Why we need Friends of the Everglades
By Alan Farago
President, Friends of the Everglades
A decade ago, speaking on the issue of restoring the River of Grass, Joe Podgor—our organization’s director at the time—spoke of Everglades restoration in a way that resonates today: “The Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to keep the planet.”
Importantly, our mission at Friends is connected to global challenges. Along this line of reasoning, I do not expect to experience, in my lifetime, the rich complexity of the Everglades as I did in the 1970s. I do expect, however, that if we do our jobs well then my children and grandchildren will see for themselves, the splendors when my father showed me in the Everglades including the shallow water wilderness fed by fresh water into Florida Bay. Through our involvement, we can return the gifts that slipped through our fingers. But why Friends of the Everglades?
We are all about the effort to match action to words. Indeed there is no shortage of proclamations on behalf of the Everglades. The words and science on the Everglades can be measured in terabytes.
Friends of the Everglades is about leveraging to the maximum extent possible limited resources on behalf of an effort that is emblematic of environmental challenges civilization will face in coming generations. Restoring the Everglades is about more than returning the remarkable diversity of birds and species connecting through a unique evolutionary process many thousands of years in the making. Of course, we want all the miraculous gifts of creation to be restored to their proper place, as living testaments to the glory of life. But our metric of success is not whether a Cape Sable seaside sparrow returns to its habitat, or a snail kite or a Florida panther.
Friends of the Everglades believes in educating the general public—and younger generations in particular through our Young Friends of the Everglades program—and we are dedicated to the difficult tasks of holding accountable government agencies charged with the responsibility to fix what is wrong with the Everglades; too little water, too polluted, and unavailable in the right quality and quantity to mimic the natural function of the rain cycle.
Why am I optimistic? Because we know what needs to be done. We know nature is resilient, when the correct conditions are allowed to prevail. We know that the law is on our side.
Why may we be able to keep the planet, if we succeed in the Everglades? Simply, mastering the challenges of a restoration the size and scale of the Everglades points us in the direction of meeting the crisis of climate change. Put another way, bridging the divide that separates concerted action to save the Everglades requires enormous energy and skill and dedication.
That is why the focus of Friends of the Everglades is making government agencies do the work for the Everglades, as they are required to do by law.
Although Friends is a small organization, we play a role disproportionate to our size. We are plaintiffs in some of the most important litigation for the Everglades, engaging government at the very highest levels. Through our legal initiatives—involving cases that have and will continue to make their way to the US Supreme Court—we are helping to create great opportunities.
Fixing the Everglades, here and now, is indeed a test. Our board and advocates are deeply engaged in the meaningful and ethical work of positive change. With the help and commitment of our members, Friends of the Everglades will continue forging the path and opportunities for the Everglades embraced by our founder, Marjory Stoneman Douglas.