Rushing toward the interior of the C-43 lock, adjacent to Lake Okeechobee’s Rim Canal, plumes of green and blue swirl on the surface then dissipate as nutrient sediment sinks to the bottom. Phosphorus gives the algae blooms plaguing the east coast their peculiar color. The water moving throughout the wide Rim Canal turns a corner toward the lock and narrows into a 50-foot wide section where water pours steadily into the Caloosahatchee River, the other side a turbid, metallic ochre color, the oxygen forming an archipelago of foam and run-off swirling around before flowing towards Ft. Myers. The same is happening across the lake at the C-44 lock emptying into the St. Lucie River towards Stuart, plunging our state into a seven-day state of emergency in four counties.

The small sugar-sand parking lot below the towering C-43 lock is fragrant with dead fish and dehydrated grass. Visible pollution streaming by as a small group of fishermen casts their cane poles into the water alongside a T-shaped pier just in the shadow of the precarious lock. One fisherman warns of a water moccasin making its way up the shoreline. Smokers flick cigarettes into the water along with bits of monofilament. It’s to be expected, but that shouldn’t be the case when the Everglades remain on life-support, exacerbated by big agriculture, big sugar and inevitably big people.

Back on the lake side of the lock, a division of brown, milky water moves along next to the tannin, tea-colored lake, a deep, dark blue in the high sun but turning rooibos red as one edges in. This was the case for the two consecutive days that I visited in late June preceding Governor Rick Scott’s declaration of a state of emergency in St. Lucie and Martin counties. Shortly after, he added Lee and Palm Beach counties, likely in response to the traction that the state’s algae blooms, water releases and fishkills gained in the national media. Finally, Governor Scott made an unsuccessful request to President Barack Obama to declare a federal state of emergency in response to the toxic algae blooms plaguing Florida’s east coast.

2112 C-44 lock and reservoir stormwater treatment area.

MECHANICAL HARVESTER COLLECTS SUGAR CANE. US SUGAR'S FACILITY IN BACKGROUND. (PHOTO BY JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES)

Every day has a significant amount of phosphorus plumes, painfully bright green and sometimes an otherworldly blue like the festering layer also suffocating the Stuart coastline. The plumes are surrounded by slicks of oily, kerosene-like lines slowly streaking by, iridescent. Soon enough, these corrosive pollutants will make their way to the coast from the edge of America’s second-largest body of fresh water.

Further down the river, tilapia eat from a phosphorus plume. A dark green scum climbs the sea walls and dock pilings. Undulating tendrils of sugar cane flank nearly every road in the area apart from a few other crops. A procession of small, yellow AT 402b planes pass overhead spraying pesticides and fertilizers on the cane fields below, the sky a pale blue interrupted by the thin gray plumes of far-off plants. It’s only a matter of time till that slow-moving water line creeping up the coast makes its way here. Reports from south Sarasota County are already appearing.

SETTING A PRECEDENT

Over 100 years ago, settlers in southern Florida began to drain the Everglades for agricultural development. At this point the area was larger than the size of Delaware and mostly untouched. Soon enough, 200 miles of canals and levees were incised. The slow drainage of “the river of grass” was under way. The northern Everglades begins at Disney near the Kissimmee River Basin then flows towards the north edge of Lake Okeechobee fanning out along the edges of the lake as it reaches the southern edge. At that point the Everglades covers the entire tip of southern Florida. The only portion not considered to be part of the Everglades is the low-lying coastal ridge along the east coast spanning from Ft. Pierce to Miami, a small slice of high land in a territory slowly sinking. In the past century, deemed the "eleventh hour" by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, author of the seminal book The Everglades: River of Grass, published in 1947, countless projects have been hatched to try to restore its natural rhythms and to protect the area from further degradation. Unfortunately, restoration of the Everglades is like trying to return an omelet to an egg as Governor Napolean Broward (1905–1909) once remarked.

In June 1947, the Everglades became a national park—the same year Douglas’ book was published. Ernest F. Coe, an eccentric landscape architect proposed the idea to Florida’s Governor Milliard F. Caldwell (1945–1949) and then to President Harry S. Truman who served two terms from 1945–1953. Originally, Coe had hoped for 2 million acres to be included in the park’s boundaries, but at its outset it was reduced to 1 million, the first loss for the Everglades and an enormous blow to his vision. In the 70 years since Douglas’ unprecedented book and the dedication of the park by President Truman, the park has seen more changes than in the 5,000 years before.  US 41, a road connecting Tampa to Miami, remains one of the largest obstructions to the Everglades as it prevents water from reaching the wetlands further south and Florida Bay, depleting it of fresh water, spiking the salinity. US 41 dissects the southern Everglades, running north to south until Naples where it kinks toward Everglades City, passes through the Big Cypress National Preserve, grazes a roadside Miccosukee Indian village and spits you out in Hialeah’s farm lands. The road runs east to west through the wetlands of the Everglades. Because the road is low-lying, it prevents the attenuated flow, posing one of the most difficult challenges to restoration. At the time of its construction, it was considered a sound development for the burgeoning state’s economy. Finally now, the road is being raised to allow water to move south.

The initial draining of the Everglades lacerated southern Florida. Wetlands and swamps became floodgates and spillways. The project was comparable to the Panama Canal in scale. Forty-three years after the dedication of the park in 1990, half a million acres in the southern portion of the Everglades were owned by sugar growers. This has been the pattern—large swaths of land being eaten up by agricultural development. The soil lacked copper, manganese and zinc, eliminating a host of crops, but sugar cane could grow here year round. In 1983, the state began the Kissimmee River Restoration Project. The following year the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) took on the project. And in 1987, the Everglades were named “a wetland of international importance.”

After President Clinton’s administration passed the Water Resource Development Act, the federal government devoted $7.8 billion to preservation efforts in Florida, a rare bi-partisan agreement among then presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush, and Florida Governor Jeb Bush (1999–2007). This followed suit after the Comprehensive Restoration of the Everglades Project (CERP) was approved in 2000 and the country began pushing the elephant up the stairs. CERP’s goal–in so many words–was to divert fresh water flows that stream outward to the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico to areas in need of fresh water in an attempt to revive a withering ecosystem. Sixteen years on, the project is still inhibited by gerrymandering and has been reassessed time and time again. But in 2008, the biggest step yet towards significant restoration of the Everglades was made. A deal between then Governor Charlie Crist (2007–2011) and US Sugar to buy back 187,000 acres of land south of the lake was brokered. In 2009, the deal was gutted, re-negotiated, with a five-year window to reconsider. The attenuated flow of the Everglades was damned again.

Then, Governor Rick Scott—the current governor since 2011—followed up on acquiring lands south of the lake through Amendment 1, a funding stream earmarked specifically for the purpose of Everglades restoration. But again, the deal withered after its five-year window passed. Federally, the environment has become more and more of a hot-button issue over time. As far back as 1969, a secret poll was conducted during President Nixon’s term where Americans were found to be most concerned with the environment second to Vietnam.

During Nixon’s term, his administration created the Environmental Protection Agency and enacted the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act, all inextricably tied to the Everglades today. However, Nixon vetoed the Clean Water Act in 1972. Of his decision to veto the bill, he wrote, “I have nailed my colors to the mast on this issue. The political winds can blow where they may.” The Clean Water Act set a precedent for volumes of legislation to follow in which dissembling syntax like, “to the extent practicable,” would become permissible. That specific set of syllables appeared in the 1991 Friends of the Everglades Act, crafted by proponents of Florida Crystals and US Sugar (the two companies that make up what many refer to as “Big Sugar”), which was originally called the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Act. Douglas later asked that her name be removed from the bill. And this is all to say that Florida was and remains a frontline for environmental policy, a battleground state in the relationship between government and the land governed.

THE LONG GAME OF ECOLOGY

A cacophony of shrill ring tones ricochet throughout the office of Stephen Davis, a wetland ecologist at the Everglades Foundation, his phone ringing incessantly the day Governor Scott announced the state of emergency. Davis explains that the Everglades lost its replenishing source of water from the headwaters of the Kissimmee Basin and Lake Okeechobee. “Now, the Everglades depends on rainfall,” he says. Aaron Adams, director of the Bonefish Tarpon Trust, has said, healthy habitats make for healthy fisheries. Unfortunately, the weakening of these habitats plays out over a long time, what Adams has deems a “legacy effect,” which makes it seem deceptively benign. The algae blooms are receiving the most media coverage, while the loss of stabilizing elements such as sea grass and oyster beds in Florida waterways goes largely unremarked.

