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The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise

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The Swamp is the story of the destruction and possible resurrection of the Everglades, the saga of man's abuse of nature in southern Florida and his unprecedented efforts to make amends. Michael Grunwald, a prize-winning national reporter for The Washington Post, takes readers on a journey from the Ice Ages to the present, illuminating the natural, social and political his The Swamp is the story of the destruction and possible resurrection of the Everglades, the saga of man's abuse of nature in southern Florida and his unprecedented efforts to make amends. Michael Grunwald, a prize-winning national reporter for The Washington Post, takes readers on a journey from the Ice Ages to the present, illuminating the natural, social and political history of one of America's most beguiling but least understood patches of land.


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The Swamp is the story of the destruction and possible resurrection of the Everglades, the saga of man's abuse of nature in southern Florida and his unprecedented efforts to make amends. Michael Grunwald, a prize-winning national reporter for The Washington Post, takes readers on a journey from the Ice Ages to the present, illuminating the natural, social and political his The Swamp is the story of the destruction and possible resurrection of the Everglades, the saga of man's abuse of nature in southern Florida and his unprecedented efforts to make amends. Michael Grunwald, a prize-winning national reporter for The Washington Post, takes readers on a journey from the Ice Ages to the present, illuminating the natural, social and political history of one of America's most beguiling but least understood patches of land.

