tv 2018 Printers Row Lit Fest - Jack Davis The Gulf CSPAN June 11, 2018 12:07am-12:54am EDT
[applause] [applause] >> thank you for coming. books can be purchased and signed outside of the auditori auditorium. [inaudible conversation] [inaudible conversation] [inaudible conversation] >> good afternoon and welcome to the 34th annual chicago tribune lit fest. on to say thank you to our sponsors. today's program will be broadcast live on c-span2, book tv. there'll be time with the author
and we ask that you please use the microph so t home viewing audience can hear your questions. before we begin please silence your cell phones and turn off your camera. please welcome peter, editor of the chicago tribune. >> thank you for coming. thank you to the volunteers were helping to make this happen. i'm here with jackie davis. a professor of history at the university of florida. he wrote a book on marjorie stoneman douglas published in 2009. he grew up on the gulf coast. he writes so well about it now. he's currently writing a book on bald eagles. we look forward to see that. the golf, which we will talk about one -- prize in the 2018 pulitzer prize.
there is only one book every year that goes to. the new york times called it sweeping. the wall street journal called it lyrical, inspiring chilling story of the american see. one review said it's an important environmental -- and brings attention to the largest body of water. that was from the pulitzer prize judges. so when you embarked on this, what were you trying to write? what was the book that you thought needed to be written. >> let me also say thank you to everybody who showed up on this rainy day. and peter, thank you for doing this. and reading the book so closely. what i was hoping to accomplish was related to the oil spill.
i looked at writing a history before but wasn't sure how to approach it. then the spell happened. that gave me my objective to read a book not about the oil spill but to reclaim the identity of the gulf of mexico. i believed -- had robbed the gulf of the identity and no offense to the media i think they rewrote the golf narrative americans not primarily as a vacation spot. i wanted my readers to know the gulf of mexico was more than that. it was part of the larger historical narrative. it is not written in these techs
that you can check the index and you're lucky to find them even mentioned. if it is, it's only mentioned in passing. i w tontegrate the gulf mexico history with american history. >> you make a forceful argument that it is america and why is it that -- >> in part, i have to blame my colleagues for this, historically there has been within academia, this focus with regard to american history a focus on new england and virginia. in the gulf region is largely ignored in part because it was originally settled by the
spanish. they don't figure into that legacy if you will. saint augustine, which is the oldest in existing european city is hardly even mentioned. >> the architecture of the book is set up around homer's truth. you write about people, history and nature. you bring them together mostly through the stories of people. you tell stories in order to get at these issues. one of the people you use to introduce these gorgeous segments on the indians is frank cushing who is an f ethnographer. tell us about him or the colusa. >> he was in ethnologist of the
19th century and considered an expert on the western indians. he ended up going to southwest florida in 1895. because some artifacts were discovered down there quite by accident. in florida is still very much a frontier. not many people living there particularly south florida. so, he was dispatched to take a look at these artifacts. he suspected there is something really important in southwest florida. a full expedition followed. he unearthed what so many
described it as the most valuable and complete archaeological find in the academy. he discovered these business people whoad the gul coast for approximately 8000 years or longer. their sedentary people. they stayed in one place but they were hunter gatherers and they do not grow crops which was unusual. they did not have to go anywhere, they did not have to follow their game because it came to the in these wonderfully rich places. it was just a matter of stepping into the water and catching their food. >> so nobody was living there the 19th century. when the spanish got there in the 16th century there are tens of thousands of people. >> when the spaniards meet the
colusa they are quite impressed. >> they are very impressed. what's very interesting, is the spanish did not know they would encounter or who live there, they brought the colusa new about the spanish. they were seafaring people so rumors had circulated about these conquistadors were killing everybody in the caribbean. they were waiting for someone to come along. they fought them off and he returned in 1521. they shot him with a poison dart and his men took him back to
havana where he died of his wounds. >> within a few hundred years they are all gone and that was ultimately because of the spanish and other european. >> and the spread of diseases. you are talking about the spanish being impressed by the coastal indians, largely because they were taller than the spanish. they took the majority of their protein from the sea. they were impressed by the height of these people. they were quite intolerant of european invaders. what ended up wiping out the aboriginal people were primarily the european diseases. that is the one great
accomplishment. and that was a four-year expedition around the gulf coast. he was searching for gold and silver and found none. what he found was he spread european diseases namely smallpox and measles. that killed off the majority of the native peoples. that made it easier later years for the spanish and french to settle. >> this is an environmental social history. one of the lessons in the book is people disregard what is in front of them. they don't understand the nature of the gulf and the gulf coast. the spanish starve. they meet these indigenous people who are robust and healthy and think their giants. they did not even understand where the food was coming from. >> one expedition that started
off in 1528 it was supposed to end up in mexico but they ended up in tampa. banded up on an eight year odyssey around the gulf of mexico starting from tampa bay and making their way to mexico. they finish with only for survivors. they starved. some committee cannibalism. even though there was so much food right there the gulf of mexico is one of the richest environments in the world. there's everything they needed to support themselves. historians speculated why did they start when there's oysters, crabs, these delicacies.
