Before 1947, when Marjory Stoneman Douglas named the Everglades a “river of grass,” most people considered the area a vast and worthless swamp. She brought the world’s attention to the need to preserve the Everglades as the unique and magnificent place that it is.
It has now been 70 years since the first publication of her seminal work, The Everglades: River of Grass, and much has changed. Pineapple Press is proud to present the 70th Anniversary Edition of this book, with a new updated Afterword by Michael Grunwald.
“The Eleventh Hour,” the closing chapter of the first edition, called for action to save the Everglades. In the Afterword of this new edition, Michael Grunwald again sets forth an update of what has happened to the Everglades in the seventy years since Douglas opened her last chapter with the announcement: “The Everglades were dying” and ended it with the slim hope that “the vast, magnificent, subtle and unique region of the Everglades may not be utterly lost.”
Grunwald points out that in 1947 the government was in the midst of establishing the Everglades National Park and turning loose the Army Corps of Engineers to control floods—both of which seemed like saviors for the Glades. But neither turned out to be the answer, and the Corps project ended up as a particularly disastrous attempt to manipulate nature, allowing rampant and, we now know, unsustainable development. Working from the massive research he did for his book, The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise, as well has what has happened since, Grunwald offers a strong account of what went wrong and the many attempts to fix it, beginning with Save Our Everglades, which Douglas, then in her nineties and still the prime mover of Everglades preservation, declared was “not nearly enough.” Grunwald then lays out the intricacies (and inanities) of the more recent and ongoing CERP, the hugely expensive Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the most ambitious ecosystem restoration effort ever undertaken. And now, with a price tag of over $16 billion, it too seems stuck in the muck. There is some minor good news in the water quality department. But the bad news about invasive species, water storage issues, and sea-level rise calls us to renew our commitment to the Everglades because—as Marjory Stoneman Douglas told us—they are the only ones in the world.