30 review for The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    "There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them; their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free saltness and sweetness of the their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space. They are unique also in the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose. The miracle o "There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them; their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free saltness and sweetness of the their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space. They are unique also in the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose. The miracle of the light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slow-moving below, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades of Florida. It is a river of grass." Marjory Stoneman Douglas, The Everglades: River of Grass, 1947 In 2006, Michael Grunwald wrote this four hundred page history called The Swamp: Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise. This story moves along from the start. We learn that the Everglades is very young geologically, rising out of the sea a few feet when the interglacial melt occurred 100,000 years ago. We also learn that the Everglades terrain is sloped so gradually that it can take weeks for water to flow the length of the Everglades. We learn about the Calusa Indians and their ancestors who thrived in the Everglades for thousands of years. The first south Florida invader, Ponce de Leon, in 1521, was killed by the Calusa. For the next two hundred and fifty years, the Calusa with their base in the Everglades held off incursions by the Spaniards who had effectively given up on the conquest. When Florida was sold to the British in 1763, the Calusa had by that time nearly died out due to European diseases. We learn about the three Seminole wars that occurred after the United States purchased Florida in 1819. Initially the purchase for five million dollars was to counter efforts by slaves to escape to sanctuary south of the border and to prevent Seminoles from raiding towns and plantations along the border. Since the Seminoles were former Creek Indians and often had slaves of their own, it was a strange dynamic. Over the course of decades, the Everglades and its quagmire would provide vital protection for the Seminoles against the genocidal actions of Andrew Jackson, Winfield Scott and the U.S. military. Eventually the Seminoles were reduced to a few hundred individuals. After the Civil War the government didn’t feel it politically expedient to lose soldiers and militia in the swamp and left the Seminoles alone. Over the next seventy five years, developers and government agencies spent many millions of dollars failing to drain the swamp and unable to tame the Everglades. During this period, many birds native to the Everglades went extinct when hunters killed them by the thousands for plumes for fashionable hats. Other mammals and wildlife became threatened. Conservationists began to take notice. After several monstrous hurricanes in the 1920’s, Fort Lauderdale and Miami's population centers exploded and based on new money and prospects; a new series of canals were dug, a massive dike was built near Lake Okeechobee diverting the water flow and the east-west Tamiami highway was laid out walling off the Northern Everglades from the Everglades that we know today. The construction reduced the area of the wetlands by half and this was the motivation that environmentalists needed because everyone could see how radically the area had changed and droughts became a problem. Led by journalist Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and her popular book on the Everglades, the alarm was raised to save the remaining portion of the Everglades and its unique birds, other wildlife and flora. These efforts resulted in Everglades National Park being enacted into law by Harry Truman in 1947. The last section of the book deals with repairing the Everglades including efforts to boot the Army Corps of Engineers out, dealing with the effects of pesticides from ranching and all of the politics around development schemes. Discussion centers around the fight to restore and save the Everglades continues. There is discussion of the aquifers drying up as the major threat. The surrounding cities are depleting the fresh water trapped in the limestone. Because this book was written in 2006, there is not really any mention of the biggest long term threat to the Everglades: global warming and sea rise. Overall the writing was excellent and Grunwald delivered exactly what he outlined in the introduction. This chronological history of the Everglades was very educational and held my interest until the last three chapters. The narrative lost its punch at that point focusing less on the interesting aspects of nature, wars, and engineering but rather on coalitions and tug of war politics. I think with some tweaks this could have been a five star book but nevertheless it is still a very good read. 4 Stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    All I knew about the Everglades before I visited in May 2009 was that I had never been to them, despite all the time I had spent in Miami as a child, and they had alligators. All I knew when I left was that the Everglades were endangered because of water use conflicts and that they weren't near as wet as I thought they'd be. Then I picked up The Swamp. Grunwald does a masterful job of simplifying (perhaps over-simplifying but to one who knows nothing the clarity was welcome) the history of the Ev All I knew about the Everglades before I visited in May 2009 was that I had never been to them, despite all the time I had spent in Miami as a child, and they had alligators. All I knew when I left was that the Everglades were endangered because of water use conflicts and that they weren't near as wet as I thought they'd be. Then I picked up The Swamp. Grunwald does a masterful job of simplifying (perhaps over-simplifying but to one who knows nothing the clarity was welcome) the history of the Everglades, the history of southern Florida and the politics that still get in the way of logical and useful policy. I used to think of the Everglades as a "from the dawn of time" kind of thing but it isn't all that old. As Grunwald writes, "If the history of the earth is condensed into a week, algae started growing Monday, fish started swimming Saturday morning, and birds flew in early Saturday afternoon. The Everglades showed up a half second before midnight, around the time the Egyptians started building pyramids." The land that would become the Everglades was formed at the dawn of time, when Pangaea broke up and North America spirited away with an appendage-shaped chunk of northwest Africa that would become Florida. It's been geologically stable ever since; none of those upheavals that cause mountains or canyons. It spent a lot of time covered by ocean. Then it emerged with a unique make-up; a gentle limestone slope towards the sea with a large lake (Okeechobee) that drank up the rain and overflowed slowly, sending water cascading gently towards the ocean. The conditions in the Everglades were harsh; very unsuited for life. Except life took hold anyway and created an ecosystem unlike any other in the world. An ecosystem that, by design, worked flawlessly despite the dearth of materials to support it. Then Man showed up. And Man wanted progress. White Man, that is. Indian populations lived in the Everglades for centuries, taking advantage of the abundance of the ecosystem but also using sustainable practices, preserving the resources while simultaneously living off of them. White Man didn't do it that way. White Man wanted to conquer. White Man, particularly Christian White Man, wanted to exert dominion over nature; it says that in the Bible after all. A tiny example; White Man killed birds with abandon during the plumed-hat craze of the late 1800s. They left chicks to die without adults to take care of them. Then they wondered why the birds were disappearing. That's how White Man approached the Everglades; how can it make me money? Once in a while, a White Man would pop up with the notion that human victory over nature didn't really represent progress but since there weren't dollars attached to the idea, that visionary was often ignored. Natural resources are only valuable insofar as they can be exploited by human beings. Thoreau tried but his "loving nature for nature's sake" schtick wasn't appealing to the masses who only cared about the dollar and progress. Then George Perkins Marsh piped up with, "All nature is linked together by invisible bonds, and every organic creature, however low, however feeble, however dependent, is necessary to the well-being of some other." That rang a little farther than Thoreau's poetic diatribes. But it didn't ring far enough. Sure, conservation was a cornerstone of the progressive era; Teddy Roosevelt had a fascination for living beings. He also liked to shoot them. But he couldn't shoot unless there were beings to shoot, hence conservation. But conservation is not preservation. And shooting things just for the pleasure of shooting them didn't over-ride the concerns of those who wanted to see economic progress; farm land made out of the River of Grass. Cities connected by roads and railways. And airports. Progress not preservation. So the boondoggle of draining the Everglades began. And continues to this day. It never entirely worked, due mostly to the epic incompetency of the Army Core of Engineers, but it sure did destroy the ecosystem that made the Everglades the Everglades. "There is something very distressing in the gradual destruction of the wilds, the destruction of the forests, the draining of the swamps, the transforming of the prairies with their wonderful wealth of bloom and beauty - and in its place the coming of civilized man with all his unsightly constructions, his struggles for power, his vulgarity and pretensions...We constantly boast of our marvelous national growth. We shall proudly point someday to the Everglade country and say; Only a few years ago this was worthless swamp; today it is an empire. But I wonder quite seriously if the world is any better off because we have destroyed the wilds and filled the land with countless human beings." -- Charles Torrey Simpson. There are famous names of those who tried to save the Everglades and it was made a National Park, regardless of the fact that, as Grunwald writes, "It was less ooh or aah than hmm." But it also had to compete with the influx of man into a land that doesn't have enough natural resources to support the population that followed the developers' piper song. And even in the 1970s, when preservation became hip, the Everglades had to fight with the humans over who got the water. And the humans always won; or the corporations run by humans, rather. The Army Core of Engineers only released water to the Everglades when no one else needed it, including the Everglades. The delicate balance of the Everglades Ecosystem relies on the pattern of flood and drought that came to it naturally before man arrived. But that pattern isn't sustainable when the water is needed to assuage the thirst of all those retirees who flock to "God's Waiting Room" during the dry season when there wasn't enough water to go around even before they arrived. And the runoff from the crops contains phosphorus, which allows heartier life to take hold; cattails replace sedge sawgrass and the ecosystem changes forever. So the water that IS released to the Everglades often is one more bullet in an already dying corpse. So the Everglades loses. Still losing, even though in a bizarre move in 2000, when a bipartisan coalition of unlikely characters like Jeb Bush and Al Gore came together, in the midst of Gore v. Bush, to sign an agreement that would ostensibly save the Everglades. But the Everglades is still in dire danger. And so is the quality of life in south Florida; it's already a virtual hellscape of concrete, asphalt and strip malls. Man is soiling his own nest. Even "lower" beings don't do that. "We still talk in terms of conquest. We still haven't become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. Man's attitude toward nature today is critically important, simply because we have acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself. We in this generation must come to terms with nature, and I think we're challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery - not of nature, but of ourselves." -- Rachel Carson "We have met the enemy, and he is us." -- Pogo "The Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to keep the planet." -- attributed to Marjory Stoneman Douglas

  3. 4 out of 5

    Glynn

    This was a great entertaining and educating book, meticulously researched, about the history of the Florida Everglades. Back in the 1800s the Everglades was considered by almost everyone as a “vast and useless swamp” and everybody was trying to come up with schemes to drain it to make it “useful.” The animals and birds that called the everglades their home were considered of no consequence. Times have certainly changed but we should be ever diligent! This book is full of characters, including Ham This was a great entertaining and educating book, meticulously researched, about the history of the Florida Everglades. Back in the 1800s the Everglades was considered by almost everyone as a “vast and useless swamp” and everybody was trying to come up with schemes to drain it to make it “useful.” The animals and birds that called the everglades their home were considered of no consequence. Times have certainly changed but we should be ever diligent! This book is full of characters, including Hamilton Disston, who’s distant relatives were the Disneys; Henry Flagler, railroad tycoon turned governor, and Spessard Holland, also known as Mr. Florida. These and others only managed to mess up the Everglades and lure unwitting northerners down to Florida. There is a lot to take in with this book but the gist of it is that we might finally be learning to respect what's lef of the Everglades and hopefully things will improve in the future.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Clark Hays

