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The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise [Kindle Edition]

Michael Grunwald
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Everglades was once reviled as a liquid wasteland, and Americans dreamed of draining it. Now it is revered as a national treasure, and Americans have launched the largest environmental project in history to try to save it. The Swamp is the stunning story of the destruction and possible resurrection of the Everglades, the saga of man's abuse of nature in southern Florida and his unprecedented efforts to make amends. Michael Grunwald, a prize-winning national reporter for The Washington Post, takes readers on a riveting journey from the Ice Ages to the present, illuminating the natural, social and political history of one of America's most beguiling but least understood patches of land.

The Everglades was America's last frontier, a wild country long after the West was won. Grunwald chronicles how a series of visionaries tried to drain and "reclaim" it, and how Mother Nature refused to bend to their will; in the most harrowing tale, a 1928 hurricane drowned 2,500 people in the Everglades. But the Army Corps of Engineers finally tamed the beast with levees and canals, converting half the Everglades into sprawling suburbs and sugar plantations. And though the southern Everglades was preserved as a national park, it soon deteriorated into an ecological mess. The River of Grass stopped flowing, and 90 percent of its wading birds vanished.

Now America wants its swamp back. Grunwald shows how a new breed of visionaries transformed Everglades politics, producing the $8 billion rescue plan. That plan is already the blueprint for a new worldwide era of ecosystem restoration. And this book is a cautionary tale for that era. Through gripping narrative and dogged reporting, Grunwald shows how the Everglades is still threatened by the same hubris, greed and well-intentioned folly that led to its decline.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Washington Post reporter Grunwald brings the zeal of his profession—and the skill that won him a Society of Environmental Journalists Award in 2003—to this enthralling story of "the river of grass" that starry-eyed social engineers and greedy developers have diverted, drained and exploited for more than a century. In 1838, fewer than 50 white people lived in south Florida, and the Everglades was seen as a vast and useless bog. By the turn of this century, more than seven million people lived there (and 40 million tourists visited annually). Escalating demands of new residents after WWII were sapping the Everglades of its water and decimating the shrinking swamp's wildlife. But in a remarkable political and environmental turnaround, chronicled here with a Washington insider's savvy, Republicans and Democrats came together in 2000 to launch the largest ecosystem restoration project in America's history. This detailed account doesn't shortchange the environmental story—including an account of the senseless fowl hunts that provoked abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1877 broadside "Protect the Birds." But Grunwald's emphasis on the role politics played in first despoiling and now reclaiming the Everglades gives this important book remarkable heft. 18 pages of b&w photos; 7 maps. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

The Swamp emerged from a four-part series that Grunwald wrote for the Washington Post in 2002, which focused on the $8 billion plan to restore the Everglades. From there, Grunwald fleshed out the Everglades's contested history. Critics laud The Swamp as an informative, beautifully researched and written tale that links social, political, and environmental history to current events. Many commented on Grunwald's finesse in describing the dreamers and schemers who sold Florida swampland, the engineers who tried to buck nature's forces. A few thought that Grunwald paid too little attention to current controversies, did not adequately explain today's Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, and assumed a condition of ecological purity to pre-European contact Florida. These are minor complaints; Grunwald's unbiased story will provoke outrage over our squandered "river of grass."

