The Everglades National Park
FIU IDH 4007

Controlling Life

Catherine Torres
IDH 4007
Spring Semester 2005

   Anhinga Trail was absolutely gorgeous last Friday. It was a beautiful day. It was sunny and breezy. The birds were out in full force, while the alligators sunned themselves on the land. Everglades's visitors were also abundant, and tourist attractions were everywhere. The Double Crested Cormorants lined the sides of the walk ways, ignoring the hoards of school children and tourists that occasionally walked too close. The Wood Storks walked through the saw grass, clumsily churning the water with their feet and blindly indulging in late morning snacks. The Great Blue Herons fished as well, though with their sight instead of their feet. The lower water level made for a spectacular feeding ground.

   After all of our class visits into Everglades National Park, it was neat to see the difference in the trail from one semester to the next, a rainy season to a dry one. Last semester, there were only occasional birds out for identification and hundreds of mosquitoes following us through the Anhinga Trail, onto Gumbo Limbo Trail, and into our cars. There were barely any visitors to the park, and we closed our eyes to listen to the sounds of the Everglades. This time around, noise was everywhere. Children were calling out identifications, rangers were giving lectures, and tourists were taking pictures, claiming that they saw birds as big as bears. Despite the chill of the morning, it was indeed a beautiful day. It was a day that emphasized the wonder of nature and its ability to change while still retaining its splendor.

   The most mesmerizing part of the experience was not only the beauty of nature and of change, but the beauty of nature's willingness to allow us such close interaction. The wildlife practically ignored us. They went about their daily routines and let us, the visitors, stroll along and enjoy. They put on some entertainment for us too, occasionally dancing around, singing, or posing for pictures.

   It is hard to believe that such beauty is taken for granted, used and abused because we have no inclination to think before acting. The human race has this notion of superiority about everything it does. Kill the birds to make decorative hats, drain the Everglades to make farming land, dredge the rest of it to make transportation possible, plant an invasive species because it makes a nice lawn ornament... and the list goes on and on. "The Everglades from beginning to end???" is the perfect title for this course. We have studied the Everglades' beginnings and visited its home and now are left to fear that no matter what is done to save it, it just might have an end. All the 'conservation' projects and all the management efforts to control life, though seemingly helpful, make one thing perfectly clear: we muddled up big time. In class, we mentioned the idea of playing God or Mother Nature. Though humans attempt to control the natural world, the truth is that we are far from perfection. We are not playing the life giving force, but rather making up for the mistakes that will eventually take that life force away. We are not conserving. We are backtracking. We are desperately trying to fix the natural world, because we now realize that without it, we will be lost. Several weeks ago, the district tour and its ten parts per billion plan seemed like a rational conservation effort to protect the Everglades with a Freddy the Alligator mascot. Though the plan is better than allowing farmers free digging and dumping into the Everglades, the plan does not entitle the district to a 'Mother Nature' status. The problems faced by the district were created by them to begin with. 'Mother Nature' does not make mistakes, people do. The Storm Water Treatment Areas, the Hole in the Donut restoration project, and all the other 'conservation' efforts are merely management means to fix what we have already destroyed. That is a shame to say the least. People are thoughtless of consequences. They see a pretty holly and plant it in the middle of a completely unique ecosystem and turn that ecosystem upside-down. People are thoughtless because they just don't care or because they are ignorant, and they are ignorant because they do not realize how each and every act produces an equal or opposite reaction. Yet, it does not take a physics major to make that connection!! Although I did not get to experience the Hole in the Donut project in its entirety, what I did see made an enormous impact on me. The fact that one slight action can produce a huge environmental headache is not a surprise, but it is nonetheless quite startling. Farmers came into the Everglades and plowed the limestone out of the ground, grinding the rock into dust and effectively creating a farming-rich environment. But when the farms were abandoned in the 1970's, it did not take long for the farming action to force a reaction. The higher surface level caused by the dust volume allowed for less flooding. The fertilized soil provided nutrients galore. In turn, the invasive holly or Brazilian Pepper, brought to Florida for decorative purposes, thrived. The abandoned farmland provided the ideal haven for the migrant plant, and it began to take over the Everglades ecosystem. It killed other plants, it repelled deer, and it just kept going. No burning or plowing would stop it, and it did not help that birds were spreading the seeds as well. The Hole in the Donut restoration project is a brilliant plan to eradicate Brazilian Pepper, and slowly but surely, it is working. It is just unfortunate that so much time has to be spent repairing the environment because people were ignorant enough to destroy it. It is my hope that someday, the backtracking will end. I hope that backtracking will end because people stop being stupid and finally stop making a mess of nature. Then and only then can the Everglades be enjoyed and conserved rather than just managed. It is my hope that someday, the backtracking will end. I hope that backtracking will end because people stop being stupid and finally stop making a mess of nature. Then and only then can the Everglades be enjoyed and conserved rather than just managed. e muddled up big time. In class, we mentioned the idea of playing God or Mother Nature. Though humans attempt to control the natural world, the truth is that we are far from perfection. We are not playing the life giving force, but rather making up for the mistakes that will eventually take that life force away. We are not conserving. We are backtracking. We are desperately trying to fix the natural world, because we now realize that without it, we will be lost. Several weeks ago, the district tour and its ten parts per billion plan seemed like a rational conservation effort to protect the Everglades with a Freddy the Alligator mascot. Though the plan is better than allowing farmers free digging and dumping into the Everglades, the plan does not entitle the district to a 'Mother Nature' status. The problems faced by the district were created by them to begin with. 'Mother Nature' does not make mistakes, people do. The Storm Water Treatment Areas, the Hole in the Donut restoration project, and all the other 'conservation' efforts are merely management means to fix what we have already destroyed. That is a shame to say the least. People are thoughtless of consequences. They see a pretty holly and plant it in the middle of a completely unique ecosystem and turn that ecosystem upside-down. People are thoughtless because they just don't care or because they are ignorant, and they are ignorant because they do not realize how each and every act produces an equal or opposite reaction. Yet, it does not take a physics major to make that connection!! Although I did not get to experience the Hole in the Donut project in its entirety, what I did see made an enormous impact on me. The fact that one slight action can produce a huge environmental headache is not a surprise, but it is nonetheless quite startling. Farmers came into the Everglades and plowed the limestone out of the ground, grinding the rock into dust and effectively creating a farming-rich environment. But when the farms were abandoned in the 1970's, it did not take long for the farming action to force a reaction. The higher surface level caused by the dust volume allowed for less flooding. The fertilized soil provided nutrients galore. In turn, the invasive holly or Brazilian Pepper, brought to Florida for decorative purposes, thrived. The abandoned farmland provided the ideal haven for the migrant plant, and it began to take over the Everglades ecosystem. It killed other plants, it repelled deer, and it just kept going. No burning or plowing would stop it, and it did not help that birds were spreading the seeds as well. The Hole in the Donut restoration project is a brilliant plan to eradicate Brazilian Pepper, and slowly but surely, it is working. It is just unfortunate that so much time has to be spent repairing the environment because people were ignorant enough to destroy it. It is my hope that someday, the backtracking will end. I hope that backtracking will end because people stop being stupid and finally stop making a mess of nature. Then and only then can the Everglades be enjoyed and conserved rather than just managed.

   
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