 Davis points out that the visibility provided by social media and news outlets only covers where people live and recreate. With the southern portion of the state largely uninhabited, “the only people who are seeing the issues out there are fisherman,” he says. Last week he flew a commercial plane over the heart of Lake Okeechobee and saw the algae bloom within the lake from 20,000 feet above. "I’ve never seen anything like it before,” he says.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently released satellite images of the lake, algae blooms fanning out across it like India ink blown across paper with a straw. NASA included detailed area photographs showing the blooms headed straight for the C-43 and C-44 locks. Davis splits hairs on the issues of water quality and quantity, which tend to be conflated too often. While he believes water quality is an urgent challenge that needed to be addressed, he said it was the quantity of water and its management that was the most pressing concern for Florida in the coming years. In most cases, restoration privileges the storage and management of water as outlined in CERP, which subsequently ensures quality.

When asked what he thought might be done to curb the growth of these blooms and to mitigate its detrimental impact, Davis says he believes that the officials would most likely seek out a type of “silver bullet,” or storing water on private land. But that would be a shortsighted solution, not to mention costly—further misappropriating Amendment 1 funds. “That’s going to be a drop in the bucket,” he said. He seems adamant that in the search for a solution, “there’s not a single thing we can do to make this go away” in the short-term. According to Davis, after 100 years of reducing, degrading and choking the southern tip of the United States, we may be misguided in the belief that a silver bullet would resolve this. Davis pointed back to CERP as it has laid out a plan that would send water south again without decimating the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), but it would more importantly save the Everglades from becoming a bygone natural treasure traded up for a robust agricultural economy, which is miniscule compared to the recreational fishing economy in southern Florida, he says. Davis cuts through the smoke and mirrors that some have proposed about storing water north of Lake Okeechobee, too. Simply, sending water south would diminish the growth of agriculture in the EAA while the alternative proposition storing water north of the lake would be politically favorable but wildly misguided. It’s just unfeasible. “Let’s start talking about storage,” he said. He believes that in line with CERP, Amendment 1 and the Legacy Florida Act were sufficient in providing a funding stream for the project. He asks pointedly, “What is holding this up?”

CLOSE TO HOME

After returning from the northern Everglades, we head south on US 41 toward Ft. Myers to meet with Chris Wittman and Daniel Andrews, founders of the grassroots organization Captains for Clean Water. Their organization—among others—has ignited a wildfire of awareness that has spread through Lee County. Northeast of the city the sky is a dark gray; to the west a soft cerulean blue with lush green pine-scrub lands in the foreground on either side. Coming into downtown Ft. Myers over the Caloosahatchee Bridge, the water looks calm, a light ripple moving across the surface. It would have been a chocolate color, like a light-colored milkshake, but from the top of the bridge with the late afternoon glare it is easy to glance at it without alarm, its appearance misleading.

On the radio, news comes in that the Florida DEP—appointed by Governor Scott subject to cabinet approval—had proposed revisions to health-based water criteria, regulations enacted in 1992 and bound by the Clean Water Act. Acceptable levels of known carcinogens such as benzene might be eased in the proposed revisions. This comes days before Governor Scott’s state of emergency declaration, during the height of freshwater outflows at which point the World Health Organization declared the water in Stuart’s estuaries 200-times more toxic than what constitutes a “health hazard.” The Biscayne Aquifer, Miami-Dade County’s water source, has been suffering from saltwater intrusion, the state’s waterways are rapidly decomposing beneath the surface and Adam Putnam, the commissioner of Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, had exercised his crisis exemption authority to employ previously banned bactericides in treating citrus greening disease.

Wittman and Andrews are dressed sharply. They are fishing guides, but could have easily passed as attorneys—their sunglass tans ultimately give them away. Captains for Clean Water is one of the most influential grassroots nonprofit groups working on the issue and is in line with a myriad of similar groups gaining visibility through online presence. They’re based in Ft. Myers, but before I could pin them down at home, they had been traveling all over the state to speak at events, attend meetings and, in the spirit of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, "raise some hell."

Before we meet, I walk down to the water’s edge to take a look. It is a still, stagnant day. The heat is oppressive, the water putrid. And as a boat runs past, its wake holds a metallic tan tint like the foam floating near the Okeechobee locks. As the rain falls out East, the sweet water pours out from the C-43 lock. Wittman has heard the news of the proposed DEP revisions. “It’s total corruption,” he says. While this is a grim conversation to have over dinner, Wittman and Andrews both have an intense optimism. They believe the management of water in South Florida is the most pressing issue facing their region. “It’s where we live. It’s our way of life,” says Wittman.