    Flocculent ooze: Politics, progress and the poisoning of an American treasure Author Michael Grunwald provides a riveting look at a swamp filled with danger, unpredictable currents, sucking quicksand, predators and prey, and treachery. And that’s just when he is describing Florida politics. The real star of the book is the Florida Everglades, a unique, threatened and vulnerable ecosystem in Florida. Known as the river of grass, it’s a long, gently sloping swamp which once covered a large percenta Flocculent ooze: Politics, progress and the poisoning of an American treasure Author Michael Grunwald provides a riveting look at a swamp filled with danger, unpredictable currents, sucking quicksand, predators and prey, and treachery. And that’s just when he is describing Florida politics. The real star of the book is the Florida Everglades, a unique, threatened and vulnerable ecosystem in Florida. Known as the river of grass, it’s a long, gently sloping swamp which once covered a large percentage of the state and was home to a staggering array of flora and fauna. I can only imagine what it must have been like to see flocks of thousands of flamingos take to wing, but sadly, fashionistas needed their plumes to compensate for their own shortcomings. I picked up this book on a swing through the Everglades national park on our way to Key West, and was very glad I did. Just a few hours stroll through the park and we got a lasting sense of what a majestic place the Everglades were before man tried to drain them and, in between mojitos and snorkeling, I immersed myself into the filth and muck of the politics behind the current park. The book opens at the end of the story, as then-president Clinton signs into law an $8 billion restoration project for the Everglades with Jeb Bush on hand, as well as a variety of developers, environmentalists and other unlikely political bedfellows from both sides of the aisle. The bill was signed into law even as the Supreme Court was deciding the Gore vs. Bush recount in Florida (a decision which, the author hints, would have been rendered unnecessary had Gore come out in opposition to an airport expansion that gave at least 10,000 votes to Nader). With the context set, the book then rewinds to the past when Native Americans lived in Florida and the Everglades was a massive, slowly seeping natural wonder akin to the Grand Canyon, only utterly flat and soggy and verdant. He then chronicles the painful march of history from natural wonder with saw grass as far as the eye could see, to national shame with strips malls as far as the eye could see, as Florida underwent an endless cycle of boom and bust development activities that wrecked the environment and pushed the Native Americans into the swamp as. Eventually, of course, the Everglades were deemed to profitable to leave alone and the Native Americans were impolitely asked to leave. They chose to fight and the U.S. got mired in a Vietnam style war two hundred years before the Vietnam War. Following that, an endless array of politicians set out to tame the swamp, build roads and levees and canals and railroads and the resulting floods and fires and run-off loaded with poisons slowly strangled an American Treasure, albeit, a slightly mucky one. It is a powerful look at how we always hurt the ones we love, especially when it comes to the environment. It would have been an enjoyable read without the firsthand introduction the Everglades, but the fact that I got to see alligators, anhingas, mangrove trees and even a purple gallinute up close made it a uniquely satisfying – and depressing – experience. Add to that our time in Key West where we traveled streets named for many of the players in the book, and I have to give this the highest rating. It was exhaustively researched and he is a talented writer (even though he used the term “no one wanted to see their ox gored” a few times too many, it was redeemed by lines such as “…like drunks at the end of a bar fight. Their arms felt heavy and they wanted an excuse to stop slugging.). Highly recommend, and I also recommend – if you haven’t already – taking a trip to see what’s left of the Everglades before they are gone forever.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    Did I ever tell you I fell in love with Florida two years ago? I thought I was too good for it, a ticky-tacky place with no wilds ruled by the Mouse. I avoided Florida all my life until I made the mistake of just-passin'-thru on the way to something else. I was a gone in 30 seconds from that warm, sweet air and the sight of my first palm tree swaying green and shirtless by the exit ramp. In no time we were downing boilermakers (for when you need to catch up) and necking behind the pinball machin Did I ever tell you I fell in love with Florida two years ago? I thought I was too good for it, a ticky-tacky place with no wilds ruled by the Mouse. I avoided Florida all my life until I made the mistake of just-passin'-thru on the way to something else. I was a gone in 30 seconds from that warm, sweet air and the sight of my first palm tree swaying green and shirtless by the exit ramp. In no time we were downing boilermakers (for when you need to catch up) and necking behind the pinball machine. And much too soon, I found myself doing the flight of shame back to Montreal. But I digress. One of the enjoyments of reading this book is the names--Okeechobee, Calosahatchee. It's one big Bobby Gentry song. Unfortunately, there are many unbearable facts in this book. The Everglades were a very slow river. It was a vast and delicate water cycle that is now stopped up through drainage projects, dams, canals, invasive plants, agricultural run-off, runaway development etc. As usual, the politics that come up against fixing it are complicated and powerful. The history of this mess is fascinating, sad, and through Grunwald, excellent reading. Places like the Everglades, recently impenetrable, can give us a false sense of their immortality. This happens with the Far North as well. They are tough environments, but that doesn't mean they're tough. They're really just very well balanced and specialized, which makes them extremely delicate. This book gives a lesson in what's finite, the limits of the everlasting. Odd that a book about a wetland in the south can make me fear for the north. But all of it is finite; greed is not. Interesting convergence p. 309: under politics "Al Gore had lambasted Big Sugar in his book, but Alfonso Fanjul was so angry when the vice president endorsed penny-a-pound that he called the White House an hour later to complain. At the time, President Clinton was in the Oval Office telling an intern named Monica Lewinsky that he no longer felt right about their sexual relationship, but he interrupted the breakup to speak to Fanjul for twenty-two minutes. "I think it's fair to say that tensions were high," Graham recalled."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    I enjoy finding local bookshops when we travel and buying a book or two about the place we're in. Normally I go for a local author or a history of the place. On our trip to Sanibel we found a great little gem of a place called simply the Sanibel Bookshop. This place had everything, including this book, "The Swamp." I had to buy it. This book is fascinating, mainly because it mixes the history of South Florida from the early Spanish days up through the modern day with the environmental history of I enjoy finding local bookshops when we travel and buying a book or two about the place we're in. Normally I go for a local author or a history of the place. On our trip to Sanibel we found a great little gem of a place called simply the Sanibel Bookshop. This place had everything, including this book, "The Swamp." I had to buy it. This book is fascinating, mainly because it mixes the history of South Florida from the early Spanish days up through the modern day with the environmental history of the Everglades. Before reading this book I had little knowledge of what the Everglades are but now that I have finished the book, I want to head straight back down to Florida and see them. The Everglades are one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. You won't find any other environmental structure like them on Earth. And they're dying. We're killing them with sprawl, chemicals, and bureaucratic neglect. Grunwald does a nice job of weaving the story of how man has lived with the Everglades ever since the Seminole and Miccosukee Indians lived there (and some still do). There are times when the author gets a little distracted with one person's story or some silly government red tape crap, but overall this book inspired me to think more deeply about places like the Everglades. I've been a fan of our national parks for a long time, but now I have a better sense of how some of our parks need more than just a legal protection; they need engaged, knowledgeable bodyguards to keep them from disappearing forever.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tonya Severson

