summer adventures ’12 part 7: epilogue

Well, I stopped posting for a bit there, but I made it back to CT unscathed and mostly un-sunburned. I’ve been cold! The return to CT’s temperate and low-humidity air was rather surprising. What normally passes for a perfect day now seems a little lack-luster after my travels. Oh well, things will get back to normal soon enough I’m sure.

My last couple days in Key West saw me exploring the island by bicycle, eating delicious food, observing the sunset, and taking lots of photographs. Derek showed me excellent Mexican and Cuban food, both slightly off the tourist path and both tasty. Even though I think that one Cuban meal met my sodium quotient for the rest of the year! The highlight of my final night might have been the great conversations I had while at The Porch, a quieter, funky, local watering hole. What a great vibe, and the group from Ohio State was fun!

My big project so far has been finishing up “The Swamp” by Michael Grunwald. This excellent book traced the history and the politics of the Everglades from the days of the Spanish conquest, through the Seminole wars, up to the present day. It was rather eye-opening to read how extensively the Everglades have deteriorated in the last sixty years, all due to human intervention. Contrasting the sprawl of Homestead and the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale metropolitan area with the apparent abundance of wildlife in the Everglades, it seems like the book was heavy-handed in environmental dooms day scenarios. However, it is really clear how the wilderness of the glades transitions unnaturally to urban sprawl as soon as you leave the park. If this is environmental decline, a fully functioning Everglades must have been truly awe-inspiring! Nature does find a way to recover, but I believe it is best to leave nature alone and enjoy it on its own terms, not call the Army Corps of Engineers in to resuscitate the environment through more building. I wonder how bad things will need to get for everyone in South Florida to agree to take the steps for real sustainability in the region. Perhaps my country upbringing has biased me towards appreciating nature for nature’s sake. After four days of peaceful contemplation and exploration in the Everglades, re-entering the urban sprawl and four-lane highways, complete with homogeneously boring humanity, was rather shocking. I do hope that the multi-billion Everglades restoration project is able to overcome political hurdles and score a win for nature.

I agree that the National Parks were and continue to be America’s best idea, and I hope the future generations will be able to explore nature in all its grandeur through them. I’ll just have to make it a priority to visit as many of them as I can as soon as I can, before we mess things up too badly. It is interesting that the Blackstone Valley Heritage corridor is being considered for inclusion in the National Parks system as a monument to American industrialisation…a park dedicated to humanity’s ingenuity over nature, and a direct contrast to the other parks’ focus on natural wonders!