Eighty miles from Lake Okeechobee, Andrews sees tilapia and cichlids. Unusual, as these species can’t tolerate high salinity levels. This shows how far the flows have traveled and that the water composition is changing entirely—turning fresh. He sees jack crevalle—a saltwater species—feeding on tilapia, which is unheard of. And when prompted on the quality of the fishery, he says, “it appears to be getting worse everyday.”

Apart from an adept understanding of the fisheries that support their livelihoods, these two are politically keen. They’re both on a first-name basis with numerous local and state representatives. When water was unwanted in the EAA, the state would back pump it into Okeechobee, passing the responsibility onto the US Army Corps of Engineers, which would eventually release it into the Caloosahatchee or St. Lucie rivers. This practice of water management holds water in the dry season for farms and releases it in a wet season like this past year’s El Niño weather pattern, which yielded above average rainfall. “They can’t bullshit their way around it. They can’t ignore it anymore,” says Wittman. “Our fisheries are being killed. East coast, west coast, it’s all declining.” Wittman also explains the effect that further neglect of the Everglades will have on storms that threaten the area. With less water, higher temperatures and more convection, they believe it could likely welcome another Hurricane Andrew or a disaster like the storm of 1928, which decimated the area around Lake Okeechobee and led to the Herbert Hoover Dike. Wittman and Andrews are both guides in the area, so they see the effects each week. Wittman shares that 25 miles north of where the Caloosahatchee meets the Gulf the water was still “garbage.” And by that, he means the water is turbid, nutrient-laden, brown-green and, more importantly, not providing a healthy habitat for the fishery. Those plumes are pushing farther and farther north while its sediments settle on the bottom. They have both seen the brown water reaching as far north as Cayo Costa, which is less than 50 miles from Siesta Key.

In Lee County, the Caloosahatchee has been used as a source for the disposal of unwanted, untreated water. The amount of pollution coursing through Lee County continues to rise as Florida Crystal and US Sugar’s grasp on the state grows. In a county with no sugar growers, Florida Crystals and US Sugar subsidiaries spend an exorbitant amount on advertisements. And of the recent surge in ad space bought up by Big Sugar presumably to counter Captains for Clean Water’s growing campaign, Wittman tells me, “We’re on their whiteboard.”

ARTIFICIAL SWEETENER

The numbers don't seem to add up when one looks at the ways in which agriculture policy seems to be at odds with the wellbeing of the thriving tourism and recreational fishing economy that Florida boasts. At a glance, $2 billion was generated from sugar production last year while recreational fishing cleared $18 billion. The Everglades area alone drew $1 billion from recreational fishing. Real estate values may also suffer with a decrease in water quality and not just for coastal properties.

Senior Policy Analyst at Taxpayers for Common Sense Joshua Sewell untangles the complex American sugar program. His perspective is that there are a disproportionate amount of donations coming from Big Sugar representatives to federal, state and local politicians buying influence. As to sugar policy reform, he says, “Agricultural subsidies are difficult to change, because there are so few people who benefit from them. The benefits are concentrated, but the costs are dispersed. Tax payers are put on the hook for guaranteeing sugar is more expensive than it should be.” In its abridged form, there are three tenets of sugar policy: limiting the amount of sugar imported, limiting the amount of sugar processed domestically and price support programs in which the government buys sugar at above-market rates to sell it off at below-market rates to ethanol producers. This of course has much more granular detail but he feels the bottom line is that American consumers are paying double what they should for sugar. Moreover, the most likely reason for the lack of reform is that, “there are a handful of people making a whole lot of money,” says Sewell. This year in June, US Sugar gave $100,000 to Governor Scotts’ political committee, Let's Get to Work. In the last year alone, US Sugar has provided $1,000,000 in contributions to the political committee backing Governor Scott.

From 1994 to 2016, US Sugar and Florida Crystals made $57.8 million direct and in-kind contributions to state and local political campaigns, according to a review of state elections records of the Tallahassee bureau. The breakdown shows roughly $33 million from US Sugar and the remainder from Florida Crystals. Based on an analysis of contributions during this period The Associated Press reports that Big Sugar steered their contributions from the Democratic Party of Florida to Republican, the year of Governor Jeb Bush’s election in 1998, which was a watershed moment for environmental policy reform. Georgia-Pacific’s plants in northern Florida benefitted from those policies at the expense of Rice Creek.

