They began to drain the Everglades in 1882.

 

It was when you were seven and Miami was a town of five thousand, with streets of dust. Your father’s passionate opposition did no good.

Over a thousand miles of canals were created, diverting water out of the watershed to make new land. Advertisers sold a dream of a tropical paradise to New Yorkers, stimulating a land boom. More and more people arrived. Sugar cane was planted, and animals hunted in the remaining marshes; in one trip, a hunter killed two hundred and fifty alligators and one hundred and seventy otters. Wading birds were prized for their feathers, with five million killed in 1886 alone.

But disrupting the watershed allowed the sea to flow into the marshes. Lake Okeechobee lost oxygen, killing most of its wildlife, including ninety percent of its wading birds. As the land dried out, it subsided by a foot a year, causing problems to housing; it was not the paradise people had been promised.

Your book Everglades: River of Grass finally made people see Florida’s marshland for what it was; a fragile ecosystem to be protected.

You were seventy nine, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and tiny and frail, but you instigated the most expensive environmental repair attempt in history on a stretch of land now home to five million people.

 

Everglades