    I give The Swamp two thumbs up, and will certainly read it multiple times. The book describes the topography of the Everglades and what is known about the geologic forces that shaped the continent, and continues with its human history and impacts that various groups that came in contact with the area had on the land and each other. European explorers and early settlers of America viewed it as an undesirable region best left to mosquitoes, alligators, and the Seminoles that took refuge there. After the I give The Swamp two thumbs up, and will certainly read it multiple times. The book describes the topography of the Everglades and what is known about the geologic forces that shaped the continent, and continues with its human history and impacts that various groups that came in contact with the area had on the land and each other. European explorers and early settlers of America viewed it as an undesirable region best left to mosquitoes, alligators, and the Seminoles that took refuge there. After the Civil War, it gained attention as a new frontier to be conquered and "improved" for human use in agriculture. Speculators sold "land by the gallon" and "improvements" in constraining water levels and canalization made more land accessible, but led to wildfires and floods. The roles of various political and interest groups in devastating the Everglades, and the struggle between groups desirous of restoring the Everglades and those that pay lip service to restoration/preservation while promoting overdevelopment of the area, are described in great detail. I found the story riveting--I highly recommend exploring the Everglades area, reading a Carl Hiassen novel, then checking this book out of the library.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    Like many of us, my knowledge of the Everglades was limited to the "Save the..." phrase I learned from Ranger Rick as a kid. I learned a massive amount from this book, which was a fairly easy read even at 375 pages. I have to say, the author did two things I greatly appreciated: 1. Grunwald explicitly stated that all of the information was taken directly from journals, interviews, studies, etc. and the only part that included any speculation was his description of the Everglades before it was touc Like many of us, my knowledge of the Everglades was limited to the "Save the..." phrase I learned from Ranger Rick as a kid. I learned a massive amount from this book, which was a fairly easy read even at 375 pages. I have to say, the author did two things I greatly appreciated: 1. Grunwald explicitly stated that all of the information was taken directly from journals, interviews, studies, etc. and the only part that included any speculation was his description of the Everglades before it was touched by man. I don't know about you, but I often find myself wondering if the author is speculating on a person's motivations and emotions, which detracts from the experience. 2. Grunwald did not expect the reader to remember who every little player in the story was. When a small player was brought back into discussion, he included a quick sentence to remind us of the who and what of the person.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    I now know a whole lot about the history of Florida and the utter mess we have made of the Everglades. This book chronicles the push for land reclamation at the turn of the century that started the decline of the Everglades. It also highlights the various colorful personalities on both sides of this environmental war. Of equal interest is the political war that has been waged that has made forward movement almost impossible and resulted in wasting billions of dollars. Although most of the book c I now know a whole lot about the history of Florida and the utter mess we have made of the Everglades. This book chronicles the push for land reclamation at the turn of the century that started the decline of the Everglades. It also highlights the various colorful personalities on both sides of this environmental war. Of equal interest is the political war that has been waged that has made forward movement almost impossible and resulted in wasting billions of dollars. Although most of the book cannot report much good news, in the past few years there has been a bipartisan effort made that has caused some progress to have been made in saving a small part of this unique swamp. This is a hefty book that dragged a bit at times but overall was an interesting and entertaining read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Terri Johnson

    The book was great. I listened to and read this book. The narrator has a great voice but needs to learn there is no “N” in Kissimmee. He could not pronounce the work correctly and it was making me crazy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Candace