As for what the average taxpayer will pay in a year, Sewell says, “It’s not like you see a bill for sugar. It’s hidden from you.” It’s roughly $40 per year, but this amounts to exorbitant amounts of subsidies nationally. “It’s a net loss for tax payers. It’s a net loss for the economy," says Sewell. A significant contributing factor in the degradation of the Everglades is the sugar industry—it’s agriculture in general but specifically the sugar industry in south Florida. It’s incumbent upon Big Sugar to play a big role in restoring the Everglades.”

Sewell carefully unpacks how taxpayers could play a bigger role in determining the use of their tax dollars at state and federal levels by advocating for care in picking winners and losers with said tax dollars. That’s winners and losers in industry and tourism and pitting the two against each other, which in this case has exacerbated the challenges in restoring the Everglades. The competing interests bound up in the allocation of federal tax dollars pin the individual against industry, the environment against the economy. “You just have to make sure that the federal programs—that you are paying for—are in fact benefitting the federal interests as well as various local interests and not just one particularly powerful subset of interests. And that goes across the board for all policies and projects," says Sewell.

According to research published by the US Department of Commerce in 2014, for every job kept in the domestic sugar industry—growing or processing—three jobs are lost in the confectionery industry. The confectionery industry has migrated overseas following more affordable sugar rates. And this is odd to consider after years of hearing about robust economies and jobs, a favorable political platform espoused by Democrats and Republicans alike.

After numerous spokespersons, public relations assistants and voicemails, I was able to submit a set of questions through Slatkow & Husak,the public relations firm that represents Florida Crystals. Phillip Hayes, the director of communications for the American Sugar Alliance, in an email says the statistics regarding the loss of jobs in the confectionary industry are not accurate as his research shows jobs in the sector have increased by 3 percent. “Anyone who is telling you that US taxpayers subsidize sugar producers and that confectioners are enduring economic hardship is trying to mislead you for some reason," writes Hayes.

Meanwhile, the purportedly robust economy generated by Big Sugar has left its principal sites dry. In fact, Hendry County—home to US Sugar’s headquarters—has held the highest unemployment rate in the state for years, nearly 10 percent in 2015 down to 7 percent as of May 2016. The agricultural lands developed in the Everglades over the past 100 years have reduced the area by 50 percent. Seventy-five percent of pollution pouring into Florida’s waterways is due to agriculture with the remaining portion due to storm water run-off, septic tanks and the upkeep of manicured lawns across the state. And while 75 percent is attributed to agriculture, much of that Big Sugar, agriculture contributes 25 percent to its cleanup.

This is all in light of the state and federal government’s commitment to restore the Everglades, such as the recently signed Legacy Florida Act. This legislation builds upon Amendment 1, enacted in 2014, to set aside a significant funding stream annually to acquire key lands south of Lake Okeechobee. The Obama administration agreed to match this amount in their efforts to bolster restoration. President  Obama visited the Everglades in April 2015 to show his support, but not much has occurred since. Following the state of Florida’s plunge into a state of emergency, Scott asked President Obama to declare a federal state of emergency and was denied. The United States Justice Department allocated $1 million to aid the state, one fifth of Governor Scott’s request in June.

When asked for a comment, Governor Scott’s office provided the following response: “Governor Scott’s number one priority is ensuring the safety of our families, visitors and Florida’s natural treasures. That is why he has called upon President Obama to declare a federal emergency and has already declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties. Our office is looking at all options at the state level to address the effects caused by the frequent discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee. Although the President has failed to do what is needed to address this growing issue, the State of Florida will devote every available resource to find solutions for the families and businesses in this area.”

“The federal government definitely has culpability in the damage that was done to the Everglades," says Sewell. "They have a responsibility to restore them, but it’s not only the federal government’s fault." Senator Bill Nelson, D-FL, has argued that sending water south through the EAA will resolve this issue. Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL, and former presidential hopeful, has appeared for photo ops in southeast Florida the past few weeks with reporters pressing him about the state’s inaction regarding the controversial land buy. He has tenuously cited conflicting claims about the benefits of sending water south of the lake. He does, however, definitively say that he believes pollution enters the lake from the north, eliminating Florida Crystals and US Sugar’s culpability. After announcing his bid to run as the Republican Presidential nominee, Rubio walked off stage to immediately embrace José “Pepe” Fanjul, CEO of Florida Crystals. His company Fanjul Corp contributed nearly $486,000 to Rubio’s bid.

