The Everglades: From Beginning to End?
FIU Honors Seminar IDH 4007

Who Says Humans Are Unimportant?

Alexander Alonso
IDH 4007
Section #1
Journal Entry #2

One of the most tangible values of the Everglades National Park is the rich fauna which calls it "home". The Everglades are inhabited by such a wide variety of creatures ranging from the flying mullet to the rare Florida Panther all of which augment the value of the park. This expanse of wildlife that inhabits the Everglades, whether seasonal or permanent, is comprised of such spectacular creatures that often times, such an indelible mark is made by one or two animals, and the myriad of other park denizens are left totally forgotten. Probably the most overlooked of these comes from the primate family and is known as Homo sapiens. Man plays three important roles in the Florida Everglades: the first of these is as the ever-present park ranger, the second role is as the awe-inspiring, nature-loving tourist, and the final and most grisly role is as the eternal "well of nourishment" for the blood-thirsty species known as Aedis taeniorhynchus or the mosquito. Indubitably, all three of these roles have an immeasurable impact on the park.

The first role that man plays in the Everglades National Park is that of the seemingly omnipresent and omniscient park ranger who performs two duties at the park: tour guide and protector. Essentially, the park ranger is at the disposal of any park visitors. He is their tour guide, their protection from the animals, and their sounding board. If one should devote some time to tracking a group of callow and unsuspecting tourists on a guided tour of the circuitous Anhinga Trail, they would notice that the park ranger exists as a gentle being who serves as the intermediary between other humans and nature. He patiently answers any questions one might have about the park and diligently offers up his wealth of knowledge as source for those whose interest is peaked by the Florida Everglades. Now, you are probably wondering about his role as a protector. "Does he really protect the humans from the wildlife (e.g., alligators)?" you ask. Well, no. In reality, the ranger protects the wildlife from the "wise ass" tourist that taunts or endangers animals and, consequently, the "wise ass" from the animal defending its hallowed habitat. Not only does he protect the wildlife, but he does his best to preserve it as well. Whether serving as a maintenance man for the ecosystem or as a watchdog for the stupidities of "wise asses" or as an encyclopedia for the curious tourist, the park ranger is on a constant vigil and is always up to the task at hand.

The most common role for humans in the Everglades National Park is as the awe-inspired, the nature-loving tourist. Comprised of two essential tasks, the role of tourist is one that the park could not do without. "What does the park gain from allowing visitors?" you ask. Tourists act as a source of monetary gains as well as a source of free advertising. Unfortunately, the park cannot function in the modern global environment without money. A great source of this valued community is the nature-loving tourist. Once tourists enter the park, they have already lined the coiffeurs of the Everglades National Park by paying the relatively minimal entrance fee, and almost every subsequent activity will cost the tourist something. Secondly, tourism benefits the Everglades National Park because of the "word-of-mouth" advertising that it receives absolutely free of charge. There is no such thing as a disgruntled visitor at the Everglades National Park. Almost everyone walks out with a sense of glee for having experienced nature in that fashion. All this happiness is indubitably spread by all those who visit the Everglades to their family, their friends, and anyone who will listen. Stories of alligator holes and canoeing throughout the park like Hugh Willoughby fill the hearts of not only those who have done it but those who listen to these lucky few. Tourists and the Everglades partake in an exchange involving apital gains for the park and memories unlike any others for the tourists. This serves as yet another sign that even the most egotistical and self-centered of humans can play a crucial part in the Florida Everglades.

The final part is one that is performed by every man, woman, and child that ever comes into the Everglades National Park. "What else could humans possibly offer to the Everglades?" you ask. How about, being a "well of nourishment" for every form of mosquito in the entire park. When I say a "well of nourishment," I am referring to that most annoying of occurrences when a mosquito lands on your smooth, creamy skin and decides either to relieve itself in some way or to plunge its puny needle and suck the very life out of you (the sucker). Now, both of these occasions might seem innocuous but to the average person (a fictitious figure) but, to these tiny inhabitants, this is a way of life. There is no life for these mosquitoes without the blood of the unsuspecting human. Now, the crimson blood of human is not exactly "filet mignon" but for these diminutive vampires it serves as a nine course meal. Just imagine having to fight for your survival, and the only way is by drinking the blood of animals nearly half-a-million times your size. It is a miracle that these mosquitoes have not given up all hope! Nevertheless, they keep on truckin' and suckin', all of which would be impossible without the presence of man in the one, the only, the Florida Everglades. If this is not enough evidence to demonstrate the importance of man in the Everglades, I don't know what is!

To the untrained eye, man appears to be an intruder in the Florida Everglades; however, to the trained eye, man is a participant in a subtle phenomenon. Here, man is no longer an interloper but a member of the ecosystem. He participates in a variety of ways ranging from acting as the all-powerful park ranger to providing sustenance for an entire community of blood-sucking mosquitoes. Whether guarding the wildlife from the idiosyncrasies of tourists or indirectly funding the maintenance of the park, man has become an inextricable cog in the Everglades ecosystem; and, that is a bonafide phenomenon.

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