The Everglades National Park
FIU IDH 4007

The Balance of Good and Bad

Karla Huertas
IDH 4007
Fall Semester 2005

   During the airboat ride through the Everglades, I was continuously reminded of the astonishing complexity of nature. While gliding over the sawgrass and apple snail filled marsh, the dichotomy of good and evil slowly came into focus. Like many things considered exceptionally "good" or positive, a bad counterpart exists lurking in the hidden darkness. In the case of the Everglades Park the two drastically different traits are exhibited through nature's actions in many forms.

   The park offers an obvious advantage and opportunity for the animals inhabiting the land by giving them a natural environment, which is protected by Federal and State laws and regulations. However, underlying this safe and tranquil facade is the reality that many of these animals do not always react in a matter considered natural because their environment is not completely "natural". An example of this would be the alligator that meandered over to our airboat during our class trip. It is not natural nor is it safe for the alligators or the people to be accustomed to such interactions. In all probability this is a result of people feeding and trying to befriend the wild animals, possibly by the tour guides as a method to engage and entertain the clients. The alligators get familiarized with this behavior and expect it from all humans, which is where problems and accidents occur. Another example of the not-so-natural environment at the park is the interaction that our airboat had with the Purple Gallinule that flew and landed right next to the fan of the airboat. The bird was so habituated to the humans from the park that it was unaware of the possible danger it was in. A Purple Gallinule not accustomed to human interaction would have been afraid of a loud floating device carrying over 20 human beings.

   However, these unnatural interactions do not consist of only negative effects. Due to the fact that these animals are accustomed to people it does provide us with the opportunity to observe them from a closer distance and expand our knowledge on their habits. It also gives us the opportunity to interact with such extravagant animals that under other situations would not be possible.

   Another example of good and bad intertwined within nature is the effects of the hurricane. The tranquility of the water and the stillness among the trees were a perfect portrait of peace during the excursion, however blemishes of destruction visible from the airboat randomly disturbed this serene landscape. I realized the balance nature carried between its flourishing environment and the hurricane scenes normally thought to be devastating and destructive. Behind these natural disasters is a meticulous beauty and well-constructed matrix that can only be created by nature. Much like humanity, nature practices survival through production, generations of animals, plants, and organisms. This production however, often leads to overpopulation and overcrowding. This is a rapid growing problem humanity also faces. Humans have yet to learn an appropriate method to control our population. Often we depend on nature to somewhat control the human race, through disease and old age. Nature, on the other hand, depends on itself to keep its environment balanced. Events such as the hurricane and forest fires help keep the population at an acceptable range. These disasters also promote biodiversity by providing the opportunity for new habitats and species to flourish, which in other overcrowded situations would never have had the chance.

   Some of the trees lining the boat's path during our trip were uprooted and knocked down due to Hurricane Katrina. The damage was a scene that brought sadness as well as flashbacks of the damage that occurred to our homes and neighborhoods by the same hurricane. However the results to our homes were different from the results of the Everglades - this is where the complex relationship between bad and good within nature happens. A hurricane, though a travesty, I now have come to realize is also a necessity. The trees I saw damaged and drying created new homes for animals in the area such as the snail kites and the raccoons. The decaying wood offered food to other animals such as the apple snail and the vacant area left in the ground made room for new vegetation to grow. That is nature's method of giving other plants and animals a chance to survive in the marsh habitat - the sunshine through all the rain.

   A classic example of good and bad being portrayed within nature is that of hunter and prey. When one thinks of hunter and prey often an image similar to that of a leopard prowling over grassland for dinner comes to mind. The Everglades offers this relationship in a more microscopic form. A symbolic bird from the Everglades is the snail kite. The snail kite survives by feeding on the apple snail, using its beak to loosen the snail from its shell. The thought may seem cruel, however the apple snail is also a hunter. It hunts and scavenges for algae. It is the circle of life, and it is yet another necessity of nature: life and death.

   The Everglades has provided our community with an unlimited number of resources from drinking water to an improved knowledge and understanding of our world. One of the most powerful assets given to us by the park is the comprehension of the balance between good and bad. Natural disasters, intrusions to the natural environment, and the need for death in order to survive are all symbolic aspects of the need for a bad counterpart to every good. Through nature's example, society can learn to accept disastrous events, such as the loss of a loved one or daily inconveniences and convert them into positive, beneficial experiences.

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