The Annihilation of Florida: An Overlooked National Tragedy
Originally published in our magazine’s hallowed print edition2022MAR/APRDETAILS
An accelerating race to destroy Florida’s wilderness shows what we value and previews our collective future during the climate crisis.
You can tell many stories about Florida, but one of the most tragic and with the worst long-term consequences is this: since development in Florida began in earnest in the 20th century, state leaders and developers have chosen a cruel, unsustainable legacy involving the nonstop slaughter of wildlife and the destruction of habitat, eliminating some of the most unique flora and fauna in the world.
In his 1944 book That Vanishing Eden: A Naturalist’s Florida, Thomas Barbour bemoaned the environmental damage caused by development to the Miami area and wrote, “Florida … must cease to be purely a region to be exploited and flung aside, having been sucked dry, or a recreation area visited by people who … feel no sense of responsibility and have no desire to aid and improve the land.”
Even then, a dark vision of Florida’s future was clear.
Most of this harm has been inflicted in the service of unlimited and poorly planned growth, sparked by greed and short-term profit. This murder of the natural world has accelerated in the last decade to depths unheard of. The process has been deliberate, often systemic, and conducted from on-high to down-low, with special interests flooding the state with dark money, given to both state and local politicians in support of projects that bear no relationship to best management of natural resources. These projects typically reinforce income inequality and divert attention and money away from traditionally disadvantaged communities.1