March Book Discussion: The Swamp by Michael Grunwald

By Olivia Dorothy

Al Gore lost the election because of Florida… but why did he lose Florida?

According to the author of our March book, The Swamp by Michael Grunwald, the Florida Everglades, America’s Swamp, has played in integral part in United States history and politics.  It’s a history that is often unrecognized and underappreciated, but the timing of our March selection couldn’t be better as new information is emerging about the early multi-cultural settlements in Florida.

If you’re a PBS fan like me, you may have caught the recent Secrets of the Dead episode on Spanish Florida, which highlighted the post-European contact settlements and societies that were founded long before Jamestown and Plymouth.  The documentary is an excellent companion to Grunwald’s book.  If you haven’t seen it, go online and watch it now.

In his book, Grunwald explores the natural and human history of the Everglades and how it’s influenced our national policies and politics.  The Everglades has been home to people for at least 14,000 years where its rich ecosystem supported some of the earliest human settlements in North America.  But it wasn’t until United States became a country did we start to see these rich resources exploited and the swamp drained for development.

The progression of the region from the wildest of wildernesses to penultimate engineering marvel to National Park mirrors the progression of our national conservation conscience.  Indeed, Grunwald argues, the region is intractably intertwined with our national politics, including presidential elections and even the policies that have shaped the develop of the Mississippi River.

Regardless of whether you’ve visited central Florida or the Everglades you’ll be able to relate to the place through Grunwald’s articulate history.  So make time to read The Swamp (it is a long book) and join us for our book discussion on March 27 at 7PM at River Action.


Environmental Film Fest 2018

By Kathryn Allen

2018 marks the 13th year of the Environmental Film Fest.  This year the first movie in our line up,  revisits Al Gore with his second movie on Climate Change – Truth to Power: An Inconvenient Sequel – which was released in 2017, eleven years after his first movie An Inconvenient Truth.  

Eagle View Group began the Environmental Film fest that same year, and Gores movie was in one of our first film fests.  In over the decade since then, Gore has championed the understanding of climate change and its impact on the Earth: and with his Climate Project training sessions held numerous times each year around the world, he has prepared hundreds of leaders for outreach to thousands of people.

An Inconvenient Sequel brings us updated information on climate change and also tells the story of this remarkable man who has faithfully championed this planetary message.

This past summer, I had the opportunity to meet a National Geographic underwater photographer, Brian Skerry, who filmed our next movie, one we Hope you will Sea!  (Due to the Terms and Conditions of the distributor, I must refer you to the EFF website at this point for specific information.

This movie captures the profound beauty of Earths oceans, and inspires us with the words and work of Sylvia Earle (aka Her Deepnessand a founding member of OceanElders), and a group of young underwater explorers who come from inner city neighborhoods. We are drawn into the wonders of Earths watery world, the perils caused by human behaviors, and the hope that  if we act in time, there is much we can do to care for the vast marine part of our planet.

Next comes a video montage of the best, most moving, and funniest short films on the environment that the EFF planning committee found after hours of searching the web. We have put them all together for you, and trust that you will thoroughly enjoy them!

Rounding out EFF 2018 is Before the Flood from actor, environmental activist, and UN messenger of peace, Leonardo DiCaprio, and filmmaker Fisher Stevens. DiCaprio opens the movie with a work of 16th Century art he saw as a child – The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch.  This ancient piece was one of the first works of art to see Earth as a sphere, and both the beauty and destruction that could define it.  DiCaprio launches his narrative with this to explore the dramatic planetary alterations occurring due to a changing climate.  He uses many of his own personal experiences to illustrate the story and promotes actions we as individuals and a society can take to prevent further disruption to life on earth.  He urges viewers to push elected representatives of the people to hold the interests of the planet and its inhabitants ahead of the interests of corporate greed and destruction.  

Environmental Film Fest 2018 will be held in the Olin Center at Augustana College, 733 35th St., Rock Island.  Doors open at 10:30, the movies will run from 11 am – 5 pm.   The Fest is open to the public and admission is free.  Snacks, coffee and tea will be available throughout the day. Details are available at:

Please join us!