I didnâ€™t plan on writing two blogs in two days completely from scratch, but the news calls for it.
Yesterday, around this time, I was cramming on another blog and then dragged out even though I couldnâ€™t care less about St. Valentineâ€™s Day. Despite personal protests as long as I can remember, itâ€™s not my holiday. Thatâ€™s why I didnâ€™t find out about the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland until today.
In case youâ€™re just learning about it, click here for the latest article on this blog at the moment, since you can always come here for the latest news â€“ on the side on your desktop, or on the bottom on your tablet or phone.
Notice I wrote Parkland, rather than adding Florida, because I grew up down there, and have family and friends nearby, so I consider the deadly mayhem a local news story on several levels.
Parkland’s website calls it “a tranquil city nestled in a serene, wooded environment in Northwest (sic) Broward County, Florida,” which means in the outskirts rather than an urban environment — too close to Douglas’ beloved Everglades National Park, if you ask me.
Iâ€™m disgusted for all the same reasons you are. Thereâ€™s no need to explain the obvious.
This is also a disgrace to Marjory Stoneman Douglasâ€™ name. She was known most throughout her long life as an environmentalist — which by â€œnatureâ€ has to do with life — first getting involved in the Everglades way back in the 1920s. She promoted responsible urban planning when MiamiÂ saw a population boomÂ of 100,000Â people in the decade.
Then, according to Wikipedia,
â€œBy the 1960s, the Everglades were in imminent danger of disappearing forever because of gross mismanagement in the name of progress and real estate and agricultural development. Encouraged to get involved by the leaders of environmental groups, in 1969â€”at the age of 79â€”Douglas foundedÂ Friends of the EvergladesÂ to protest the construction of aÂ jetport in the Big CypressÂ portion of the Everglades. She justified her involvement saying, ‘It is a woman’s business to be interested in the environment. It’s an extended form of housekeeping.'”
Photos via Wikipedia
Douglas had been honored by practically every environmental group for defending the EvergladesÂ against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development. She convinced people itâ€™s aÂ treasured river instead of a worthless swamp.
Unfortunately for so many people in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, suburban sprawl has taken its toll. This isnâ€™t like areas around other cities because itâ€™s obvious from maps, including those in this article, you canâ€™t build east. Thereâ€™s the Atlantic Ocean. You also canâ€™t build too far south. Thereâ€™s Biscayne Bay and the Florida Straits, if you donâ€™t hit the Everglades first.
But builders and sugar farmers try to make their livings further and further west. They keep fighting to move Miami-Dadeâ€™s Urban Development Boundary back, and commissioners keep approving, affecting the Everglades and its rural and natural resource protection areas.
Douglas wasnâ€™t just about the environment. She also supported the ACLU, Equal Rights Amendment and mental health support, due to her motherâ€™s deterioration.
She served as a as a society columnist — writing about tea parties and society events, starting in 1915 — since her father, Frank Stoneman, was the first publisher of the paper that becameÂ The Miami Herald. From 1920 to 1990, Douglas published 109Â fiction articles and stories.
Douglas was best known for her 1947 call to arms, The Everglades: River of Grass, which she began simply, ”There are no other Everglades in the world.”
According to The New York Times, her now-famous phrase
“‘river of grass’ caught the public imagination but it was also a reference to the fact that the Everglades is really a vast, slow-moving stream of shallow water and saw grass that covers much of the final 100 miles of South Florida.”
Of the people of South Florida, The Times reported she said,
“They could not get it through their heads that they had produced some of the worst conditions themselves, by their lack of cooperation, their selfishness, their mutual distrust and their willful refusal to consider the truth of the whole situation.”
She added that unless people acted more responsibly, ”overdrainage will go on” and ”the soil will shrink and burn and be wasted and destroyed, in a continuing ruin.”
The next week, The Times reported,
â€œOnce an area of more than 4,000 square miles, the Everglades has shrunk to less than half its original size, the result of overdrainage, urban sprawl and pollution from government-supported sugar cane and dairy farming. Many think its long-range future is still tenuous.â€
(The article has much more on government attempts to buy land, how the sugar farmers blamed the government for the Evergladesâ€™ problems, sugar farmers convincing Florida voters to reject a penny-a-pound tax on sugar, other attempts to restore the Evergladesâ€™ natural water flow — and much more on Douglasâ€™ life, short marriage and accomplishments. Click here for even more, from longtime Miami Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch, published two years ago tomorrow.)
Florida Gov.Â Lawton ChilesÂ explained her impact, saying,
“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.”
In 1993, PresidentÂ Bill Clinton awarded her theÂ Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Chicago Tribune wrote she “was thrilled when President Clinton called and invited her to theÂ White House” forÂ the nation’s highest civilian honor.
On April 22, 2015, while giving anÂ Earth DayÂ speech in the Everglades, President Obama announced thatÂ Interior SecretaryÂ Sally JewellÂ had designated her house in the Coconut Grove section of Miami — built in 1924, and where she wrote all of her major books and stories — aÂ National Historic Landmark.
Itâ€™s now owned by the state of Florida and a park ranger lives there to maintain it from the disrepair it had suffered from as early as theÂ 1926 Miami Hurricane and also an infestation of bees.
One tidbit from PBS:Â Marjory Stoneman DouglasÂ didn’t like to go out in the buggy Everglades!
Itâ€™s hard for me to believe the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary School in Miami-Dade County werenâ€™t even born when she was alive. Both schools opened in 1990. Douglas was still alive. I wonder what she thought about the schoolsâ€™ openings and more specifically, their locations.
I look at the maps and consider both locations suburban sprawl, since the schools had to be built as late as 1990, and that meant families moving into places nobody hadnâ€™t been living before.
high school website (west of Miami)
elementary website (Parkland, Broward Co.)
One would think Douglas wouldâ€™ve been against that. Unfortunately, I couldnâ€™t find details on Douglasâ€™ reaction to schools bearing her name being built in such places. I’d really like to know.
However, The New York Times wrote, â€œIn 1990, on her 100th birthday, when she was blind and frail, she continued to speak out against those who plundered the Everglades.â€
But look at where weâ€™re talking about: a place thatâ€™ll probably be underwater sooner rather than later, due to global warming, at the rate weâ€™re going.
â€œIn 1990, the (Miami-Dade County School) board hired Roma Construction to build Marjory Stoneman Douglas Elementary. The project was 390 days late, and Roma forfeited $45,000 for pulling out before the work was complete. Just four years later, the board rehired the company to build Paul Bell Middleâ€…
School, but that was also a disaster.
â€œTwo South Florida Republicans, Senator Marco Rubio, who received millions of dollars in political help from the National Rifle Association, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, theÂ single largest recipientÂ of direct NRA campaign cash among Floridians in the House of Representatives since 1998, said gun control legislation wonâ€™t stop mass shootings.â€
R.I.P. to Marjory Stoneman Douglas and also yesterdayâ€™s victims. Unfortunately, I donâ€™t see progress in solving South Floridaâ€™s, or the countryâ€™s, problems.