Remembering Marjory – a for-Everglades friend
In Greek myth, Cassandra was blessed with the power of prophecy. Her curse was that upon foretelling the doom of Troy, no one believed her. The southern part of Florida’s peninsula had its own Cassandra. Is it too late to listen? Many – but too few – have listened and many more are rediscovering the simple power of her words.
In honor of the Everglades National Park’s 70th birthday, next week, we revisit the wisdom and strength embodied in Marjory Stoneman Douglas – journalist, feminist, environmentalist and tireless champion of the Everglades.
Everglades National Park will likely get to her contribution in its upcoming Facebook posts highlighting its history, but we’ll get the ball rolling because we can’t afford to let her legacy fade away in the popular imagination.
Douglas published her book, “The Everglades: River of Grass,” in 1947. That same year, Everglades National Park was established. She helped people understand the importance of the flow from Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River.
In the 1950s, Douglas warned that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ canals, levees and dams could destroy the delicate balance of our wetlands. What would our region look like if her warning had been heeded? We contend that there are still areas where prescience – and preventative action – could do better than hindsight.
In 1970 Douglas formed the Friends of the Everglades, giving her a pretty big microphone. Florida Governor Lawton Chiles said, “Marjory was the first voice to really wake a lot of us up to what we were doing to our quality of life. She was not just a pioneer of the environmental movement, she was a prophet, calling out to us to save the environment for our children and our grandchildren.”
Douglas lived to the age of 108, which her biographer said was the only thing that could “shut her up.” He added: “The silence is terrible.” Today, we can choose to hear her voice. Her beloved River of Grass has enjoyed great longevity, but it’s too early to call it the “For-Everglades.” As Douglas said, “There is always the need to carry on.”