The Everglades National Park
FIU IDH 4007

My Walk with Nature

Giselle Sanchez
IDH 4007
November 2, 2001
Journal #3


   In Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie noticed while living in the Everglades that some of the Indians started leaving the town and heading east. She also noticed that the animals started to scatter as well. Janie asked one of the Indians why they were leaving and he said that there was a hurricane approaching. The park ranger that guided us on the slough slog informed the class that this is a fact. The animals as well as the sawgrass know when hurricanes are approaching. The Indians these days know when a hurricane is approaching as well. Yet, these days they most likely find out from the weather channel reports on their big-screen TV's in their casinos instead of analyzing whether or not the sawgrass is blooming! It would have been interesting to have had class this Friday to see for ourselves if the blooming of sawgrass is indeed a fact now that Hurricane Michelle is approaching.

   Last Friday there was an abundance of animal life throughout our slough slog since there was no hurricane threatening our coast. Two deer sprinted across the road as we were driving through the tollbooth and I scared Jose Antonio half to death as I screamed upon seeing them. He jumped up in his seat thinking I had crashed into something and was relieved to see that I was only enthusiastically pointing out a couple of deer to him. A mob of black vultures formed a roadblock on our way to the slog. I was delighted to see numerous cricket frogs, both green and brown. We could have held an apple snail bobbing contest with all the apple snails floating on the surface. I constantly had to untangle myself from spider webs that the colorful crab spiders spun between the sawgrass. Dozens of swallows sped across the sky. Anoles firmly grasped onto their sawgrass as we stampeded through their habitat. Crayfish swam circles around my feet each time the ranger stopped to point something out for us. Mosquito fish nibbled at my fingers as I sat on a submerged cypress having our book discussion. Plus, I'm sure that for every animal that I saw there were probably a hundred more I missed. Would things still look the same this Friday? Or have the animals started evading Hurricane Michelle?

   Hurricanes can extremely alter the environment of the Everglades. According to our textbook, Discover a Watershed, "in recent decades, three severe storms-the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Donna in 1960, and Hurricane Andrew in 1992-completely altered the character of vegetation in parts of the Everglades watershed, especially among the coastal mangroves from Long Sound to the Ten Thousand Islands"(Robinson 39). The effects of hurricanes are not all negative. "In all three species (red, black, and white mangroves), maturation of seeds coincides with the peak of hurricane season"(Robinson 43). The strong winds of hurricanes help to carry seeds to different environments. That is the main reason why the sawgrass blooms before a hurricane hits, to spread its seeds. But since hurricanes are not very common in November I wonder if Hurricane Michelle will have any positive effects at all on the Everglades. During our canoeing adventure at Nine Mile Pond, I did not notice many seeds on the red mangroves. Is Hurricane Michelle too late for the sawgrass to bloom as well?

   It is being stated on the news that drainage has already begun in preparation for the hurricane. "The collective effects of wind-generated waves, tides, and storm surge causes flooding. If heavy, precipitation aggravates flood conditions- a storm can generate 10 to 20 inches of rain in a single day"(Robinson 44). Since we value our lives more than saving the Everglades, we choose to drain them. Hurston's story climaxed when her protagonist, Janie, experienced a hurricane in which Lake Okeechobee overflowed. A hurricane like this was a reality in 1928 when a "storm blew all the water out of Lake Okeechobee, burying more than 2,000 people in an avalanche of mud and debris" (Robinson 46). Then in 1930 Herbert Hoover Dike was constructed for flood protection around the lake. Man is more threatening to the Everglades survival than hurricanes. Man resorts to drainage to save his life. There are various stormwater pollutants that have serious effects on our waters. For example, pesticides from croplands, mosquito control and lawns cause a loss of aquatic microflora/fauna, sea grass mortality, altered aquatic populations, loss of recreational potential, and a reduction of sport/commercial fisheries. The Everglades suffer whether or not the hurricane hits.

   The lives of my new friends (the deer, the cricket frogs, the mosquito fish, ...etc.) remain threatened regardless of the hurricane. "Because Everglades plants and animals adapt their lifestyles to the cycles of wet and dry, it is critical that water managers hold and release the resource in accordance with these seasons. Too much water at the wrong time can be as damaging as too little. Deer starve because their food is under water; submerged alligator eggs rot in the nest" (Robinson 127). We already saw how high the water levels were as we slough slogged. We had to walk in circles through the cypress dome in search of dry land and we never did find it. I think I got an idea of what it feels like to be lost at sea for days and hallucinating that dry land was at a distance. Our textbook demonstrates how concern grew for Everglades National Park during the 1960's when "the water management district was criticized for allowing muck fires to burn out of control during the dry times and for drowning deer in human-made floods in wet seasons" (Robinson 123). The deer we saw were most likely along the road because of the high water levels. They were as eager to find high ground to have lunch as we were.

   Hopefully, my new friends won't be affected too much by the hurricane if it ends up hitting South Florida. But our generation really has to do something about the Everglades and soon. We don't feel the effects of hurricanes too often, but the plants and animals feel the effects of our presence around them in the Everglades every day. I found an anonymous quote that captured my experience last Friday, "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." In my walk with nature I only sought to bring home the stories and experiences of such a unique and wonderful environment but I also brought home something I didn't seek, a guilty conscience. I feel horrible that the human race, which I belong to, has threatened the life of the new friends I made.

   Darwin said that evolution depends on the "survival of the fittest." But man has been cheating with his competitors because he may not be the fittest, but he certainly is the greediest. Those who drained the Everglades did not sit in the water while mosquito fish nibbled at their fingers or tried desperately to catch a cricket frog to view its vibrant green color up close. If they did, they wouldn't have dared to destroy such an astounding environment. Since we did not have the brains to figure out that the drainage of the Everglades would end up hurting us as well, we are definitely not the fittest. By being the greediest, we will probably kill off the fittest (which in my opinion is nature because we have no control over nature). We tried to control water and since water is a naturally occurring phenomenon we were ignorant to think we could regulate it. And since water is an ingredient required for our survival we will most likely end up not surviving either unless some drastic changes are made in the very near future.