The Everglades used to cover almost all of South Florida. Nicknamed the River of Grass by the late environmental activist and author Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the historic Everglades flowed from modern-day Orlando to the Florida Bay, providing habitat for one of the most diverse arrays of plants and animals in the world.
Today the Everglades is about half the size it once was. Beginning in the late 1800s, engineers started dredging and draining the wetland. Then came the developers, who built towns and resorts in the former swamp. A surge in South Florida’s population followed. By the 1970s, just 50% of the Everglades remained; the rest was sacrificed to subdivisions, sugar cane fields and Disney World. And what’s left is in bad shape.
The environmental fallout from draining the Everglades haunts South Florida today. Saltwater intrusion, water pollution and soil collapse, among many other environmental hazards, can all be attributed to human interference in the Everglades.
In 2000, Congress passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan to address those problems and more. Restoration is also a crucial tool for mitigating the effects of sea-level rise, making it more important than ever before. If we can figure out how to secure a future for the Everglades, we might be able to secure South Florida’s future too.
Season two of “How We Survive” follows the money to the end of the world. In this case, South Florida. New episodes are out every Wednesday. Be sure to follow us on your favorite podcast app, and if you’re enjoying the show, tell a friend.