When the U.S. government and state of Florida unveiled a new plan to save the Everglades in 2000, the sprawling blueprint to restore the wetlands became the largest hydrological restoration effort in the nation's history. Two decades later, only one project is complete, and the Everglades is still dying. Bright Lit Place heads into the swamp to meet its first inhabitants, the scientists who study it and the warring sides struggling to find a way out of the muck.
For a century, the Miccosukee have watched their homeland wash away as Florida wrestled to drain the swamp. Meanwhile, the other end of the River of Grass has become a trickle. In this episode, we hear how canals and levees built to protect the coast from flooding created this imbalance—too much water in some places, and almost none in others—and brought the Everglades to the brink.
Something for Everyone
By the 1980s, it was clear Florida's effort to bring nature to heel was damaging the very things that drew people to the state in the first place – clear waters, rich soil and the largest lake in the southeast. To reverse course, Florida unrolled an ambitious plan to restore the Everglades and reconnect the river of grass. But that grand bargain came at a cost.
The Reverse Farm
There are two fundamental challenges in reconnecting the Everglades: moving the water where and when it's needed, and making sure it's clean. In this episode, the massive task of running "reverse farms" to protect a national park, and how taxpayers ended up footing the bill for Big Sugar's pollution.
Science on Trial
Compromise has always been the currency of the comprehensive Everglades restoration plan, but with 9 million people living between the Everglades and the ocean, there's a limit to what nature can take. In this episode, we follow the saga of one scientist who resigned rather than put politics over science, and got dragged into court.
Mangroves give South Florida one of its best defenses against the waves, but as sea levels rise and restoration stalls, we're running out of time to help mangroves protect the coast. In this episode, we visit the place often heralded as the best example of restoration's success—and hear from the researcher who knows it best about just how far remains to go.
Land of Juice and Honey
One way to look at Everglades restoration is as a dress rehearsal for the kind of tough work it will take to help society adapt to climate change: sustaining a political coalition, and pulling off massive engineering challenges, even as the natural conditions around us continue to change. Florida is spending more than ever on restoration, but that doesn't mean we're keeping up. And the state's bruising politics offer a cautionary tale—no amount of ribbon cutting guarantees success.