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

  • Cherry Pitfalls
  • Cherry Pitfalls

    Why fruit is rotting on trees while workers wait at the border
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • The Real Threats
  • The Real Threats

    What worries Spokane's sheriff; plus, Washington's lawmakers finally hash out a budget
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • Party of Five?
  • Party of Five?

    Why Spokane County's newest commissioner is leading the fight to add two more
    • Jul 1, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Moscow ArtWalk 2015

Moscow ArtWalk 2015 @ Downtown Moscow

Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays. Continues through Aug. 31

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

  • The Rachel We Knew

    EDITOR'S NOTE: How Rachel Dolezal came to write for the Inlander
    • Jun 18, 2015
  • The Real Rachel Dolezal

    The story goes far beyond just a white woman portraying herself as black
    • Jun 17, 2015
  • More »

© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation