Tag Archives: George Orwell

The “Pig” of the Indian River Lagoon, SLR/IRL


Photo of sow along IRL, by John Whiticar, 2015.
Photo of happy, prancing, sow along IRL, by John Whiticar, 2015.
John Whiticar, sow looking forward, IRL 2015.
John Whiticar, sow looking forward, IRL 2015.
A beautiful photo of the sow enjoying the sunrise along the IRL. John Whiticar, 2015.
A beautiful photo of the sow enjoying the sunrise along the IRL. John Whiticar, 2015.

I have a soft spot for pigs, or any animal related to a “pig.” Pigs, you may remember, sat upright at the table in George Orwell’s classic novel ANIMAL FARM; they became like humans…

For me, pigs are part of my family history as my grandfather Henderson won a scholarship to the University of Florida for his famous 1926 pig “Charlotte.” This launched a very successful career for him as an agriculture man at the University of Florida.  My grandfather’s brother, my uncle, became a wealthy “pig-farmer” in Madison, Florida. I loved visiting there as a kid! The most fun ever! When my family arrived, Uncle Gordy would run out into the fields almost before saying “hello,” and bring back piglets for my brother, sister and I. They were adorable coming in all different colors and patterns. Their small noses scrunching, we were allowed to hold them, and later return the piglets to an irritated, snorting mother. At the time, I didn’t think much about their fate of “becoming bacon….”

My grandfather, Russell Henderson Sr. who became famous as a young man in the state of Florida for his breeding of the best pigs. He received a scholarship for his work and has a long career at UF in soil science and headed IFAS.
My grandfather, Russell Henderson Sr. at 17, in 1926, Madison, Florida. My grandfather became “famous” as a young man in the state of Florida for his breeding of the best pigs. He received a scholarship for his work and had a long career at UF in soil science and worked for the IFAS Extension Office in Gainesville.

As I got older, I realized that often pigs get a “bad wrap”as they are “dirty.” Again, just like humans….They are also very smart, just like humans too. I read somewhere that they are smarter than dogs. Maybe that’s why George Orwell chose them to take over Manor Farm.

Anyway, I have been wanting to write a post on pigs, or wild boars, (males) or sows, (females) since I recently saw marina owner and photographer John Whiticar’s photos of a wild sow he photographed along the Indian River Lagoon.

What great shots and thank you John for allowing me to share! I have seen sows with their piglets on Savanna Road in Jensen at night foraging.  I have also seen wild pigs more recently at Billy’s Swamp Safari in Big Cypress. Here a baby pig got separated from its mother and fellow piglets and it followed the mother’s scent very far zig-zagging perhaps a quart mile to find her. And he did! We followed and all clapped when the family was reunited.

“Wild pigs” were brought to Florida by the Spanish in the 1500s, and today they wreak destruction on the environment, just like humans. We have so much in common! It’s amazing! Seriously though, for me, they are one of God’s creatures, and should be treated humanely as all animals. Popular since the early days of Florida, they appear on many of my mother and father’s historic postcards below.

It you see a sow or a boar, know that you are staring Florida history right in the face, and that some might say that we are even “related.” Also remember, like George Orwell’s satire states, unfortunately: ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS…. 🙂

Historic post card, courtesy of Thurlow Collection.
Historic post card, courtesy of Thurlow Collection.
Postcard back 1914.
Postcard back 1914.
Another historic post card with a wild pig or sow. (Thurlow Collection)
Another historic post card with a wild pig. (Thurlow Collection)
Back of postcard reads 1912.
Back of postcard reads 1912.
Historic post card, Thurlow Collection.
Historic post card, wild boar, Thurlow Collection.


University of Florida. Hogs in Florida, Ecology and Management: (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw322I)

Animal Farm, a novel by George Orwell, 1946: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Farm)

The ACOE’s “Periodic Scientists Call” and the Indian River Lagoon

S-80, Connecting Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie Canal or C-44
S-80  connecting Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie Canal or C-44 controlled by the ACOE. (Photo JTL)

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell 

I used to think it was the Colonel of the Army Corp of Engineers who single handedly had control to open the gates at S-80 and S-308 to allow the waters  of Lake Okeechobee to flow into the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon. (http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/LakeOkeechobee.aspx)

But since February of last year,  I have gotten more insight.

As an elected official, I am allowed to sit in on the Army Corp of Engineers “Periodic Scientists Call” that occurs about once every two weeks.  Last year I was invited to sit in with Martin County and I have attend ever since.

No experience has helped me understand the south Florida water process as much as  consistently sitting in on these calls.

The call is a meeting of the scientific stakeholders to give their input to the ACOE before the Corp makes  its “guidance” for Lake Okeechobee, and usually the following Thursday, after, meeting with the SFWMD,  a “recommendation.”

As you can imagine,  the call is run by the US Army, so it  is very systematic and the language is filled with acronyms and science jargon. For the first six months, I was basically a silent  idiot listening to a foreign language. But slowly I have been catching on.

Thankfully some things are totally predicable. For instance, every call the first thing that is accomplished after reading the rules of the call, is that  the roll call is taken. I like to listen to who is there: ACOE? Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission? City of Sanibel? Ft Meyers? Martin County? St Lucie County? NOAA? Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection?  Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services? SFWMD? Broward County? Highlands County? Osceola County? Tribal Nations? Lee County? Ding Darling? Congressmen and other elected representatives? Members of the public? Other?

Then a leader from the ACOE  gives a short power point presentation that reviews rainfall; precipitation outlooks by the SFWMD and NOAA; Lake Okeechobee inflows and outflows;  operational band standing; SFWMD position analysis; Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS); and then finally a “guidance” for a “decision.”(http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Media/NewsReleases/tabid/6071/Tag/2128/lake-okeechobee-regulation-schedule.aspx)

Next, each stakeholder, one at a time, gives an update on their specialty and makes their case for their interest. Public members are then allowed to speak and and the again the ACOE leader goes through everyone one more time to see if if anyone has  new comments based on the other just shared.

The calls are scientific and unemotional. However, there times of tension and difficulty like last year when the ACOE began releasing to the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee on May 8th and continued steadily, then intensely, through September 21, 2013. This tension may start up again soon, as the lake is higher than they wish for this time of year and it has been a wet winter. The “decision” should become public today.

I have to say that after sitting in on all these calls, the Army Corp often holds back when the LORS chart, and maybe even the SFWMD, says to “release.” But in the end, the inevitable occurs.

Although I appreciative of the hard working men and women who run the ACOE, I do think the overall system fails to take into account the long term survival needs of the natural system which includes “us,” and favors the security of resources of the sugar industry and agriculture south of the lake.  It is easy to fall back on  “flood control” each time the lake rises, and dump east and west, but the system is more far reaching and has greater demands than just that. The water they are dumping, 1.7 billion gallons on average a day, is simply wasted due to an outdated system. (FOS, Mark Perry)

On a deeper level, the intertwined culture of the SFWMD, the ACOE and agriculture, especially the sugar industry, is one going back over 100  years. Their connection runs deep and is a cultural one, one that has allowed them to control water and politics for their own interests in South  Florida, past and present.

But times change and world views evolve. Personally, I am pushing for a future  a little less Orwellian, and a little more respectful, of our natural resources and Mother Nature.