Today would have been the 80th birthday of Richard Brautigan.
There were entire decades during which I read and re-read the complete Brautigan canon every single year. After Dylan Thomas, Richard Brautigan was my most important influence. He was especially valuable to me in giving inspiration and value to my flash fictions and poems.
I read and re-read the koans that are the stories in “Trout Fishing In America“, the utter tripiness of “In Watermelon Sugar,” the essential genre pastiches such as “The Hawkline Monster,” “Sombrero Fallout,” and “Dreaming of Babylon“, the straightforward vulnerability of “The Abortion.” And the poetry. Every year I read them, for decades.
I just finished “Trout Fishing” and “In Watermelon Sugar” for the first time in a long time, and I may go back to reading Brautugan every year again.
The following articles regarding human impact on the planet caught my attention this week:
According to a well supported report pollution is now the leading cause of death in developing countries.
In 2012, pollution – in the form of contaminated soil, water, and both indoor and outdoor air – was responsible for 8.4 million deaths in developing countries, finds Pollution: The Silent Killer of Millions in Poor Countries. That’s almost three times more deaths than those caused by malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined: Malaria claimed 600,000 lives in 2012, HIV/AIDS caused 1.5 million deaths and tuberculosis killed 900,000 individuals.
Why should we in the developed world worry (other than for humanity’s sake)? Because…
… polluted air from newly-industrialized countries can blow into your hometown; mercury from mining and coal plants can find its way into the fish you’re having for dinner; and arsenic and other toxins may show up in the rice and other food in your pantry.
Similar poisons are already working their way into our children’s health in the form of pesticides:
A commonly used pesticide may alter the development of the brain’s dopamine system — responsible for emotional expression and cognitive function – and increase the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, according to a new Rutgers study … Using data from the Centers for Disease Control, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) the study analyzed health care questionnaires and urine samples of 2,123 children and adolescents. Researchers asked parents whether a physician had ever diagnosed their child with ADHD and cross-referenced each child’s prescription drug history to determine if any of the most common ADHD medications had been prescribed. Children with higher pyrethroid pesticide metabolite levels in their urine were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
Finally this week, dams on the Missouri River are killing off the sturgeon. The dams apparently cause dead zones where the oxygen levels are too low to support the survival of young sturgeon.
“Pallid sturgeon come from a genetic line that has lived on this planet for tens of millions of years; yet it has been decades since anyone has documented any of the enormous fish successfully producing young that survive to adulthood in the upper Missouri River basin … “This research shows that the transition zone between the freely flowing river and reservoirs is an ecological sink – a dead zone – for pallid sturgeon,” [Professor Christopher] Guy said. “Essentially, hatched sturgeon embryos die in the oxygen-depleted sediments in the transition zones.”
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