The First Lady of the Everglades

Today is the birthday of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who was born on April 7, 1890.  Douglas was a lifelong advocate for the preservation of the natural world.  She had a special love for the Florida Everglades, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.

In the 1940s, Douglas, a journalist and writer, was asked to contribute to a series on America’s rivers.  After five years of research, she published “The Everglades: River of Grass.”  The book sold out within a month, and opens with one of the most famous and poetic passages in the history of environmentalism:

“There are no other Everglades in the world.

“They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known.  Nothing anywhere else is like them: their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free saltness and sweetness of their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space.  They are unique also in the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose.  The miracle of the light pours over the green brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slow-moving below, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades of Florida.  It is a river of grass.”

Thanks largely to Douglas’ work, the Florida Everglades are recognized today as a US National Park, a UN World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a specially protected area under the international Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

In 1969, at the age of 79, Douglas was asked to become a spokesperson for the restoration and preservation of South Florida.  “Mrs. Douglas was half the size of her fellow speakers and she wore dark glasses,” said biographer John Rothchild.  Yet her voice “seemed to tame the rowdiest of the local stone crabbers, plus the developers and the lawyers on both sides.”

“No matter how poor my eyes are, I can still talk,” Douglas wrote in her 1987 autobiography.  “I’ll talk about the Everglades at the drop of a hat.  Whoever wants me to talk, I’ll come over and tell them about the necessity of preserving the Everglades.”

In 1993, Douglas was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the age of 103.  After her death in 1998 at the age of 108, her ashes were scatted in Everglades National Park.

Agilent environmental solutions have been used to analyze the ecosystem of the Florida Everglades.  Chinese scientists used an Agilent GC/MS to measure naturally occurring mercury in the environment.  Florida officials used an Agilent ICP-MS to evaluate trace metals in the soil.  And a researcher from Portland State University used Agilent EZChrom software to study the relationship between salt water, trace gases and ozone depletion.

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