Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. A century ago, much of South Florida was wilderness that humans thought needed taming. “Drain the swamps” was a refrain heard from the State House to the White House. “The swamps are sources of disease”, “We need the timber for our growing nation”, “We need new croplands to feed our people”. Government responded in concert with agricultural interests seeking fertile lands, and timber interests seeking more raw materials. Canals carried water from ecologically-rich wetlands, but then the system began to fail: wildfires threatened communities, wells dried up, pollutants poisoned fisheries in Lake Okeechobee and elsewhere, species such as the Everglades kite and Florida panther declined. Today, with the insight of past mistakes, decades of study, and use of space-age technology, efforts are being made to restore the mosaic of wetlands we call ‘the Everglades'. Most of all, we will benefit from recharged aquifers, healthier estuaries, reduced threats from drought and wildfire, and the stability of a healthy, naturally functioning ecosystem.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.