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 840 KB
  • Print Length: 480 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0743251059
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (October 31, 2006)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,405 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Next Great American Classic February 26, 2006
You don't have to live in Florida or be all that interested in the environment to appreciate what Michael Grunwald has accomplished with this terrific book. The Swamp is a universal American tale, the struggle between man and nature, the power of pride and the price of hubris. It reads like a novel but the amazing part is how true it is. The Indian fighters and the ecologists, the developers and the politicians, the army engineers and the sugar industrialists make up an eclectic and compelling cast of characters, some idealistic, many foolish, all brought to life by Grunwald's vivid prose. But the Everglades are the main protagonist and a multifaceted one at that, forever surprising and enduring. No one has written a book that captures the development of America quite like this in many years. And if you do live in Florida or find the environment to be important, then you absolutely, positively must read this book.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heroes, Villians & still a dying Jewel August 13, 2006
My job touches not so peripherally on Everglades National Park, one of the crown jewels of the U.S. national park system, so I was eager to read this highly recommended summary of the history of the Everglades by Washington Post report Mike Grunwald. Calling this book a summary doesn't do it justice - it's comprehensive without being overly long, it's an excellent read without being too journalistic, its coverage of the issue is broad without being too shallow, and it inflames while also moderating the reasons why, in 2006, the Everglades is still dying, because of our insatiable greed and need for more, more, more - water, land, money, power. I picked up this book a couple months back, connecting with the topic on a professional level, but then as I approached the end of the book, sad news from Florida brought me unexpectedly in personal contact with one of the millions of human stories that pervade the Everglades, Florida, and the politics of paradise, the subtitle of this book - the passing of my aunt, whose husband and sons were some of those folks who greatly enjoyed being swamp rats, hunting, fishing and airboating through the river of grass. Speaking with an uncle who remembers the wilderness that used to be the Everglades 40-50 years ago, we talked about the daily rains that used to come every afternoon, like clockwork, around 4-5pm each day in southern Florida. This book talks about silting of estuaries, muddy waters and phosphorous deposits in the great Lake Okeechobee, depleted water tables, red tides killing endangered or threatened charismatic species like the manatee and dolphins and how the Army Corps of Engineers has falled to figure out 'it's the environment, stupid. Read more ›
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Swamp November 8, 2006
This history of how first we dried out the Everglades and are now desperately trying to wet it down again to a reasonable facsimile of its former self reads like a thriller. Grunwald has a gift for simile ("It had the panoramic sweep of a desert, except flooded, or a tundra, except melted, or a wheat field, except wild.") and a good reporter's nose for the political boondoggling, pork bellying and backroom dealing that form the Everglades' prime crops, including what really happened in Florida in the 2000 election, over which I am still gasping. Grunwald is an advocate for restoration, no question, but his eye is clear, his pen is sharp and he takes no prisoners. A must read for anyone who likes well-crafted historical epics.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story that Has Everything April 12, 2006
This is one of those stories that if you couldn't laugh at it you would have to cry. This is the story of the everglades down through the years. It is in one sense the story of preservation vs. development as conducted throughout out country and even the world.

At first the Everglades was viewed as something to be cleaned up and the land put to 'good' use. A lot of 'progress' was made in this direction until people began to see the damage that they were doing. In December 2000 the federal government directed the Army Corp of Engineers to begin a program to undue the damage that they had done earlier. Of course this hasn't solved the problem as various factions fight over just what is to be done. (Now these same folk get to go restore the area in Louisiana damaged by Katrina -- another area where they contributed to the problem in the first place.)

This is a delightful book. The characters discussed are as strange as any from a novel. Except they are real. Perhaps the best single summary of the book is the closing three sentences: 'But most of all, the Everglades is a moral test. It will be a test of our willingness to restrain ourselves, to share the earth's resources with the other living things that moveth upon it, to live in harmony with nature. If we pass, we may deserve to keep the planet.'
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read! February 23, 2006
This is a book everyone in Florida, and all environmentalists, should read to understand what has happened, is happening, and what is likely to happen to the Everglades. Billions of state and federal tax dollars are being spent. Why and for what? Beautifully written and researched, those interested in history,politics and our eco-sytem will find it hard to put down. Why isn't Al Gore the President? What's the role and future of Big Sugar in Florida? Can an environmental disaster be avoided for South Florida or is it already too late?

Capt. Pete Quasius


Audubon of SW Florida
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars very informative....
great novel on the history/background of the everglades...
Published 2 months ago by smithers
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful, chilling
What a wonderful, chilling, and eye opening tale of all that the Florida Everglades has been through at the hands of man. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Brittany DiSalvo
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing to realize that Florida has been cooping with this ...
Amazing to realize that Florida has been cooping with this mess for so many years. And to realize that money and politics--not common sense--has been the rule of the day. Read more
Published 5 months ago by MARIE
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Wonderful like new quality
Published 6 months ago by Hollie Burnside
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and critically important book
A brilliant and critically important book. There are many lessons told and if we don't head them we may be doomed to environmental oblivion.
Published 6 months ago by CAPTWAYNE
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I haven't finished it yet but, so far, it is extremely interesting and informative!
Published 6 months ago by Alice Naegele
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 7 months ago by Susan S. Asmundson
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book
should have had illustrations and maps to give e people an idea of the scope of the projects and size of these projects.
Published 7 months ago by rob
2.0 out of 5 stars Information was good but could have been presented better
Did not flow. Information was good but could have been presented better
Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Man, Politics, and Nature
Very detailed and accurate summary of the evolution of the Everglades. Also a lesson to people to really study a plan before you let the politicians get involved and rig it toward... Read more
Published 9 months ago by John Onufrak
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