At first glance, it appears that
nature created a jigsaw puzzle out of the Everglades. The slough, the hardwood
hammocks, the pineland, the freshwater swamps, the wet prairie and mangrove
communities are perfect pieces of ecosystems that connect delicately one to
another. Few inches of difference in ground elevation will shape the silhouette
of the puzzle, and water will decide the type of vegetation and fauna that will
dwell in each one of the pieces. The Everglades are an amazing puzzle, in which
sadly, some pieces have been destroyed. The incompleteness of the Everglades
impedes its fragile ecosystem to function the natural way in which it was slowly
molded. Today, it is in our hands to recuperate as much as possible the original
condition in which the Everglades was once in. Many people around the world
are highly concerned about the future of the Everglades, especially Europeans
that compose probably one third of the yearly visitors to the park. We cannot
deny the great impact that this park produces to the world, but unfortunately,
we cannot say the same about the residents of Miami. It seems that an imaginary
wall separates Miami from the Everglades, blinding the locals to the needs that
affect the ecosystem that they so much depend on. What are some of the reasons
why the residents of Miami seem so indifferent towards the Everglades? There
are different reasons, but the main motives are cultural, economical and educational.
Miami-Dade is a multicultural county in which more than half of its population is foreign- born residents. The majority of these immigrants have derived from Latin American countries such as Cuba, Haiti, Colombia and Nicaragua, which have supplied 55 % of the immigration since the beginning of the 1990's (Fair Florida). Since education about the environment is not an important issue in many Latin American countries, there is little, if any, concern bestowed in the Latin American people about their environmental surroundings. As a result, most of them come to this country not caring about environmental issues and so, not getting involved in improving our ecosystem. Another cause affecting the ignorance of the environment is that many immigrants come to this country to succeed, putting first, as a priority, their personal situation. They become so involved in bettering themselves that they have little time to enjoy what the city culturally has to offer. Therefore, most of the immigrants know very little aboutthe Everglades and normally the information they get about the park is often very ambiguous. Everglades for many of the immigrants is synonymous with mosquitoes, heat, putrid waters and dangerous beasts, a place that is not worth the visit.
For the majority of the immigrants television is the only way of entertainment that they can afford. Due to a language barrier the only television they watch are the few channels that are transmitted in the Spanish language. The programs of these channels are dedicated to entertain and not to educate. Spanish channels do not offer educational programs or channels such as Discovery, National Geographic, and Animal planet, programs that focus in the awareness of nature. Local television in English occasionally transmits program related with the Everglades, but since immigrants normally are restricted to one language, they miss a good opportunity to learn about their environmental surroundings.
Another important factor to consider is the poverty rate that Miami-Dade possesses, which is 20%, ranking Miami-Dade County as the 16th poorest among the large counties of the United States. Nearly one third of the population in the city of Miami live in poverty, which ranks the city of Miami as the poorest city in the United States (Habitat). The way this affects the Everglades is that these large numbers of people prioritize solving their basic life needs such as food, warmth, sleep, shelter, and stability, and knowledge about their environment never becomes important issue in their own world
Another important factor that separates The Everglades from Miami residents is the poor education that children receive about The Everglades in Miami Dade Public Schools. Having the Everglades so close to Miami one would think that the study of the park would be an obligatory subject that should be taught to every child living in Miami. In reality, the Everglades ecosystem is only briefly discussed in elementary school and sometimes complemented with a field trip to the Everglades. The sad part is that later, the Everglades are completely ignored during Middle School and High School. The Everglades is a park that should be taught throughout the entire educational years of the child, because to care about the Everglades is not something that can be acquired in just one visit, it is a continual process.
The Everglades is not a spectacular
park with beautiful mountains, waterfalls, and rapids. The Everglades is flat,
humid, hot and full of mosquitoes, but also is unique, intriguing and captivating
in its own way. It is not a park to go to for one day; it is a park to visit
constantly and to slowly fall in love with it in each visit. To love its flatness
that permits the shallow water to cover most of the vast park, the heat and
humidity that energizes life, the mosquitoes that have their function in the
ecosystem and the sounds of nature. The Everglades has so much to offer and
yet, we are so affected by our own situations, such as economical problems,
cultural background, and lack of education in environmental issues, that we
are blinded and cannot see all the beauty that we have before us.
Fair Florida. Home page. 24 Sep. 2003.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami. Home Page. 24 Sep 2003.
Everglades Information Network & Digital Library
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