The Everglades: River of Grass

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9780891760290: The Everglades: River of Grass

Before 1947, when Marjory Stoneman Douglas named The Everglades a "river of grass," most people considered the area worthless. She brought the world's attention to the need to preserve The Everglades. In the Afterword, Michael Grunwald tells us what has happened to them since then. Grunwald points out that in 1947 the government was in the midst of establishing the Everglades National Park and turning loose the Army Corps of Engineers to control floods--both of which seemed like saviors for the Glades. But neither turned out to be the answer. Working from the research he did for his book, The Swamp, Grunwald offers an account of what went wrong and the many attempts to fix it, beginning with Save Our Everglades, which Douglas declared was "not nearly enough." Grunwald then lays out the intricacies (and inanities) of the more recent and ongoing CERP, the hugely expensive Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

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Review:

Originally published in 1947, The Everglades was one of those rare books, like Uncle Tom's Cabin and Silent Spring, to have an immediate political effect: it helped draw public attention to a vast and little-known area that South Florida developers had deemed a worthless swamp and were busily draining, damming, and remaking, and it mustered needed public support for President Harry Truman's controversial order, later that year, to protect more than 2 million acres as Everglades National Park.

Remote and seldom visited, the Everglades nonetheless had a rich human history: several Native American peoples, Spanish explorers, French and English pirates, runaway slaves, and Anglo trappers and fishermen all came to this limestone basin and made their lives among its slowly moving water and fast-growing sawgrass. It is this human history, more than the life histories of the Everglades' deer, panthers, scorpions, serpents, and alligators, that occupies most of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas's pages; even so, her lyrical if sometimes sentimental account of the area's flora and fauna makes for fine reading.

Douglas died in 1998 at the age of 107, having done more than any other one person to protect this magnificent portion of wild America. Anyone wishing to continue her good work--and to understand the Everglades' importance in the shape of things--will find great riches in her book. --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Marjory Stoneman Douglas is considered by many to be the first lady of the Everglades. What others called a worthless swamp, she dubbed the “river of grass,” and she fought fiercely to protect and revive the Everglades in her lifetime. Her autobiography, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the River, is the story of a strong-willed, determined woman who let nothing stand in the way of accomplishing her goals and living “my own life in my own way.” Everglades: River of Grass chronicles her involvement in Everglades affairs.

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