The Everglades National Park
FIU IDH 4007

Admitting the Problem is the First Step

Matthew D Carli
IDH 4007
Fall Semester 2005

   The Everglades is an endless plethora of beauty but without the knowledge behind it, you are blind. Knowledge is what has changed my perspective of the Everglades and has evolved into a deep found love of the land I call home. Now I don't believe I can ever see South Florida in the same light again. From the puddle when it rains to the "beautiful" lakes of the developments here in the Miami area, knowledge has opened my eyes to both the good and the bad. King Solomon was offered wealth or wisdom by G-d to rule the people of Israel, and he quickly chose wisdom and knowledge. And his investment in himself gave him the wealth, so if everyone took the same and approached the Everglades with wisdom, then we too may receive much wealth in return. Today this lesson is just as clear because money could never buy the everlasting wealth that I increasingly gain, through the knowledge that is offered through the beauty of what I, and all of us already have in our backyards. But at the same time it is up to us to insure a future for that beauty.

   When we arrived in the park for class, the tranquility of the land seeped into my soul immediately, but as class went on I quickly realized that my eyes were really half closed. As we traveled the trail at a snails pace, each tree and every animal was as if the trail was a corridor at the Guggenheim. And like each painting, each tree and animal told a story. The gumbo-limbos showed us adversity through its peeling skin. The Everglades palms sung as the wind blew gently. The cocoplum was like a mother standing proud feeding the children of the Everglades. The delicate cycle was becoming clearer in my head. The fish swam beneath our feet feasting at the buffet of aquatic plants. The pines showed us that they could be burned but live on. Birds soared above our heads and others like the anhinga rested on the branches around us, but as we ventured deeper into the park our presence was clearly unwelcome. We drove over the road that was flooded and the lines of battle were clearly drawn. As the water pushed up on the road, the subtle damage that people are causing was becoming clearer.

   After attending class, I drove home in the rain and exited the highway as the sun came back out and there were large puddles and flooding on nearly every street. Before I might have never thought twice about this regular flooding of west Miami, but as I passed from puddle to puddle, my mind could not let go of the fact that this land was not intended for us to live on, or at least without living on stilts. Finally I arrived at my apartment complex, which sits along side a beautiful lake, but still the puddles were all around me.

   The lake I see is nothing more than an overflowing reservoir for the land that we have claimed. These lakes are more properly referred to as borrow ponds, which serve as storage for the water, which at this time of year should submerge west Miami. With our aquifer sitting just under the surface, the depth of these borrow ponds is limited. Although the soft limestone underneath us and the borrow ponds allow water to seep back into the aquifer, the urban development of the former Everglades retards this process. The water that doesn't end up in those puddles or the borrow ponds goes into the intricate system of the South Florida canals that attempt to control nature. These canals are the reason that it doesn't flood every time it rains but are also the same reason why hundreds of species of both plants and animals are suffering. So the future of our city appears to be an ongoing battle with the forces of nature that have established themselves for five millennia.

   The next question that arises is, "is it possible to reverse development?" The answer is yes, of course, but the problem is money. It was easy for the developers of the Everglades to fund their destructive operations because the money was there as soon as the building was underway. The almost perfect South Florida climate has been the selling point for development over the years, neglecting the Everglades and stripping it of its value. But now campaigns are being made to reverse some of the damage done. For example a proposition has been made to make Tamiami Trail an elevated road sitting a few feet off the earth to allow the natural flow of water, but the cost is a major concern and the profit will not come in dollar signs. Even if the elevated highway were to become a reality, that would still only help the land that has not yet become an urban metropolis. The chance of any major measures to repair the land we live on today is slim to none. So as the saying goes, "if life gives you lemons, then make lemonade". This is exactly what is underway, which is the prevention of any further destruction. But pressure to move urban development even further west is the root of all destruction towards the Everglades, and the ongoing battle of our modern era.

   As knowledge enlightens us to the beauty of our home, it also makes us aware of the atrocities that go on each and every day. If the knowledge can spread and open the eyes of more and more people here in South Florida, then proactive change will become imminent. The Everglades are a silent jewel that we all share. The Everglades are a place of true tranquility and beauty but it is one of the most fragile ecosystems that the world has to offer. Due to its oligotrophic nature, the slightest increase in nutrients upsets its balance. Now that we have this knowledge, we can hold ourselves fully accountable to any further destruction to the Everglades. Just as Solomon asked for knowledge to rule the people of Israel, now it is with this knowledge that we must rule our own selves to stop the killing of the Everglades. And if dreams become reality, this beautiful land will be there for countless generations to come and enjoy.

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