Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Ted S. McGregor Jr. & r & & r & The Swamp by Michael Grumwald & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & "T & lt;/span & he Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to keep the planet." That's the signature quote, from an Everglades defender, in Michael Grunwald's sprawling recounting of Florida's complicated relationship with its most profound geographical feature. Nobody's put their pencil down just yet, but early scoring indicates that we'll have to ace the last few questions if we want to pass this exam.


Grunwald is a reporter for the Washington Post, and The Swamp grew out of an award-winning series he wrote on the Everglades, one of the most disputed pieces of property on the planet. The place offers a perfect case study for how badly we've treated Mother Nature -- and how schizophrenic our efforts to make it up to her have been. Civil engineers from as far away as Iraq, where ill-conceived water projects turned marshlands to desert, are coming to study the Everglades.


Famously called a "river of grass," the Everglades are a very gradual, shallow drainage from central Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. It's also ridiculously fragile, as humans have found out ever since they've endeavored to control it. Tame the Everglades, the idea goes, and you could reclaim millions of acres for sale. As is so often the case, it's all about land deals.


Florida provides the perfect setting for showing off human hubris; long considered a hell-hole, it was reimagined as a retreat for the rich and richer, then, by Walt Disney, as a fantasyland. While great for business, it's been an ecological disaster, with salt creeping into the water supplies, algae killing fish and coral, pavement covering every available space and the Everglades half gone.


The "politics of paradise," as Grunwald calls it, is pretty dense stuff -- reading these later passages is like wading through endless thickets of sawgrass. But the book shines in its retelling of Florida history, with a crazy cast of characters and epic events, like the Seminole Wars, the deadly storm of 1928 and the building of a railroad all the way to Key West.


But as a call to action, Grunwald's a little too much of journalist, and not enough of a poet to really hit your heart.


"There is only one Everglades, and we have just about destroyed it," he concludes rather dryly. "It is our ability to recognize this, and make amends, that sets us apart from other species."

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Recall and Response
  • Recall and Response

    The attempt to remove Spokane Mayor David Condon from office may be a long shot, but he isn't taking any chances
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Shades of Black Lives
  • Shades of Black Lives

    A Spokane County detective's Facebook post about Black Lives Matter sparks debate among local law enforcement
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Fires Hit Home
  • Fires Hit Home

    Tens of thousands of acres burn around Spokane on Sunday and Monday; plus, DOJ weighs in on concerns over bail system
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed
Coeur d'Alene Classic Boat Festival

Coeur d'Alene Classic Boat Festival @ Coeur d'Alene

Sat., Aug. 27 and Sun., Aug. 28

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • 'Unreasonable Threat to Life and Property'

    Spokane's rental housing has problems, but landlord and tenant groups are split on a solution
    • Aug 11, 2016
  • 'End of Story'

    Condon administration aims to close the controversial Frank Straub chapter — but last week's scathing report has irrevocably changed the narrative
    • Aug 4, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Hopeless for Heroin
  • Hopeless for Heroin

    As heroin deaths continue to rise in Washington state, what can a parent do to save a child from the depths of addiction?
    • Jul 29, 2015
  • Where School Bonds Go to Die
  • Where School Bonds Go to Die

    Central Valley School District's bond and levy package wouldn't increase property taxes a dime — but don't tell that to Duane Alton
    • Feb 5, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation