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The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise Paperback – March 27, 2007

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (March 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743251075
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743251075
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A grateful reader on February 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By R. D'Alessandro III on August 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Dana Stabenow on November 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on April 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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 By Peter Quasius on February 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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

President

Audubon of SW Florida
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