Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Fountains of Youth Tarot: Card 0, The Fool—Ponce de Leon

Anybody who would go exploring in Florida dressed like that has got to have a strong foolish streak! But in the tarot, you have to do more than dress funny to get labeled as The Fool.

Despite the nicer and more optimistic portrayals of this card that are often in vogue in New Age circles, The Fool is not about starting off on a new journey or simply being oblivious to your surroundings (although a certain degree of cluelessness is a trademark of this card). No, when The Fool shows up, it’s because somebody is being a jerk or an a**hole, according to my first tarot teacher. The Fool doesn’t even get a numbered card—he’s a zero! If you’re using the tarot as a predictive tool, this card represents foolish ventures. In the reversed or upside-down position, the card indicates someone who is being consciously stupid—throwing caution, and possibly sanity, to the winds.

If you are wise, you don’t dance on the edge of a mountain—as The Fool is classically portrayed—or go looking for magical fountains of youth based on local gossip, which is what legend tells us Ponce de Leon was doing when he landed on Florida’s shores in 1513. But that legend isn’t true.

What Ponce was really looking for was gold and a way to salvage his reputation after being ousted by Christopher Columbus’s son from his post as governor of Puerto Rico. The myth about searching for fountains of youth was tacked on to Ponce de Leon’s biography after the explorer’s death, but the myth stuck and continues to percolate in our collective memory, so much so that Florida’s fountains of youth have provided a pervasive inspiration for artists, writers, and creative types for hundreds of years.

I chose Ponce as The Fool not because his exploration of Florida is steeped in myth, but because he represents what I think is the true foolishness of human existence that will haunt us until we finally give it up—the idea that we humans can control Mother Nature, that She exists only to serve our needs, and that continuing to do business in Florida the way we have for 500 years will never come back to bite us in the butt. That idea, what one friend calls the Myth of the Extractive Economy, is the hallmark not only of Ponce de Leon’s foolishness, but also of our own.

We see this foolishness everywhere—in the elevation of big business and big agriculture to objects of worship by our elected officials, in their continued calls for growth at any cost, and perhaps most of all in the nonstop issuance of water permits by the boards of our water management districts, even as our lakes and springs dry up, algae blooms, and the magnificent Floridan Aquifer shrinks beneath our feet.

The tarot has been described as The Fool’s Journey. Shall we see where this journey leads, here in the land of the Fountains of Youth?

My photo of the statue of Ponce de Leon, above, was taken at the Fountain of Youth attraction in St. Augustine, Florida.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Seven chakras
Seven wonders of the world
Seven pillars of wisdom
Seven naked-eye planets
Seven Sisters (Pleiades)
Seven seas
Seven cities of Cibola
Seven deadly sins
Seven seals
Seven churches
Seven bowls
Seven trumpets
Seven tribes
7 x 7 = 49, the number of days in the bardo between death and rebirth in Tibetan Buddhism
Seven colors
Seventh son of the seventh son (the psychic/healer)
Seven ages of man
Seven days of creation
Seven hills of Rome
Seven lucky gods (Japanese)
Seven sages
Seven-year itch
The Magnificent Seven
Seven dwarves
Seven Against Thebes
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Seven Bridges Road
Seven Samurai
Seven Voyages of Sinbad
Seven-Mile Bridge
Seventh heaven
Seven horcruxes
At our house: Seven yellow feral cats.
In math, does it take seven points to plot a spiral? (I don’t know, I’m guessing)

Seven springs that should be saved: Ichetucknee, Juniper, Manatee, Rainbow, Silver, Wakulla, Wekiva

Clear Springs: Marketing and Loss

This morning I blended a banana, a tablespoon of peanut butter, some strawberries, some blueberries, and a cup of soymilk for a breakfast smoothie. I was rinsing the blueberries at the kitchen sink when I noticed the label on the package: Clear Springs Blueberries out of Bartow, Florida. The graphic shows an exuberant tree and the sun rising over a clear blue stream that flows through the landscape. Nice image, I thought, that conveys clean growing conditions and a healthy product (and my smoothie tasted great!).

