Swamps are lovely

Darksyde’s latest Science Friday is an interview with Michael Grunwald on the subject of the Florida Everglades. It’s a mostly bad news with threads of forlorn hope scattered throughout, like most environmental news.

The bad news is that the ecosystem is in a state of near-collapse. Lake Okeechobee is going to hell; it’s the color of espresso. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries are just gross. And CERP is already way over budget, behind schedule, and off track; Congress is losing interest in funding it. The good news is that there are signs that Floridians are beginning to recognize that their way of life is not sustainable. Posh towns like Fort Myers, Sanibel, Stuart and Jupiter are in revolt over the decline of the estuaries; retirees are having trouble breathing at the beach. Governor Bush shocked enviros by taking their side in a battle over sprawl in Miami-Dade County. A plan to build a massive biotech campus at the edge of the Everglades–maybe the biggest project in Florida since Disney–was blocked by an environmental lawsuit; now it looks like it’s going to move to a more sensible location. And remember: several million acres of the Everglades ecosystem is already in public ownership. So there’s hope.


  1. Diego says

    Swamps (wetlands with trees and low water flow) are indeed quite lovely, and it’s true that there are many swamps in the Everglades system. However, as a whole, the Everglades is a complex macrocosm of marshes and other wetlands with scattered upland communities. Marjorie Stoneman Douglas’ “River of Grass” term is really quite apt. As a Floridian, I just had to nitpick.

  2. says

    Off-topic: it’s good to see some folk standing up for science in my homeland. I don’t know how big an issue it is in the states, but the closest we generally come in the UK to things like abortion clinics being firebombed is the antics of animal rights protesters. They recently managed to shut down a planned primate research lab in Cambridge with their acts of terrorism. Looks like some students are determined that Oxford not go the same way.

  3. Faust says

    I think that the Everglades was probably one of, if not the only, good thing about growing up in South Florida. The diversity that exists there is uttterly amazing. I don’t know if there are many other places where you would have panthers and bobcats wandering through your backyard and also find alligators living in your swails (storm ditches–I think swails might be colloquial, I get strange looks when I use that term outside of South Florida).

  4. MJ Memphis says

    We also used the term “swail” in south Louisiana. Perhaps it is colloquial to those areas where one can find alligators in the back lot. :)

  5. Faust says

    MJ Memphis,

    Thanks for the info. That would make sense that some of the bayou lingo would be the same (although, we Floridians lack the French/Cajun culture).

  6. Marine Geologist says

    Swales or swails are not unique. We had them in Illinois and we’ve got them in Virginia.

    “a low-lying or depressed and often wet stretch of land; also : a shallow depression on a golf fairway or green ”

    Merriam Webster online.

  7. says

    Been reading Bruce Babbitt’s “Cities in the Wilderness”, and he talks a lot about how they created the plan to restore the everglades. The biggest problem is the need to take over some of the remaining sugar cane fields upriver from the glades and flood them so there is enough storage for all the water that needs to filter down to the everglades. Since this was politically unpopular at the time, the Army Core of Engineers wanted to build huge underground aquifiers to store the water, but this was a pretty silly plan to begin with.

    The stupidest part is there is so little soil left in the cane fields anyway that they are almost worthless. More and more of the topsoil is destroyed every year – the level is now 12 feet lower than when they started farming. If the state and feds would simply buy out the cane farmers, flood the land, and let the water filter down to the glades, there’s a good chance of recovery. But instead, everything is in limbo.

  8. dbpitt says

    At least there is some good news for the Floridian environment: Jeb wants to open the coast to oil drilling!
    According to experts, and by “experts” I mean politicians, certain bacteria will thrive on the petrolium that seeps out, meaning that all the petrolium will simply dissapear with no negative effects on native organisms. Of course, there will be little negative impact of thriving bacteria either. The impact will simply end with the bacteria.

  9. G. Tingey says

    The Swale is a piece of estuary between the Isle of Sheppey and Kent in England …
    I think there are others on the East coast of England.

    Anyway, Florida belongs to Gerald Grosvenor, Duke of Wesminster – that’s why the US embassy in London is RENTED – Grosvenor says that the US can have the freehold when they give Florida back… (I kid you not)