fish so thick in the water that they would stop in their tracks. yet, they are starving. and why? one historian argued they did not like seafood. but they like human flesh? >> but, many of these spanish explorers, conquistadors were from inland spain. they were not fishing people. they did not know how to harvest seafood. they knew how to steal its but they did not kw how to harvest it. >> your book comes right up to today and includes a lot of developments issues. people from chicago we go to the florida we are fiar with is a very developed strip malls,
condo canyons. >> yes but it's the same lesson. how did development come into florida in such a way that it harm to the gulf and the gulf coast? >> we should point out, most of it comes after world war ii. it's explosive. a lot of that is industrial. i write about this and one of the chapters on hurricanes. after these big devastating hurricanes almost in every case there is a building boom that follows. real estate prices decline.
local officials are eager to get the economy up and running. they create incentives to bring developers and to help them restore the place. americans particularly those in florida have historical memories. despite the fact that this hurricane level the mississippi gulf coast, they quickly forget about those tragedies in those disasters. people move in and they develop away. >> one thing he writes very beautifully about to the book is the estuaries and the mangroves. i, as a person who will often go down to florida once every couple of years, i had no appreciation for the mangroves.
you spent some time writing about them. why do you think it's important for people to understand those and how that works? >> the gulf of mexico is one of the most productive fish years outperforming the entire east coast. the reason is that 80% of the domestic shrimp come from the gall. the reason is those estuaries. they concentrate on the five u.s. states. >> and estuary is a cradle for sea life. crabs and fish in the oysters.
in saltwater 85% runs through the five u.s. states. you need that combination for an estuary environment. on the florida west coast, 95% of the fish that you would catch offshore spent part of their life in that environment. the giant goliath grouper which every commercial fisherman is trying to hook, 400-pound fish will spend the first four or five years and seagrass. mangroves are part of that environment. they create habitat for marine life but also feeding ground for marine life and a habitat for birds. that marine life is what brings the birds to the shore.
>> parts of your book you talk about other historians. i did not realize there were beach historians which sounds like a great gig. it turns out it's not the grouper, but another fish that's important to the development of the gulf and people using it. >> i write about the history of sportfishing. it's a billion-dollar industry. another reason why the estuaries are so important. when we think of vacationing on the gulf coast we think of the beautiful beaches. the beaches are not what attracted the first tourist. it was fishing. and one fish was the tarpon. the first person to hook it on record was an architect from new york in 1885.
everybody knew they all wanted to catch a tarpon because they knew it would be a wonderful fighting fish. they would harpoon it before they hooked it. and tie it off. finally, would hooksett and it sets the sportfishing world and fire. people from the british isles converge on the gulf coast. they too want to hook this. they want to be able to go deep-sea fishing without having to go out to the deep-sea. you can do that because they come into the estuaries to feed. that is the beginning. in those days, they were saying we have bigger because
everything is bigger in texas and are fish are feisty or. midwesterners would go to texas. >> your book is organized a lot about characters. who is your favorite character? >> it's the first one i wrote about in the book but does not appear until chapter 12. it is altar anderson, mississippi artist. has anybody heard of him? i highly recommend googling him. he lived until 1965. he spent most of his last 20 years of his life on islands off the coast of mississippi and louisiana keeping a log, he was semi- reckless and he felt most at home on these islands which
were not occupied by humans only by wildlife. his artwork is pheno he was a delight to write about. his values are very similar. his ecological environmental sensibilities are like my own. >> i think it's fair to describe him. he had a family who did not join him on the island. he had a wife and four children. he was not present for the birth of any of the children who all love him. they understood his need to be alone. they understood his artistic genius requiring seclusion. he was not very comfortable around humans.
