PBS Distribution offers “American Experience: The Swam”

Man has been attempting to conquer the Florida Everglades since the 1800’s. The Swamp (PBS Distribution) explores natures’ most mysterious and unique ecosystems told through the eccentric lives of hucksters, politicians and activists.

The program is based, in part, on the book The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida and the Politics of Paradise by Michael Grunwald. The program introduces us to the first person who attempted to drain the Everglades in 1881, Philadelphia industrialist Hamilton Disston. He was one of the first to see the potential of turning the wetland into a profitable enterprise.

By the 1920’s, Florida experienced a population and real estate boom as new settlers cleared away native vegetation to plant crops like celery, lettuce, tomatoes and strawberries. But there were some, such as naturalist Charles Torrey Simpson, who warned against spoiling the area’s beauty and biodiversity. Torrey-Simpson was right. After altering the Everglades, the area was hit with unintended deadly consequences, from catastrophic floods to brutal droughts. Still, even as the alterations wreaked havoc on the environment, efforts continued to conquer the Everglades.

In 1925, landscape architect Ernest Coe moved to Miami and fell in love with the Everglades and became a champion to preserve it. He created a national park which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt approved by authorizing the creation of Everglades National Park in 1934. One of Coe’s supporters, writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas from the Miami Herald, wrote a book in 1946 that forever redefined the region as essential not only to wildlife but to people.

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