    A FL resident must-read

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sugarpuss O'Shea

    **4.5 Stars** I grew up in South Florida, east of 95. Everything west of 95, was considered the boonies. Some of the roads out there were actually dirt -- they are now paved & divided 6 lane roads, always packed with cars -- and cows & horses roamed on acres & acres of land. Today, you'd be lucky if you can find anything green outside the plantings municipalities place in their road dividers (which do nothing but put undue pressure on the already strained water system). So you see, I've seen the **4.5 Stars** I grew up in South Florida, east of 95. Everything west of 95, was considered the boonies. Some of the roads out there were actually dirt -- they are now paved & divided 6 lane roads, always packed with cars -- and cows & horses roamed on acres & acres of land. Today, you'd be lucky if you can find anything green outside the plantings municipalities place in their road dividers (which do nothing but put undue pressure on the already strained water system). So you see, I've seen the changes in this book firsthand. And seeing these changes in black & white all these years later, really makes me angry. Angry that what I grew up with I'll never see again; Angry that at every turn development was more important then sustainability; Angry at the short-sidedness & inactivity of the people who are supposed to serve all of us; Angry that the Everglades is really nothing more then a catchphrase politicians use come election time. After reading this book, I know that nothing will change. Once the sugar growers have used up their lands, they will develop them, and the state of FL won't do a damn thing to stop them. The only thing that could get their attention at this rate, is the complete & utter destruction of Lake Okeechobee, which we're probably just a hurricane or 2 away from.... It will make the 1926 & 28 hurricanes look like child's play. Maybe then they'll pay attention. Then again, maybe not.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    The book starts out with President Clinton signing CERP and then goes back about 500 years to see how we got there. The prehistoric and earliest American history is fascinating, the progressive years depressing, and the political quagmire from the early 1900s through today, absolutely disgusting. Warning, this book contains well researched and documented facts that may be hard to hear, but are necessary to explain why Florida is flushing the Everglades down the tubes, and why politicians are let The book starts out with President Clinton signing CERP and then goes back about 500 years to see how we got there. The prehistoric and earliest American history is fascinating, the progressive years depressing, and the political quagmire from the early 1900s through today, absolutely disgusting. Warning, this book contains well researched and documented facts that may be hard to hear, but are necessary to explain why Florida is flushing the Everglades down the tubes, and why politicians are letting or causing it to happen. Pretty bleak. Even the "happy ending" is less than joyous, the passing of a bill that limits phosphorous runoff from Big Sugar to only slowly killing the eco-system instead of quickly. The writing is at times redundant, but so is the political story, which is the main focus of the book. History lovers, political conspiracy theorists, you'll enjoy this level of detail. It was challenging for me and my teen fiction trained mind, but I'm now an expert on the history of the Everglades, and feel fully prepared to bore Andy to death with details on our trip.

  14. 5 out of 5

    MaryJane Rings

    Excellent depiction of the trials,errors and the poor decisions of politicians and engineers trying to change the flow of the rivers to suit the needs of man and his greed. The result was millions of dollars wasted and now the necessity of spending millions of more dollars to restore the rivers and the streams back to the way nature intended. The book elaborates on the necessity of living with nature and recognizing why these waterways and grasslands were created as they were. We are running to Excellent depiction of the trials,errors and the poor decisions of politicians and engineers trying to change the flow of the rivers to suit the needs of man and his greed. The result was millions of dollars wasted and now the necessity of spending millions of more dollars to restore the rivers and the streams back to the way nature intended. The book elaborates on the necessity of living with nature and recognizing why these waterways and grasslands were created as they were. We are running to catch up to preserve our water and make it clean for human,animal and plant consumption. at times the book can be disturbing but is also truthful and inciteful to the needs of preserving the lands, the everglades and the waterways from over development and profit.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Gonzales

    Ugh. It took me MONTHS to get through this. So difficult. Like chewing cardboard. I love the subject matter but found this very difficult to follow. I wanted to learn about why the red tides exist today and have a better understanding of Lake Okeechobee, and I came away with a very superficial knowledge. I don't even feel like I could intelligently discuss this topic at a party and I spent so many hours trying to get though it. Also, how many times can an author use the same stupid metaphor abou Ugh. It took me MONTHS to get through this. So difficult. Like chewing cardboard. I love the subject matter but found this very difficult to follow. I wanted to learn about why the red tides exist today and have a better understanding of Lake Okeechobee, and I came away with a very superficial knowledge. I don't even feel like I could intelligently discuss this topic at a party and I spent so many hours trying to get though it. Also, how many times can an author use the same stupid metaphor about someone's "ox being gored" before my eyes roll out of my head. Lazy. I really don't understand all the positive reviews! Maybe I just don't like non-fiction.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    I really enjoyed parts of this book, and had to skim over other parts. I thought the beginning was really interesting; it discussed the Indigenous communities and the wars between them and the white outsiders. I loved the descriptions of the Glades and how diverse and wonderful it was. What I didn't enjoy so much was all the political background. It was necessary (and unsettling) to show how convoluted the political atmosphere is/was, but it wasn't interesting to me. It was also disheartening to I really enjoyed parts of this book, and had to skim over other parts. I thought the beginning was really interesting; it discussed the Indigenous communities and the wars between them and the white outsiders. I loved the descriptions of the Glades and how diverse and wonderful it was. What I didn't enjoy so much was all the political background. It was necessary (and unsettling) to show how convoluted the political atmosphere is/was, but it wasn't interesting to me. It was also disheartening to learn how we've been treating our natural resources and treasures.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Blaine Strickland

    This book was recommended by another author who was speaking about environmentalism in Florida, calling it a "must read" for all Floridians. I agree with that label - I learned much about Florida's history (which is essentially anchored by the Everglades). I suspected that Florida is a 'gold rush' state even though you won't find gold or oil here. Instead, the huge river of grass has been a continual draw for dreamers, developers and politicians. I wasn't crazy about the narration in the book, b This book was recommended by another author who was speaking about environmentalism in Florida, calling it a "must read" for all Floridians. I agree with that label - I learned much about Florida's history (which is essentially anchored by the Everglades). I suspected that Florida is a 'gold rush' state even though you won't find gold or oil here. Instead, the huge river of grass has been a continual draw for dreamers, developers and politicians. I wasn't crazy about the narration in the book, but the underlying, well-researched story overcomes my indifference to the voice.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Wendell

