Thank You and Happy Birthday
I acquired a tattoo on my 20th birthday. Let us suffice it to say that it was not a planned event. However, the permanent marking that I gained is a tribal symbol that has been significant to me for years. It's essential meaning is to take strength from your past and move into your future (profound, I know, and I wasn't even sober!). Nevertheless, these were the thoughts I had as I sat down to write this final journal entry of the Everglades class experience.
This class has taught me a lot in the way of concrete knowledge; that is, facts, figures, flora and fauna. But there has been so much more empirical knowledge gained which I find to be the most relevant to my reflection here. Has this class changed me? For sure, and in so many ways. It has certainly broadened my educational horizons, as far as honors education is concerned. Not only that, but it has given me the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. and share my love of this class with other honors students. It has made me a better informed and aware citizen, not only of the South Florida area, but of this country that values its natural wonders (to an extent, but I'll leave the politics out of this one). One can only gain such an appreciation through direct and interactive contact, such as this class has had with the Everglades. I have gained a whole new handful of friends, not only in my classmates but in the instructors as well. It is a kinship based on the experiences we have shared together as a group, as well as personally, during the past two semesters. And to top it off, I finally met a nice guy who happens to be from my home state and who also happens to be one of the law enforcement rangers in Everglades National Park (if you want more details on that one, you'll have to ask!).
So where does one go from here? Having gained this knowledge and shared these experiences, what does an honors graduate do with them? Certainly we have shown through class that the tragedy of the Everglades is not a simple problem, nor does it have a simple solution. My ranger friend tells me of daily garbage dumpings and other types of violations within the park that represent only a small portion of the obstacles in the way of the Everglades survival. It appears to me, therefore, that education and communication of the Everglades as a unique and "fragile as glass" ecosystem are key starting points, on both a small and large-scale basis. I am reminded of David McCally's three-part plan for restoration for the Everglades, one of those points being the expulsion of the "river of grass" metaphor. This certainly ties in with proper communication of what exactly the Everglades are and/or will be.
The class title "The Everglades: from beginning to end?" has taken on a whole new meaning from the start of the class back in September to now, at its completion. It has gone from an abstract idea to an informed entity, which is what one hopes a class will do with its material. So, like any life experience, you take it for what it's worth and derive strength and substance and knowledge from it. To Professors Machonis and Graham, thank you for changing my life, and changing the way I see myself and the world around me. It has been a life-altering, if not mind-altering, experience being a part of this seminar. I now move forward with these sentiments and the strength that proper knowledge brings.
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