Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The inevitable activism of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students

From the cyberpages of Facebook comes an odd but intriguing post that, perhaps, explains why the students in Parkland took a stand against guns and achieved what adults have been unable to do.

If you’ve been wondering why so many students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have become such effective political activists, so quickly, it’s probably because they got it directly from their school’s namesake.

I’d like to tell you a little bit about this remarkable woman who made political activism her calling right up until the day she died at the age of 108. Her father owned the Miami Herald, and she became a reporter there, way back in 1912. She fought for women’s suffrage, joined the Red Cross to take care of wounded soldiers in World War I, and then refugees in Paris after the Great War ended.

But her greatest works came much later. In 1947, she wrote the groundbreaking book, River of Grass, the story of the Florida Everglades. In it, she explained how the Everglades functioned and its vital importance to our entire ecological system. She was the primary activist who rose up to protect the Everglades from destruction. She fought Big Sugar on dumping toxic wastewater into the Everglades. She fought the Army Corps of Engineers to block the straightening of the Kissimmee River, explaining how the wandering, winding river filtered water on its journey from Central Florida to the Everglades. The “ditch,” as she called it, eliminated that filtering system and turned the Everglades into a toilet of sorts.

She fought the South Florida Water Management District when they allowed water levels in the Everglades to rise dangerously high, killing off the native deer population and other species of wildlife. She was a fighter and an activist for protecting things valuable to our planet and its inhabitants.

I interviewed her on her 90th birthday on the front porch of her house. She was animated, cantankerous, courtly, insightful, and inquisitive. She recalled everything she had done. I had read her book because, at that time, I was doing a number of news stories about the Everglades; the very same issues she was still fighting to fix.

She would be proud of the students who are now standing up to fight for a cause in which they deeply believe. She would have been standing right with them, demanding action and action now. She would have carried those kids on her back to Tallahassee and Washington, DC, to make sure those in power use that power for the greater good. It was in her own DNA, now transferred to these courageous students.

Martin Gould is a former television news reporter who lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
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Ginger Walters

Wow, very interesting. The Parkland students are indeed impressive!