2008 Elkin Isaac Speaker - Carl Hiaasen, April 24th
The Elkin Isaac Research Symposium Committee is pleased to announce that Carl Hiaasen, Miami Herald columnist and three-time Pulitzer prize nominee, will be this year's keynote speaker. Hiaasen's columns have long been scathing indictments of the lack of control over the development and management of the south Florida environment and its limited resources and that cynicism is even more unbridled in his novels.
As a prelude to requesting support from Academic Affairs, we are seeking expressions of interest for a coterie developed around Carl Hiaasen's earliest novel, "Tourist Season." We will provide a "course pack" of selected columns so that participants are more able to understand how his columns and satire influence his works of fiction. Hiaasen will offer the keynote address at the Elkin Isaac Research Symposium in April and we are working to include a discussion of this book with him and coterie participants, as well as students, as a part of his visit.
Several reviews follow:
"A vacationing Shriner disappears, the only clue to his demise --- his fez awash on a Miami beach. The director of the Chamber of Commerce dies with a toy rubber alligator in his throat. It's the height of South Florida's tourist season and the Orange Bowl is nigh. The Chamber of Commerce is panicked as more tourists vanish. Will Brian Keyes, former reporter turned PI, be able to stop the eco-terrorist carnage by crocodile? We are introduced to Hiaasen's singularly twisted and rollicking sense of humor in this, the first of Hiaasen's South Florida fiendishly funny thrillers." --- Reviewed by Roz Shea © Copyright 1996-2008, Bookreporter.com. All rights reserved.
"Wonderful...lively... fun...a remarkable example of what talented writers are doing these days with the mystery novel". - Tony Hillerman, The New York Times Book Review
"A dark, funny book full of irony and spice. I loved it!"-- Robert B. Parker
Hiaasen's website: http://www.carlhiaasen.com/
As we drove south, we were able to stop and visit several river engineering projects that have a profound effect on the delta. Older projects were intended to prevent flooding and improve navigation. More recent projects are intended to remediate some environmental consequences of the earlier projects.
The most upstream project we visited was the control structure at old river. Actually a complex of projects, including a power generation station, this controls the distribution of water between the Mississippi and its major northern distributary, the Atchafalaya. Without these structures, many believe that the Mississippi would have switched its main flow to the much shorter Atchafalaya channel to the sea.
The Bonnet Carre' Spillway, just upstream from New Orleans, represents one the last ditch, but most effective ways that flood waters are controlled. This structure can open a 7,000 foot wide gap in the levee system, diverting water through a floodway into Lake Pontchartrain. This relieves pressure on downstream levees. In its natural state, the river had many such distributaries, and these fed fresh water into Southern Louisiana's complex of fresh and brackish water marshes. With most distributaries blocked, saltwater incursion is a problem
Davis Pond freshwater diversion structure is an attempt to recreate the effects of natural flooding, and to regulate salinities in a broad swath of land, roughly from New Orleans south to the gulf, between the Mississippi and Bayou Lafourche. Here, students are traveling within the project area in an ACE boat.
One concerned party in the area is the oil industry. As much as 25% of the nation's oil comes onshore across the Louisiana coast, and serious erosion could jeopardize this infrastructure. Here, along Bayou Lafourche, an offshore "jack-up rig" is being readied for deployment. We also saw that canals built throughout the wetlands contribute to the problems of erosion and saltwater incursion.
The Jefferson Parrish Emergency Preparedness Center houses people who will try to manage the situation should natural disaster strike the area. We learned that flooding from the sea during a hurricane is a much more likely problem than flooding from the river. The computer screen shows the depth of flooding from a possible storm predicted by computer models. Over 12 feet of water are possible in many thickly settled areas. With limited highways, it is estimated that it could take as long as 72 hours to fully evacuate the area, and presently, forecasting cannot predict storms that far in advance.
Everglades habitats are dominated by sawgrass prairies, the river of grass, but also include cypress domes, hardwood hammocks, sloughs and coastal mangroves. Functioning naturally, the vast reaches of sawgrass, coupled with un-confined Lake Okeechobee stored seasonal rainfall for much of the dry winter season, and allowed a vast array of wetland- dependant species to flourish. Today, with dikes, canals and roadways that act as dams, hydroperiods are drastically altered, nutrient levels are higher, and the remaining wetlands are to a large extend dependant on human-controlled flows. We can still see the habitats and most of the species, but can only read about and imagine the riotous abundance of birds and other animals that inhabited the natural Everglades.
Without question the Everglades restoration efforts are having a positive impact. We were impressed by the magnitude (and expense) of these efforts. But there is something inelegant about relying on pumps, wells and flooded rock quarries to store water that one was stored by stately flow through the Everglades. If stored water can be sent to the Everglades, it can also be sent to the urban coast. In the face of growing population and inevitable drought years, will people maintain the political will to provide for the natural areas when a literal flip of a switch can divert water to needy humans?
Our trip began with a journey by train to West Palm Beach. The cars were full, and we are confident that we significantly reduced the carbon footprint of the trip by taking the train. We spent two days in Palm Beach County looking at urban areas on the Atlantic Ridge, parts of the Everglades that have been drained for development or agriculture, and other parts diked off for water treatment or storage. We also visited the South Florida Water Management District Headquarters and several massive water management and treatment projects. We enjoyed sweet tangerines and sugar cane, but we also saw a citrus industry besieged by greenings disease, sugar cane fields that have lost six feet of topsoil, and environmental restoration projects that move water with massive pumps and fossil fuel.