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A lot of people don’t know that most of what America considers “Florida”– the tri-county area of Miami-Dade, Broward, & Palm Beach – was underwater before it was developed. The unadulterated marshland of the Everglades flooded everything south of Orlando. On some days, so many wading birds crowded the air above that you couldn’t even see the sky. Fast forward about a century, & half of the marsh has been drained with the help of dredges, levees & canals. 90% of the wading birds are gone, but the snowbirds from the northeast, biding out retirement on the beach, have replaced them. Florida lies in the deep south, with its antebellum houses & small-town Walmarts. The strange thing is, the longer you travel down the coast on I-95 towards Miami, the more it becomes a kind of hot northeast, a melting pot of people & politics. It’s as if someone cramped all of America into one, long, hot state & set the birds free. In a journal documenting his exploration of the St. John’s River & East Florida, American naturalist William Bartram writes, “...being placed so near the great savanna... how is the mind agitated and bewildered, at being thus, as it were, placed on the borders of a new world!” Indeed, to travel through Florida is to discover a different world, each mile you pass through it. With my notebook & loved ones in the car, I set out into the drained marsh prairies of America’s problem child, to try to understand how she came to be.
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Foreman, Charlotte Catherine, "Heaven is a Hot Tub" (2020). Senior Projects Spring 2020. 153.
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