A Journey through the Florida Everglades
Illustrations: 16 b&w photos
Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in
Pub Date: 09/20/2004
List Price: $25.95
A Journey through the Florida Everglades
Consider just two of the countless facts about the damage we have done to the Everglades: Half of its original 14,000-square-mile expanse is gone, and saving what is left will cost at least $8.4 billion. Alluding to destruction on a scale we can barely grasp, figures like these can at once stir and immobilize us. In Liquid Land, Ted Levin guides us past the dire headlines and into the magnificent swamp itself, where we come face-to-face with the plants, animals, and landscapes that remain and that will survive only if we protect them.
Levin has traveled extensively through the Everglades, often in the company of such dedicated individuals as Archie Jones, the conchologist who for fifty years has been studying and rescuing tree snails, or Frank Mazzotti, with whom Levin spent two weeks in the field monitoring American crocodiles. Through Levin's adventures we come to know intimately a place where water was meant to flow as a broad, shallow "sheet" and where minuscule changes in elevation yield a dramatic change in the diversity of life, from manatees and mangroves on the coast to panthers and orchids in the interior.
Throughout, Levin profiles the various parties who have tried to master, protect, or coexist with the Everglades—from the agribusiness concerns known collectively as Big Sugar to Friends of the Everglades to a small community west of Miami, nameless but for the designation "8.5 Square Mile Area." As we float, sometimes slog, alongside Levin through hammocks, keys, and sloughs, we see firsthand how drainage and development have led to water pollution and salinity fluctuations, a disruption of the swamp's wet/dry seasonal cycle, an explosion in the mosquito population, and a weakened response of the ecosystem to drought, fire, hurricanes, and invasive species.
Liquid Land captures the Everglades' essential beauty and mystery as it explores ongoing restoration efforts. Our success or failure will have an impact on environmental policy around the world, Levin believes. As the preservationist rallying cry goes, "The Everglades is a test. If we pass, we get to keep the planet."
This is the most generous kind of nature writing—the act of being absorbed with place, rather than self. Liquid Land is well paced, incisive, and artfully informed. For my money, it's the best nonfiction on the Glades since River of Grass.
—Bill Belleville, author of River of Lakes: A Journey on Florida's St. Johns River
From rare panthers to rainbow-colored tree snails, Levin brings to life the Everglades' wondrous beauty and ineffable mystery. Sure to be a classic, Liquid Land is required reading for first-time visitors and seasoned explorers alike. But it is more than a primer on the Everglades; Levin shows how by saving the Everglades we stand a better chance of saving the planet, too.
—David Seideman, Editor-in-Chief, Audubon
In this knowledgeable and carefully researched overview, Levin, a naturalist, writer and photographer, recounts the many negative effects [the] drainage has had on wildlife and plant life. . . . Levin, who covered the area by foot, boat and plane, successfully evokes the Everglades of yesterday and today, and details the possibilities that exist for its future. . . . In this informative and timely account, Levin offers an accessible, engaging narrative of what environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas called 'the river of grass.'
One of the characteristics that makes Liquid Land more then just another Jeremiad is Levin's open-minded approach and his ability to see beyond simple cause-and-effect to the interconnection of all human and nonhuman life . . . Surprisingly, Levin is able to inject a sense of hope.
[Levin's] writing style is lyrical and engaging, but the text is grounded in extensive research that is detailed in a useful bibliography. Like Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of the classic The Everglades: River of Grass, Levin is an experienced journalist with a knack for making science accessible to a popular audience.
Levin has written an all-encompassing account of the Florida Everglades. The book is full of anecdotes . . . But it's also a serious book that in the end will make you angry that all this magnificence is being sacrificed for the wealth of sugar barons.
—National Geographic Adventure
Liquid Land is at once a celebration of one of our grandest national parks; a rendering of its exploitation, which has erased half of the original Everglades; and a behind-the-scenes account of tardy and contentious attempts to restore what is now ‘a computer-controlled watershed almost as artificial as Disney World.’ Levin explores the natural history of mosquitoes, panthers, alligators, and wading birds, and he introduces us to many colorful players—one a crocodile expert whose devotion once extended to giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a baby crocodile that had been held underwater by a crab. The Florida Everglades seems to bring out the best and worst in humans; Liquid Land is a love letter to a historic swamp and a probing look at the people who are fighting over its future.
—Frank Graham Jr., Audubon
It is a captivating mixture of history, biology, personal experience and individual and corporate profiles, a background that helps to frame current efforts to restore Florida’s most famous ecosystem. A must read for all Everglades lovers.
—Florida Wildlife Magazine
John Burroughs Medal, John Burroughs Association and the American Museum of Natural History