    There’s great history here and the book gives all indications of being well researched and grounded. The trouble is that Grunwald is relentless wonky. He constantly bogs down (forgive the pun) in the minutiae of this land deal or that swindle and that nefarious rogue of a speculator, and the reader (at least this reader) has to be forgiven for not being able to keep wading through. Too, the story of the Everglades is the history of crooks, genocide, and capitalism grown completely evil, and Grun There’s great history here and the book gives all indications of being well researched and grounded. The trouble is that Grunwald is relentless wonky. He constantly bogs down (forgive the pun) in the minutiae of this land deal or that swindle and that nefarious rogue of a speculator, and the reader (at least this reader) has to be forgiven for not being able to keep wading through. Too, the story of the Everglades is the history of crooks, genocide, and capitalism grown completely evil, and Grunwald’s attempts to keep a neutral tone in the face of atrocities are wearying.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Bingham

    The history of the Everglades from the time it was formed to the present. The book shows how the glades went from a vast, diverse tropical wilderness to a channelized, polluted, controlled and sectioned off area. Along the way, corruption and greed drove the process, and still does today. A sad story.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Katie Martin

    An excellent nonfiction history of Florida, covering everything from the actual geological formation of the land to the efforts to save the Everglades as recently as 2006. Anyone who is a tourist in Florida or consumes orange juice and sugar needs to read this book!!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline

    Good historical survey of the Everglades. Army Corps of Engineers amazingly pig-headed and wrong-minded!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robert Wechsler

    A very well-written book and a fascinating story, as horrible as it is. Highly recommended.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paul Haspel

    “Swamp” seems like a grossly inadequate term with which to describe the Florida Everglades. Anyone who has looked out upon the grand and vast expanse of the sawgrass flatlands, or heard the songs of the birds, knows that the Everglades are much, much more than a swamp. Yet the Everglades have often been described as a swamp – most often, by ambitious men who have wanted to drain and pave the Everglades out of existence for their own economic benefit. And that danger continues to threaten the Eve “Swamp” seems like a grossly inadequate term with which to describe the Florida Everglades. Anyone who has looked out upon the grand and vast expanse of the sawgrass flatlands, or heard the songs of the birds, knows that the Everglades are much, much more than a swamp. Yet the Everglades have often been described as a swamp – most often, by ambitious men who have wanted to drain and pave the Everglades out of existence for their own economic benefit. And that danger continues to threaten the Everglades even today, as Michael Grunwald makes clear in his book The Swamp. Grunwald, a Washington Post reporter situated in Miami, begins his study of The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise (the book’s subtitle) with an in medias res look at the December 11, 2000, signing of a $7.8 billion Everglades relief bill. This moment of bipartisanship, in the midst of the Bush vs. Gore election battle, brought to the Clinton White House some strange political bedfellows – including Florida Governor Jeb Bush, “staring out at the Rose Garden with the air of a quarterback who had stumbled into the opposing locker room near the end of the Super Bowl” (p. 2). Yet this seeming moment of triumph did not mark an end to the threats facing the Everglades. Throughout too much of Florida’s two centuries of U.S. sovereignty, as Grunwald makes clear, Americans’ attitude toward the Everglades was quite clear, and distinctly unfriendly: “Americans believed it was their destiny to drain this ‘God-forsaken’ swamp, to ‘reclaim’ it from mosquitoes and rattlesnakes, to ‘improve’ it into a subtropical paradise of bountiful crops and booming communities. Wetlands were considered wastelands, and ‘draining the swamp’ was a metaphor for solving festering problems” (p. 4). Moving from the time of earlier conflicts and injustices – “Indian removal” and the Seminole Wars, slavery and the Civil War – to more modern efforts to “develop” Florida, Grunwald always has his eye on the shapes that Florida development would take in later years. When considering Hamilton Disston’s futile late-19th-century efforts to drain over 10 million acres of Everglades marshland, for example, Grunwald points out that some of the Disston land sold at auction after the developer’s death in 1896 “eventually ended up in the hands of his distant relatives in the D’Isney family – or, as they were known in America, the Disneys” (p. 97). The lack of planning that so often characterized Everglades development sometimes eventuated in tragedy, as when the Okeechobee hurricane of 1928 struck areas populated by impoverished and vulnerable farm laborers. “The Okeechobee hurricane killed 2,500 people, mostly poor blacks who drowned in the vegetable fields of the Everglades. It was the second-deadliest disaster in American history, exceeded only by the Galveston hurricane of 1900; it was much deadlier than Hurricane Katrina’s drowning of New Orleans in 2005” (pp. 193-94). The disaster inspired a crucial scene in, and gave the title to, Zora Neale Hurston’s classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937); and the federal response, the building of the Hoover Dike that cut the lake off from the Everglades, introduced a period of drought to the once-flooded land, and made clear that each human effort to “control” the Everglades would carry its own unintended consequences. Heroic figures are few in the messy saga of Everglades preservation; but one truly heroic figure is Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the Miami Herald journalist and author whose efforts on behalf of the Glades not only produced a great book, The Everglades: River of Grass (1947), but also helped contribute to the dedication of Everglades National Park in that same year. Casual observers might have been forgiven for assuming that the “Everglades problem” had been solved. Yet more perceptive observers, like Douglas herself, knew that the fight to preserve the Everglades had not ended with the establishment of the national park; it had only entered a new phase, as the pressures of agricultural and real-estate development continued to encroach upon the “river of grass.” Forty years after the national park came into existence, in a 1980’s era when the Reagan administration’s “pro-business” policies posed new threats to the existence of the Glades, Douglas was still fighting. “[W]hen Marjory Stoneman Douglas – now in her nineties, and legally blind – called for restrictions on development in the east Everglades at a public hearing, landowners booed and yelled at her to go back to Russia. ‘I’ve got all night, and I’m used to the heat,’ Douglas shot back” (p. 274). Other figures, even those who express concern for Everglades preservation, are depicted as facing the pressures posed by powerful economic interests. When Bob Graham became Governor of Florida in 1978, he launched an ambitious “Save Our Everglades” program that was widely praised in Florida and across the nation; as a U.S. Senator for Florida years later, by contrast, he emphasized “cooperation” with the sugar industry that has always held outsized power and influence in Florida politics. Grunwald quotes Graham’s assessment that “Florida sugar cane fields are an integral component of the Everglades ecosystem” and then sums up Graham’s attitude thus: “He might as well have called the Exxon Valdez an integral component of the Prince William Sound ecosystem” (p. 289). Grunwald ends The Swamp by looking at current restoration efforts in the Everglades watershed – efforts that continue to face challenges from Big Sugar, from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that still seems to think it can achieve seamless management of the entire River of Grass, and from the ongoing manic pace of urban and suburban development across South Florida. In the wake of the 2000 Everglades preservation bill, Grunwald writes, “the Everglades is becoming a restoration model for damaged ecosystems around the globe” (p. 367); but the question of long-term political will to save the Glades remains open. I read The Swamp on a trip to Florida. From my standpoint in downtown Tampa, close to historic Ybor City and the hockey arena where the Tampa Bay Lightning play, I knew that I could, if I wished, take a drive down the Tamiami Trail into the Glades. Yet I knew that if I did so, I would be driving a poorly planned and hastily built road that contributed to flooding throughout the Glades – one of many sad examples of human-caused harm to this unique and irreplaceable ecosystem. In an era of climate change and rising sea levels, one can only hope, as Grunwald suggests in an afterword, that Floridians will see that controlled, sustainable growth that works in harmony with the Glades ecosystem is in their own best interest. “Floridians and Americans,” Grunwald concludes, “have failed the test of the Everglades for most of the last century. But they still haven’t taken the final exam” (p. 375). The Swamp is a powerful statement of concern for the preservation of the Florida Everglades.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gloria

