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Issues of the Day Remains of an Environmental Treasure: Everglades National Park, Florida
 

(Everglades National Park, southern Florida, Thursday) - This was my second  foray into the Everglades in less than six months. Along with my niece Stacy and her husband Aaron I visited to the Coe Visitor Center and the Anhinga Trail outside of Homestead, in the southeast corner of the Dade-Broward metropolis. This second excursion to the Everglades in one year was exactly twice as many times as I had visited the sprawling wetlands when I was an adolescent and lived scarcely more than an hour's drive from the National Park. 

When I visited the Everglades that one time as a boy of twelve or thirteen, I had not yet been schooled in the ecological significance of that great expanse, America's largest wilderness east of the Rockies. Back then, the territory was derided in the local lore as a wasteland full of snakes and 'gators and inhabited by redneck recluses who swirled about menacingly in swamp buggies while occupying themselves with the making of moonshine.

Four decades later, as a geographer I now know how ignorant the swamp narrative was. Such "wild places" and wetlands in particular are essential to the local  ecosystem and to all the life forms found there in – including human beings. Wetlands not only support indigenous biodiversity, but provide ecosystem services such as water filtration and other essential functions. They are integral parts the planet's life-support system and should be cared for as such.

This is abundantly true in the case of the Everglades, which is vital to sustain  thickly-settled south Florida – despite the attempts of human agency to harness the Everglades and bring it under "development." Already decimated over the past half century by drainage and construction, the Everglades has been harshly treated, constricted and exploited.

 In his book, Liquid Land: A Journey Through the Florida Everglades (Athens:  The University of Georgia Press 2004), naturalist-writer Ted Levin writes that the "true Everglades alone was nearly six thousand square miles…Now buildings have replaced pines, canals bleed the watershed of more than two billion gallons daily, and the region has become a panorama of anemic wilderness, pasture, and farmland (p.6)."

 While efforts are underway to restore the Everglades, its deterioration is representative of the arrogance with which modernization has swept across the globe, where awareness of nature's integrity and its importance to sustaining support for life is realized only after great damage has been inflicted by human avarice. There is much new thinking about finding solutions for a more beneficent relationship between society and nature. I discuss one approach in my post on Restoration Ecology published in Green Prophet.

 


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