Mar 4, 2011

Liquid Land

A Journey Through the Florida Everglades
by Ted Levin

Another book about swampy regions, this one exactly the opposite of Stirring the Mud. While that little book was poetic and musing, this one is jammed up with hard facts. A bit too many of them, for my taste. Liquid Land is about the ecology of Florida, focusing mostly on how acts of man have altered the landscape, severely changed the habitats of wildlife, and what some people are doing to try and restore it (if such a thing can ever be done). The main points I gathered are that the Florida Everglades are made up of a huge, very flat expanse of interconnected and constantly moving water, affected not only by tides and tropical storms but also periods of fire and drought which all contribute to how the plants and animals live and reproduce. When people started coming in with developments, draining certain areas, walling up others, making ditches and canals and roadways, lots of things were changed beyond repair- most often not for the better. Some animals that used to be present in staggering numbers have dwindled to tiny populations, others disappeared entirely.

Most of the book seems to be recounting various lawsuits and actions of corporations and conservation groups, and the details of those just got so boring. I know they're important, but they're not very fun or engaging to read about. The parts I liked better were where Levin described meeting individuals who were directly involved with environmental issues- a man who took it upon himself personally to relocate vividly-striped tree snails (a beautiful creature I never knew existed before! - see the bottom of the page linked to for some beautiful photographs) from an area where they were threatened to a more secure location, or where he accompanied one of the few men who still hunts frogs for a living, then a scientist who tracks Florida panthers and another who studies the snail kite, an endangered raptor. But even those parts of the book were a bit too dry for my taste, and it was with some effort I forced myself to finish the thing, still hoping to glean something interesting out of it all. It did give me an introduction into a landscape I hardly ever encountered before (the only book I think I've read set in Florida swamps before is The Yearling) and made me more curious about the wildlife there. I also want to find out now what's happened to all those places Levin feared were irreparably damaged; it's been eight years since this book was written so I wonder if things have gotten better or worse since then. (But I have to wait until my computer's back up before I can look things up).

Rating: 2/5 ........ 286 pages, 2003

anyone else read it?

1 comment:

Bookfool said...

I think I would have abandoned this one, from the sound of it, but the bit about the snails sounds interesting.