginning of The End
It’s a tough truth to swallow but one I suppose we Floridians are more ready to accept. Down here trees and natural landscapes are regularly torn to pieces to make way for profits, little else factoring into the equation.
You see Capitalism isn’t just raping Florida, it’s currently defiling its corpse. Just recently the Florida government dumped unknown quantities of septic sewage and factory farm run off into local estuaries resulting in a “killing zone” that took the lives of 46 dolphins, 111 manatees, 300 pelicans, and 47,000 acres of sea grass beds.
The official response? Gov. Rick Scott, a balding shithead that made millions off of poisonous pharmaceuticals, vetoed funding for a research project to study the extreme crisis at the lagoon, writing “not all projects demonstrate an ability to contribute to a statewide investment.”
Investments? Of course! Under capitalism everything has to make a profit, and pristine Florida ecosystems might hurt the State’s bottom line. We’ve seen how this line of thinking plays out in the real world: As noted in the picture above, Florida’s waterways that once were the primary appeal for hordes of sport fishers and sun-worshiping beach goers have become so polluted and destroyed as to require health warnings.
The Everglades, once THE largest and most robust wetlands in the world is a shadow of it’s former self. The Miccosukee, a First Nation’s people who dwell within The Everglades full-time, have seen the devastation first hand:
“The Everglades are dying,” Billie later told a half-dozen Florida members of Congress. “The tree islands are disappearing. We cannot grow corn. We cannot teach our young the traditional way of life. Now even the animals are disappearing.
“That’s part of my ancestors out there. When you see a big old tree dying, that’s grandfather dying. That’s grandmother dying. That’s part of me that’s dying out there.”
But what’s generations of Holy Dead buried in one spot, or even the preservation of endangered pine-rock forests that have stood for hundreds of years, to the absolutely necessary construction of Walmart’s, Chick-fil-A’s, Chili’s, and LA Fitness gyms?
“Over 225 types of native plants occur here and more than 20 percent of the plant species are found here and nowhere else in the world…
Based on the loss she sees, Martin thinks the statistic that just two percent of pine rockland forest remains in Florida might even be high. “Something needs to be done; otherwise, we have to accept that number is going to keep going down.”
“Your Realm is Lost, It Shall be Devoured By The Sea!”
With all this wanton, seemingly orgiastic carnage being replicated across Florida in the name of profits it’s only fitting that these same people will be forced to flee the land they’ve desecrated as rising sea levels(due to the works of profit-seekers elsewhere) will effectively sink the state.
“Here’s why researchers have focused in on South Florida. More than 2.4 million people live within 4 feet of the local high-tide line, and according to Climate Central, the risk of storm surge flooding will be far higher by 2030. That’s well within the time frame of many 30-year mortgages currently in place…
“Sooner or later, this city, as you see it right now, won’t be like this,” Henry Briceño, a water-quality researcher at Florida International University, told the Globe and Mail. “Miami and the whole of South Florida is not going to be like this any more. So we have to develop a way to plan and supply services in a changing scenario, and that’s not easy. And then, sooner or later, we’ll have to move. Most of the population will have to move.”
Florida mayors from Miami to Tampa have begged their Republican allies to take a stand on the literal existence of Florida only to face the same incredulous attitudes they’ve fed people like the Miccoukee for years:
“Rubio has said that the climate has always been changing and that he will not support policies to combat climate change that will “destroy our economy.” Billionaire businessman Donald Trump has called climate change a conspiracy invented by China, while Texas Senator Ted Cruz called climate science “pseudoscientific theory.”
It’d be comical if it wasn’t so real: the people that strangled the life out of an earthly paradise suddenly realize all their wealth is tied to the very ship they’ve worked so hard to sink and nobody is coming to rescue them.
Anybody that tells you this is a far off problem is fooling themselves: the projected sea level rise has been corrected, increasing in speed and height by 50% in a mere seven years. As the ice shelves go down and capitalist production only increases, whose to say how soon until every orange grove disappears beneath a watery grave? Rapid ice flow from Greenland or the Antarctic is an unknown factor. “That was clearly important — those two ice sheets alone hold enough water to raise sea level by 65 meters.” That’s the size of the Cinderella Castle at Disney Land.
“All those moments will be lost in time, like tears…in…rain.”
I suppose this is where some inspiring, upbeat message would go, some platitude about how we can fend of the inevitable.
I am not so naive.
My birthplace has been doomed, the silent law of cause-and-effect slowly but surely feeding the sea everything I loved just as much as everything I hated. The mangroves slowly disappear and sand hill cranes fly away never to return; orange trees will peak out of the top of cresting waves; the pollution and filth will be washed away, just as crumbling buildings fall like exhausted soldiers into Yemaya’s loving embrace.
So many memories, so many places, lost forever: the rough and dirty city I was born in, my fathers’ house rebuilt and cared for so lovingly after the devastation of Hurricane Francis, the forest where I took my first sweat lodge, the swamp lands and pine trees I whispered to in the dark and who answered with strange and secret things. The manatees, the gopher tortoises, will they too vanish? Even the lizards I chased as a young boy, will I have only recollections to show for it?
The page has turned and the soil my bones crawled from will return to the water that birthed them, taking with them all the Spirits I grew up with and loved. My holy places will be lost forever. I will become a man without a country and it is my species that’s done it. A piece of me will die with this peninsula.
And as I bitterly stare out across the new beaches from within a Climate Refuge Camp, wizened eyes heavy with tears, perhaps my grandchildren will ask for stories of the “Old Days” before everything disappeared, when we could visit my families graves instead of sailing over where we believe they once were. Maybe they’ll ask about the “Cocaine Cowboys” that built a city with blood and powder, the Keys that were living testaments to the weird and individual, or even that Holy City that was once the oldest European settlement on the continent. Perhaps I tell them about Zora Neale Hurston’s Eatonville, how good the frog-legs were in Fellsmere, or how there once was a cape where humanity slipped loose the shackles of the mundane and followed their dreams into the stars.
They will only be tales, ghosts set in song and cast adrift against the sound of the breaking shore. They’ll never know what I know, never see or love the land I once did. A heritage will be gone, lost forever, a sunken monument to the hubris of man. In reality I’ll have only the words of Black Elk to offer them, reverberated through time:
“A people’s dream died out there. A dream and country that gave as much as it could and was ultimately killed for it. It was a beautiful dream…
And we destroyed it.”
(This article is dedicated to my Father, a true Floridian)
Dr. Bones is an 9 year practitioner of the Southern occult tradition known as Conjure, Rootwork, and Hoodoo. A skilled card-reader and Spiritworker, Dr. Bones has undertaken all aspects of the work, both benevolent and malefic. Politically he holds the Anarchist line that “Individuality can only flourish where equality of access to the conditions of existence is the social reality. This equality of access is Communism.” He resides in the insane State of Florida with his loving wife, a herd of cats, and a house full of spirits. He writes for Gods & Radicals, Disinfo, The Fifth Column News, and can be reached through his facebook page.
Dr. Bones is one of the writers who will be featured in our next issue of A Beautiful Resistance. For pre-order, subscription, or underwriting information, click here.