Cinnamon Toast and the Indian River Lagoon

The Ship and the Oak Tree
The Ship and the Oak Tree (Photo JTL)

In the late 1960s, one of the best things about Christmas, was that old Christmas trees reinforced our fort under the old oak tree, we pretended was a ship, along the St Lucie River.  I remember going to my neighbors, the Schramm’s house, with all their brothers and sisters, to have cinnamon sugar toast for breakfast around this time of year.

Mrs Schramm’s cinnamon toast was like nothing I had ever had: butter, sugar and cinnamon on Wonder Bread toast. Delicious! Little did I know, that one day I would be criticizing  the sugar industry for not doing enough to help us save the Indian River Lagoon.

Recently, I have been reading the book, Raising Cane in the Glades,  The Global Sugar Trade and the Transformation of Florida, by Florida International University professor, Gail M. Hollander. http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/R/bo5704198.html

The book is credited as the first “to study the environmental transformation of the Everglades within the economic and historical geography of global sugar production and trade.” It is an “environmental history,” a discipline that is becoming more studied and written about: how we as humans effect change in our environment.

The book’s history is amazing and so far the story that has hit me the most is one about Mr Bohr Dahlberg who in the late 1920s owned Southern Sugar Company  before it went into “receivership” and was purchased by Stewart Mott who created the United States Sugar Corporation. http://www.ussugar.com/downloads/ussc-history.pdf

Although Mr Dahlberg’s  company went broke by 1928, the year of the great hurricane, he managed to break the Democratic hold on the “South” and form relationships with Republicans across the country for the benefit of the sugar industry in South Florida by supporting the successful presidential campaign of Herbert Hoover. Mr Hoover was a man who came to the support of those who had supported him, and it is he who authorized the building of the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, to protect the sugar industry’s lands and the labor. The dike was completed in 1933 and changed forever the fate of the Everglades, the St Lucie River, and the Caloosahatchee River.

The politics of this book will make your jaw drop. Expressions such as: structure of the world system, national and global importance for presidents, national interest and world unrest, supposed and real issues of national security, using drainage and navigation to nationally fund the Okeechobee Flood District, the Army Corp of Engineers, the  Cross State Canal that opened up the major draining of Lake Okeechobee into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

All of this happened thirty years before I ate that cinnamon toast at the Schramms; there are fifty more years of politics that have come into play since then!  The whole thing is rather daunting, but whether a kid, or a 50 year old today, I think the Sugar Industry owes the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon something, after all we take their drainage and I ate all that toast as a kid.

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