    One of the best books I have ever read. I’ve lived in south and central Florida my entire life and it is very close to my heart. This book shed a whole new light, like a veil being removed from my eyes, on everything that I have known and accepted as “that’s normal” my entire life. I used to swim in SWFMD canals growing up never realizing that someone had built them for a purpose. I just thought everyone had canals in their backyard. I had friends that had to open the “locks” on various dams on One of the best books I have ever read. I’ve lived in south and central Florida my entire life and it is very close to my heart. This book shed a whole new light, like a veil being removed from my eyes, on everything that I have known and accepted as “that’s normal” my entire life. I used to swim in SWFMD canals growing up never realizing that someone had built them for a purpose. I just thought everyone had canals in their backyard. I had friends that had to open the “locks” on various dams on a rainy night. I watched the Kissimmee river flow being moved and boat ramps and hiking trails changed never really understanding why. I’ve driven by lake Okeechobee 100’s of times never understanding why I couldn’t see over the ugly hump into the lake (Herbert Hoover dam). I learned every little detail of how my playground came to be from the Spanish conquistadors until now. I recognize names of counties, cities, universities, mascots, bridges, dams, from the people that built up this beautiful state. I now have a much better understanding of why SWFMD and DEP exist and not just that they are our nemesis in anything that we are trying to do, but in protecting our Everglades, our beautiful wildlife, birds, sea life, and vegetation. Everything that we love about living here. It gives me a new appreciation for these agencies. It stirs a passion in me to see what I can do to help. This author did an amazing job of laying out the facts in an interesting storyline from start to finish without altering the story with his opinion. I was able to just read it as it happened. Bravo.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jan McDonald

    "The Swamp: the Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise" by Michael Grunwald was published in 2006. Although it leaves the reader with an up-beat notion of what is going on, I hope that is still true under the policies of President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. This was our March reading for River Action Book Club. I enjoyed the history and the politics of Author Grunwald's study. Until reading this book, Margaret Stoneman Douglas was just the name of a school where a horri "The Swamp: the Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise" by Michael Grunwald was published in 2006. Although it leaves the reader with an up-beat notion of what is going on, I hope that is still true under the policies of President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. This was our March reading for River Action Book Club. I enjoyed the history and the politics of Author Grunwald's study. Until reading this book, Margaret Stoneman Douglas was just the name of a school where a horrific school shooting took place. Now she is a fascinating woman who worked to save the Everglades until she died at age 108. Broward County was just a place with Ft. Lauderdale until I learned about Napoleon Bonaparte Broward who expanded roads, banned child labor, erected more state buildings than all his predecessors combined, and sold Floridians on his plan to drain the Everglades. Al Gore got screwed in 2000, by the hanging chads until I learned that environmentalist Gore refused to speak out against the Homestead Airport, the only airport to be built next to an National Park, and Ralph Nader received 91,000 votes in South Florida, many of which could be attributed to Nader stand against the airport. Love it when I can learn something. Lake Okeechobee is known as "the Wellspring of the Everlades," and now that I have friends who have joined the 200 people a day who move to Florida, and they live on Lake O, I can't wait to visit. b

