July/August 2013 home page

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Mother Rules
Bruce Bekkar, MD | Spinnaker Court | Sustainability Advisory Board Member


The waiting room was full. All manner of elderly were there - the frail, the robust, the wheelchair-bound, even the yoga-clad. Each was accompanied by one of their own no longer young children, wearing a practiced look of concern learned from the very ones they brought that day. An unmistakable air of hope inflated the space, charged the air with anticipation.

One such patient, stiff from waiting hours, was wheeled in to see the doctor. The examination room was sparse, the staff nearly non-existent; the doctor rushed in: “Are you here for The Treatment?” he asked. Rumor had spread that the “medicine” made everyone feel shiny and new, right away. Ella and her son nodded eagerly in unison.

“Well then, I suppose we can dispense with those silly forms and regulations, just get to it!” With that, he pricked her dangling skin just above the elbow and injected a volume of cloudy liquid.

Ella’s eyes swelled briefly as she shared a cautious smile with her son. After a beat, the doctor spoke: “Just so you know: this treatment isn’t fully understood. We don’t know quite what it will do. We just know it’s very powerful, that it will affect each of your organs in a big way, and also permanently change how they interact with each other. The effects are already beginning in you now. Oh - one more thing - we can’t reverse it and there is no cure for its effects. Good luck!” With that, he was gone.

How many of us would bring a loved one in for this “treatment”? As you shake your head, realize that most of us are complacent about a similar experiment going on - not just within our bodies, but involving the balance of Nature itself. We just rocketed past 400ppm of CO2 in our atmosphere; the injection has begun - as well as the effects around the world: record-breaking heat waves and droughts, huge fires, vicious tornadoes. Katrina and Sandy are not likely to be the last violent fevers we must endure.

If we believe in “science,” and as a physician for more than twenty years, I certainly think we ought to be more than uneasy. Medical School teaches us the basic duality of human life: the body is simultaneously quite resilient and extremely fragile when pushed too far. One patient recovers against great odds and suffers no ill effects, when, in the next bed, another crosses that invisible line and nothing we might do will save her.

Nature is mother to us all. We depend upon her ever more. I still need my own mother - somewhat frail but always feisty, an 88-year-old Harriett (she goes by Jane, and she’s going to be mad at me for using her real name). It is time to back away from the lure of short-term fixes and denials. We must accept reality, speak up and make necessary sacrifices. It is time to demand solutions to uncontrolled, unknowable climate change. Science has clearly told us that all of life - not just our mothers or even our children - is depending on it.



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