The conflict in priorities was made clear by Florida’s state officials when they seemingly disregarded an independent review by the University of Florida’s Water Institute, commissioned by the Florida legislature last year. The review outlines in immense detail alternatives to reduce freshwater flows out of Lake Okeechobee and advises to accelerate funding sources for the projects outlined within, but more importantly, their review confirms that they too believe restoring the Everglades’ attenuated sheet flow was necessary if not inevitable.

THE LEGACY TEST

After a few days in the Everglades, one can fall into solipsistic stupor. These sleepy agricultural towns seem so far removed from the urgent call to action along the coasts. The line of communication between coastal residents dependent upon tourism and the state’s interior based in agriculture uncannily echoes the disparity between state and federal interests. I spoke to fishermen near the C-43 lock. They all knew the water height in Lake Okeechobee but were aloof to the threat that water discharges posed to their coastal neighbors, even though it was spilling out right in front of them. Neither did they seem aware of the role of the agricultural industry in the pace, progress and promise of the Everglades’ restoration. And these residents could stand on their rooftops and throw stones into a cane field.

But why would they? These towns were built up on sugar. Moreover, some feel an indifference to curbing agricultural practice. “You have to consider the conditions of living in those counties,” says Wittman. “They live 10 to a house with high unemployment. So who are we to tell them—driving around in our $100,000 boat as a fishing guide?”

What once were wetlands extending outward toward the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic are now a nexus of irrigation ditches and manicured rows of cane, torn by pavement and throughways, punctuated by small towns skirting the edges of big agriculture. Livestock trailers are up-cycled into supports for campaign signage on empty lots and bare foundations contend for local sheriff races. I loiter outside the local general store as cars pulled up, the passengers returning from inside with a box of beer or a craft paper bag. Sugar, corn syrup and liquor are a thread of solidarity here.

The glory days of the towns dotting the southern edge of Lake Okeechobee have come and gone. The time when tourism and small, sustainable agriculture boomed has given way to bright pre-fab gas stations dotting county and state roads in between shady motels, the general stores of yesterday now roadside detritus regressing under the slogan, “Her soil is her fortune.” A former roadside tourist trap—just a few hundred yards from Florida Crystals’ Okeelanta plant—peeks outward from the sugar cane growing wild like kudzu, enveloping a building advertising LIVE ALLIGATORS.

In Clewiston, “America’s sweetest town,” the most appealing building and grounds belong to, US Sugar. Down the street, the Clewiston Inn—built by US Sugar—has lost its thin veneer of economic promise. Its lobby a time capsule replete with tube televisions and pecky cypress paneling, its dénouement a sad, lonely continental breakfast in a room where the heydays of sugar stare outwardly from framed photographs. The out-of-state contractors who stay at the Inn while making repairs to the plant’s equipment and silver gelatin prints look blankly onto the empty hall, with just the lonely, curious visitor to stare back. The most poignant marker is outside of the landscape itself at the Inn’s cocktail lounge. The high walls bear a beautiful 360-degree mural of the verdant, incomparable flora and fauna of the Everglades to scale. Will the mural need an update in the years to come? The animals absent, the trees bulldozed and a cane field falling off into the horizon of smoke stacks, perforated with brown irrigation ditches leading seaward.

On the last page of River of Grass, Marjory Stoneman Douglas makes an impassioned plea: “Perhaps even in this last hour, in a new relation of usefulness and beauty, the vast, magnificent, subtle and unique region of the Everglades may not be utterly lost.” As she says many times, “The Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to keep the planet.”

 

Michael Adno is an artist and writer based in New York City. Adno is a first-generation American who grew up in Sarasota, FL. He studied at New York University and serves as a contributing editor for At Large magazine. His work has appeared in a number of publications including Oxford American, Autre and Huck magazines. His project Cracker Politics, The Limits of Colonial Knowledge has garnered numerous fellowships and awards and he will be a fellow at the Hermitage Artist Retreat later this year.