  26. 4 out of 5

    Yuri Faenza

    The many lives of the Everglades, from the hideout of indians fighting against European colonization, to the main obstacle to the South Florida dreams of development, to their recognition as a unique, endangered natural environment. Thorugh the history of the Everglades we read the history of American politics, business, and beliefs. Over the years, many dreamed of taming the Everglades and use its the incredibly rich soil to turn South Florida into an agricultural paradise. Most of those dreams The many lives of the Everglades, from the hideout of indians fighting against European colonization, to the main obstacle to the South Florida dreams of development, to their recognition as a unique, endangered natural environment. Thorugh the history of the Everglades we read the history of American politics, business, and beliefs. Over the years, many dreamed of taming the Everglades and use its the incredibly rich soil to turn South Florida into an agricultural paradise. Most of those dreams where cut short by inadequate technology, missing funds, inept engineers, crooked politicians, con artists. But when progress finally arrived, the game changed completely: now it was the Everglades that needed to be saved from humans. Cries for stopping the brutal change in the ecosystem went unheard until the end of the XX century, when, after years of negotiation, compromises, a new deal for saving the Everglades was struck between politics, environmentalists, and industries. The book is encyclopedic, and sometimes it drags on too slowly between too similar episodes, and you feel in the same swamp the pioneered faced in south Florida centuries ago. But it has the merit of giving a complete history of a unique place, and witness its importance for the growth of the environmental movement, that plays such an important role in today's political discourse.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tom Karrel

    Really enjoyed this book! Having visited the Everglades years ago when I was younger, don't think I fully appreciated or grasped the extent of how special this place really is. There were certainly moments in the first half of this book where I got a bit lost in the details, thought there were parts that could've been trimmed, but the 2nd half of the book was incredibly strong in my view and particularly the saga leading up to the early 2000s. The Everglades highlights the age-old story of humans Really enjoyed this book! Having visited the Everglades years ago when I was younger, don't think I fully appreciated or grasped the extent of how special this place really is. There were certainly moments in the first half of this book where I got a bit lost in the details, thought there were parts that could've been trimmed, but the 2nd half of the book was incredibly strong in my view and particularly the saga leading up to the early 2000s. The Everglades highlights the age-old story of humans disregarding and degrading our beautiful planet for financial gains. I was excited to hear that the Everglades began to make an upward trajectory towards the turn of the century, however I know in the 14 years since this book was written that it still faces a lot of threats, sea level rise and continued urban development among many others. Important book for people to read, a healthy reminder that our actions as humans can have lasting and damaging impacts to our world when we are not careful. This story is more timely than ever as we finish up 2020 and face an incredible critical century to save our planet from the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. Very grateful for people/authors like Michael Grunwald who are willing to dive deep into a topic like The Everglades in the 20th/21st centuries and tell the full story.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    I picked up this book because I was travelling down to Florida and I always enjoy reading about places before I go to them. This book exceeded my expectations. I don't know much about Florida. (with the terrific exception of Mattheissen's "Killing Mr. Watson") It has not interested me in the past. I did, however, immensely enjoy my trip through the Everglades several years ago. I don't think I gave it much thought afterwards. As Grunwald describes it, the Everglades was a truly magnificent and u I picked up this book because I was travelling down to Florida and I always enjoy reading about places before I go to them. This book exceeded my expectations. I don't know much about Florida. (with the terrific exception of Mattheissen's "Killing Mr. Watson") It has not interested me in the past. I did, however, immensely enjoy my trip through the Everglades several years ago. I don't think I gave it much thought afterwards. As Grunwald describes it, the Everglades was a truly magnificent and unique natural ecosystem that we (i.e. humans) gradually have shrunk and degraded beyond repair (a sadly common story). I think about the West as our national wilderness but the Everglades River of Grass was just as deserving of protection. Only a little over 100 years ago (Miami had only 500 voters when Chicago was 2mm), the Everglades was a fantastic shallow river 60 miles wide and 150 miles long. The biological diversity was astounding. Grunwald focuses on the political and economic forces that led to the (probably inevitable) conquering of the Everglades by development and it is a gripping story. Unfortunately the assault on the Everglades continues and what a loss it is. Well written and great read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eve Schaub

    This book may not give you all that much hope for the Everglades, or humanity for that matter, but it will give you a firm grounding in the history of this always controversial, unique landscape of natural splendor/mosquito-infested wasteland (depending on your point of view). Grunwald leads the reader on an exhaustive journey through history repeating itself over and over in the form of a parade of swindlers, charlatans and corrupt politicians, all of whom stand to profit from the exploitation This book may not give you all that much hope for the Everglades, or humanity for that matter, but it will give you a firm grounding in the history of this always controversial, unique landscape of natural splendor/mosquito-infested wasteland (depending on your point of view). Grunwald leads the reader on an exhaustive journey through history repeating itself over and over in the form of a parade of swindlers, charlatans and corrupt politicians, all of whom stand to profit from the exploitation of the Everglades in various ways. He does an excellent job leading the reader through evolving ideologies about the landscape- what does it mean to "conserve" a landscape? - and fills the narrative with anecdotes, quotes, and personalities that bring the story to life. The amount of information he manages to entertainingly pack in is amazing. Required reading for anyone interested in landscape, conservation or human nature.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I wanted to like this book more than I did. Unfortunately, it focused on the aspect of the Everglades story that I found the least interesting, namely the politics. It read like a (very) long magazine article, broad but shallow. A little bit about the ecology, a little general information about the details of CERP, history of the settlement of Florida and various development schemes/swindles and long, tedious, detailed chapters about unscrupulous land barons, inside deals, politicians using the I wanted to like this book more than I did. Unfortunately, it focused on the aspect of the Everglades story that I found the least interesting, namely the politics. It read like a (very) long magazine article, broad but shallow. A little bit about the ecology, a little general information about the details of CERP, history of the settlement of Florida and various development schemes/swindles and long, tedious, detailed chapters about unscrupulous land barons, inside deals, politicians using the Everglades to polish their environmental credentials (real or imaginary), and bickering between environmental groups and politicians and sugar growers. I kept hoping it would hook me in and make me want to read the next chapter, but I found the sordid politics so depressing that I could only read a few pages at a time. I hoped it would get more interesting so I finished it, but it wasn't an enjoyable experience. I wish I'd chosen a different book about the Everglades instead.

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