Multiple sclerosis

Of birds and disease

I’ve been thinking about Rachel Carson a lot lately.

Hundreds upon hundreds of birds falling out of the sky and thousands upon thousands of dead fish washing to shore tend to bring out the conspiracy theorist in all of us.

The end times. The byproduct of a military op done in the black of night. Sonic booms. HAARP. Republicans take over the House.

For me, it drives home the point that Carson was trying to make – that our technology, particularly in the biochemical field, has done irreparable damage to the environment. And because humans are part of this environment at the tippy top of the food chain (well, until dinosaurs make their comeback), we are feeling the effects as well.

I can’t give a specific causal relationship – certain chemicals are released into the environment and – BAM! – these animal die. It’s much more byzantine and layered than that.

To sum up Carson in Silent Spring, earth’s inhabitants have been evolving and adjusting to one another for eons. And in a very short timeframe – within our lifetime, thousands of man-made chemicals have been created. She got on the soapbox about pesticides and DDT.

In short, these new compounds are mingling with the environment in ways that we are just now starting to comprehend.

Which is why we have mutant fish and the dying off of species.

And forgive my sloppy logic, but it might help explain multiple sclerosis. As I’ve mentioned before, the cause of MS is murky. As frustrating as it is, the “how you get it” is a big fat question mark. Some lottery of the unlucky.

Some data suggest an environmental agent (virus, chemicals, bacteria) that a person is exposed to pre-puberty might predispose her to MS. That could include lack of sun exposure, an interesting fact to someone who spent her formative years living in an underground house.

I am fascinated with the origin of things – from etymology to ‘hey, where’d you get those shoes?’

So of course I am curious as to whether MS is a new disease. Cancer, even diabetes, have been around a long time, or so the Internet tells me.

The first diagnosed case of MS was in 1849, but there was a description of a person with MS symptoms dating back to 14th century Holland.

So what’s the connection between the bug-be-gone goop that is sprayed on crops nowadays and a disease that dates back at least 600 years? Maybe nothing. Maybe tangential at best.

Or maybe I see it as an unequal allocation of resources, intellectual and financial. Why not spend more money on science devoted to finding cures for such diseases as MS and Parkinson’s and diabetes and not so much on chemicals designed to kill things?

Those birds and fish make me fear, much like Carson did, that what we do to the environment is what we are doing to ourselves. The end times in a non-biblical sense?

I hope not.

3 thoughts on “Of birds and disease”

  1. “So what’s the connection between the bug-be-gone goop that is sprayed on crops nowadays and a disease that dates back at least 600 years?”

    Carson’s description of the growing use of harmful chemicals in our environment might not explain the origin of a disease such as MS, but it might explain the growing incidence of the disease.

  2. I know, since I’m third generation Parkinson’s, that genetics must have something to do with it but I think you are right. I was twenty-nine when I was diagnosed and probably had my first symptoms about three years before that. For a PD patient, even young on-set PD, that is ridiculously young. I believe that chemicals are a factor in the age my symptoms manifested. We try to eat organic as much as possible and use only natural cleaners around our house.

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