Then I started thinking about the many ways that Florida businesses, as well as state agencies like Visit Florida, use the idea of “clear springs” in their marketing efforts. How many developments and shopping centers are named for a river or a spring? How many food products? How many ads throughout the United States and the world tout our pristine waters? Surely the fact that we have the largest number of freshwater springs in the world has been a boon to marketers of all things Florida, dating back to shortly after Ponce de Leon’s landing in 1513—when the myth of the Florida’s fountains of youth took hold in the world’s collective imagination.

Speaking of 1513 and the fountains of youth, next year—2013—is the 500th anniversary of Ponce’s landing, years before the Jamestown colony in Virginia and the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. You can bet your orange blossoms that businesses throughout the State of Florida are going to play up that “fountain of youth” theme all year long.

Florida’s businesses and tourism boards would be crazy not to use our fountains of youth in their advertising, except for the small, troubling fact that most of our fountains—our crystal springs of myth and marketing—may be gone by then.

Freshwater springs used to dot the landscape of the whole state. All the springs in South Florida are now gone; there are thousands if not millions of people who call Florida home who have never seen a spring. Many of the over 900 springs in North Florida are dead or dying at an alarming rate, victims of increased water use and aquifer depletion that correspond to population growth as well as consumptive use permits that are handed out by our water management districts (WMDs) to everyone who wants our water. Our WMDs (weapons of mass destruction?) seem to have no regard for the amount of water that needs to remain in natural systems in order for those systems—and, by extension, the drinking water for most of North Florida’s population—to survive.

This list of dead and dying springs—dead to flow or dying by pollution—is by no means complete: Fenholloway, Hampton, Kissingen, White, Worthington, Marion Blue, Hornsby, Royal, Convict, Suwannee, Buzzard, Sulphur, Health, Gemini, Green, Rock, Pitt, Hunter, Blue Hole, Volusia Blue, Bronson Blue, Rainbow River, Fanning. I’m certain there are more names that could be added.

To add insult to injury, there is now a consumptive use permit pending at the St. Johns River Water Management District for a cattle ranch and slaughterhouse, Adena Springs Ranch (note the “springs” in the title), that would draw as much water as the City of Ocala from the springshed of Silver Springs while adding tons of cow manure, a primary source of nitrates that cause the algae blooms and pollution that is killing our springs. Adena “Springs” Ranch is being sold to Ocala and Marion County as an economic boon that would create about 100 jobs. Yet a 2004 Florida Department of Environmental Protection study showed that Silver Springs, Florida’s original and still premier tourist attraction, is responsible for over 1,060 jobs and over $61 million in annual economic benefits.*

And there are people who think that if the consumptive use permit for Adena Springs Ranch is granted, that will sound the death knell for Silver Springs.

If and when the Adena Springs Ranch permit is issued and Silver Springs is lost, Ocala stands to lose 900 jobs and over $61 million. This tradeoff makes absolutely no sense to anyone but the owner of Adena Springs Ranch—but such are the consequences of a permitting process that fails to take into account the costs of bad decisions about our water. (Case in point: the Everglades, with restoration costs now in the billions of dollars.)

An even more curious thing about Adena Springs Ranch is that site preparation is already underway
before the consumptive use permit for water has been issued! I can only shake my head and file this information away under “things that make me go ‘hmmmmm…’.”

The Florida Constitution, Article II, Section 7(a), reads: “It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for the conservation and protection of natural resources.”

It’s clear to me that the State of Florida is not fulfilling its constitutional obligation to our natural resources. I think it’s past time for us to raise a little hell.

Don’t wait to act until no water flows from your tap. Here are some things you can do right now.

Visit the website of Audubon of Florida, where you can send a message to our governor and the members of the St. Johns River WMD that you want Silver Springs to be saved.

Join and get involved with your local springs working group or springs friends group. Educate yourselves about what is going on with our water. Read Mirage and Blue Revolution by Cynthia Barnett; your local library probably has these books. Use less water and demand the same from agriculture and industry.

Talk to your friends, family members, co-workers, and church groups; get other people involved. Find businesses and agencies that use clean water in their marketing, and ask them to speak out for Florida’s waters. Be persistent; why should businesses stay silent while the very things they use to tout themselves are lost? Visit your local legislators and let them know you care about our water and are troubled to see our springs being lost, because if they don’t hear from you, they assume you’re okay with the status quo. We need a massive public outcry to turn this situation around. Remember that our springs can’t speak; we have to speak for them.

And finally—pray, because we need a miracle.

*Information from Dr. Robert Knight of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute.