Household name/Weekend Reader for Sunday, April 8
lars.co/Flickr

Household name/Weekend Reader for Sunday, April 8

I'm guessing the typical American news consumer has heard her name a couple of hundred times in the past eight weeks. I'd also surmise that the typical American news consumer hasn't the slightest idea who Marjory Stoneman Douglas is.


Her life is a Hollywood blockbuster waiting to be made: Imagine Meryl Streep or Dame Helen Mirren in an oversized floppy hat, the screenplay aging her from a feisty 57 to still-lucid 108. Marjory Stoneman Douglas didn't save the Everglades – they're far from saved despite more than a half century of trying to undo the pressures of citrus, sugar, cattle, and suburbs.

But taking a leap of faith that sea level rise doesn't eventually swamp America's Swamp, she certainly is the heroine who kept the Everglades alive.

Two public schools bear her name, an elementary school in Miami and the Ill-starred high school where 17 students and teachers were slaughtered on February 14. There's a nature center in South Florida and a state office building in Tallahassee. National Geographic did a TV documentary on her life in 1985. Her longtime home in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood is a National Historic Site. A wilderness area in Everglades National Park bears her name. In 1993, Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But she deserves a lot more recognition than this.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas was born in Minnesota on April 7, 1890. She led a life of activism that spanned from the women's suffrage movement to the environmental movement. After a disastrous marriage, Douglas joined her father's Miami Herald as a reporter in 1915, later becoming an editor. She quit the paper in 1923 for life as a freelancer, writing a play about part-time South Florida resident Al Capone. Scarface apparently didn't like the play, but the playwright wasn't intimidated.

An early advocate of feminism, civil rights, and the environment, she pushed for the establishment of the Everglades National Park. In 1947, both the Park and Douglas's Everglades masterwork, The Everglades: River of Grass, became realities. The book marked the beginning of her second career as an Everglades activist, at age 57.

River of Grass helped change the way the public regarded the Everglades. Douglas stood five feet, two inches (for the record, Meryl Streep is 5' 6" and Helen Mirren is 5' 4"), but commanded widespread respect as she took on sugar and citrus growers, cattlemen, real estate developers and the Army Corps of Engineers. In the 1960's, the Corps had masterminded the straightening of the meandering Kissimmee River, disrupting the slow flow of water into the Glades, leading to a three-decade campaign led by Douglas to reverse the damage and restore vital wetlands and floodplains

In 1992, Congress ordered the Corps to put the bends back in the River – a remarkable statement on the folly of engineering nature. At age 79, Douglas organized a group called "Friends of the Everglades" to oppose a massive jetport planned for the middle of the Glades in the 1960's. The plan was eventually nixed by President Richard Nixon, another part-time South Florida resident. "Friends" is still a leading citizens' group protecting the Everglades.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas was also something of a quote machine. She presaged a long-sought, little-achieved goal of the national environmental movement: "Child welfare ought really to cover all sorts of topics, such as better water and sanitation and good roads, and clean streets and public parks and playgrounds."

Another famous statement showed the limits of her love of the Everglades: "To be a friend of the Everglades is not necessarily to spend time wandering around out there ... It's too buggy, too wet, too generally inhospitable"

Douglas campaigned against the spread of invasive plants and animals in the Glades. She made no friends by opposing drainage projects in Miami's encroaching suburbs.

Blind and in failing health, Marjory Stoneman Douglas continued her activism until her death at age 108 in 1998. She made full use of her age and frailty, saying, "People can't be rude to me, this poor little old woman. But I can be rude to them, poor darlings, and nobody can stop me."

A St. Petersburg Times reporter memorialized her by writing "She had a tongue like a switchblade and the moral authority to embarrass bureaucrats and politicians and make things happen."

However much she made things happen, the Everglades still need quite a bit of saving. As Douglas said, "The Everglades is a test. If we pass it, we may get to keep the planet."

So far, we've gotten an incomplete grade.

Top Weekend News

Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport of the New York Times have the story on a pattern of sloppiness in EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's efforts to roll back environmental laws and regulations.

Tony Barboza of the Los Angeles Times reports on the Southern California Air Quality Management District's delay in enacting restrictions on truck and train pollution.

The Guardian tells of the stunning death toll among wildlife rangers in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Opinions and Editorials

EHN/Daily Climate founder Pete Myers on the "existential trap" of solar geoengineering as a climate fix.

The Week in Trump

From Buzzfeed: A Tea Party group has launched a Twitterstorm to support Scott Pruitt and save his job. Meanwhile, Politico reports that Pruitt overstayed his welcome at the Capitol Hill townhouse where he rented a room. The owners had to change the locks.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acknowledges that there's little interest in expanded offshore drilling among oil & gas producers.

The liberal media watchdog group Media Matters reports on a quandary for Fox News: Its chief White House correspondent, Ed Henry, did a devastating interview with EPA boss Scott Pruitt. But other Fox shows are ignoring the news that was made by the surprising interview.

Now that everyone knows the name "Marjory Stoneman Douglas," perhaps everyone should know what she accomplished.

Can Finland and Sweden help decarbonize EU economies?

Demand for key metals is booming. Geopolitical realities and pandemic-related supply chain issues are increasing the pressure on EU countries to proceed with mining activities of their own to decarbonize their economies.
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

How can developing countries confront biopiracy?

Developing countries are increasingly calling on richer nations to share the profits from discoveries based on their rich biodiversity. As talks get underway in Nairobi, DW takes a closer look at the issue of biopiracy.
indigenous kelp farming

‘The return of land to Indigenous people is key’: Q&A with Shinnecock Kelp Farm’s Tela Troge

A group of women of the Shinnecock Nation manage the first Indigenous-owned kelp farm on the United States’ East Coast, and are ready to harvest this year’s first batch.

Could solar powered hospitals be the future of net zero health?

Updates to the Castle Hill Hospital in Hull show that solar-powered hospitals may be the next step towards net zero health in the NHS decarbonisation strategy.

Sweltering streets: Hundreds of homeless die in extreme heat

Hundreds of blue, green and grey tents are pitched under the sun’s searing rays in downtown Phoenix, a jumble of flimsy canvas and plastic along dusty sidewalks. Here, in the hottest big city in America, thousands of homeless people swelter as the summer’s triple digit temperatures arrive.

U.S. states lead the way in taking Big Oil to court

From California to Colorado, Hawaii, and Rhode Island, no fewer than 20 states are seeking damages against dozens of the world’s largest fossil fuel firms.

Officials try to deliver aid to flooded South Asia villages

Authorities in India and Bangladesh struggled Monday to deliver food and drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people evacuated from their homes in days of flooding that have submerged wide swaths of the countries.

From our Newsroom
Colorado fracking

Colorado is the first state to ban PFAS in oil and gas extraction

The toxic “forever chemicals” are used in fracking wells across the country.

gun control

Peter Dykstra: Gun and climate change delusions

Millions here suffer from twin hallucinations: Guns don’t cause our mass shootings, and the climate isn’t changing.

Op-ed: An engine for social justice leads the way to change

Engine for social justice leads to change

Virginia Organizing's 27-year history as a role model for The Daily Climate

Using comedy to combat climate change

Using comedy to combat climate change

The Climate Comedy Cohort aims to help comedians infuse climate activism into their creative work.

roe v. wade

Derrick Z. Jackson: Roe v. Wade draft bodes ill for air, wetlands and the EPA

Justice Alito’s longstanding consistency in wanting to restrict EPA authority makes it transparent where he wants the court to go.

solar power schools

Solar power at Pennsylvania schools doubled during the pandemic

“If this growth continues, schools could set Pennsylvania up as a clean energy leader and not just the fossil fuels we’re known for.”

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.