if he saw a boat, long he would tease him we he wanted to be alone. he did not want to see civilization. >> he is your vessel to tell the story ultimately. >> you write about horn island and it ends up getting into the clutches of the defense department. >> they explode a botulism -- on the silent. the arc of that story i found incredibly engaging. this guy goes to get away and you see how the island is degraded in so many ways including the bizarre detonation of botulism. >> it does not work. during world war ii the military sees control. one of the islands was cat island which they used to train "war dogs".
that was unsuccessful. but horn island they used to test biological warfare. thannot do that. they realize the direction the wind blew they were incinerating they ended up doing that but also without disclosing this for anybody for some 30 years they also don't a lot of biological weapons into the gulf of mexico.
meant natural gas which usually meant there was crude oil so his match did and inflames allegedly that is the beginning of oil drilling in the gulf off mexico. and then to go down in the gulf of mexico and there is a direct relationship between 1947 and jimmy stewart the actor if you want to know the answer you have to read the book. what has oil done to the go? >> different parts of the gulf
coast. those three born on the gulfof coast. economically or the industry. stdy employment.them fairly so economically it has been good but also environmentally destructive and itbu i isn't the offshore oil rig or the gas rig that is the most destructivero. so the real culprit is the onshore infrastructure that we don't usually hear about to generate a lot of publicity.
and they are easy to respond to generally but what is going on onshore every day? that is the environmental disasteren with the onshore support infrastructure. and that is what exceeds the bp oil span one -- bill but the largestth concentration of the coastal start mock on --dash saltmarsh across the country nearly unequal 10000 miles cutting through this environment that can you imagine 10000 miles just on the louisiana coast? that these canals are contributing to the coast.
it is the only state in the country growing smaller in size geographically. >> how much? >> essentially the sides of the island of manhattan every year so 25 or 30 square miles. >> there are other erosion problems all the way around the gulf coast. i was reading up the pastgu couple days in gainesville the future waterfront property. >> it is landlocked. i like to say my daughter will inherit waterfront property. five of the most vulnerable metropolitan areas are located on the west gulf coast.
the other is engineering projects contribute with the loss of the mangrove band of the living shoreline generally. the best defense against the level rising is not a concrete seawall that actually contributes to erosion but the restoration of the living shoreline. the seagrass beds, oyster oyster beds, coastal marshes and mangrove forest. they do the best job to mitigate the impact but at the same time, they absorb a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere but also the water.r. where a seawall will e-mail it carbon dioxide from 1000 years believe believe it or not. >> here in illinois with some
the golfoblems faces? >> we met this for a general audience. whether you vacation there or have a family member, everybody is connected to the .oal and i said earlier 85% runs through the gulf of mexico. and that water comes from a long way away. the mississippi river, those that run through trade 80% of the continental u.s. so anything you put in the
ground will make its way to the gulf coast. as the gulf of mexico dead zone probably thee best-known and i discovered a direct connection between that dead zone and the baby boom era saturday morning cartoon commercials. and if you want to know that connection. [laughter] read the book but i will put it this way the midwest is directly connected but we have wonderful beaches on the gulf coast originally coming from thet appellation mountain have
many of you have seen the louisiana beach? >> deadliest beaches in the world. i'm sorry. you know that but they are the brown carpet have you ever seen a field in iowa? that is the future of louisiana beach. if you go to texas arp and yellow because that settlement comes as far away as the russian mountains. >> florida beachesbe you point out will you look at the tax dollars. >> you are because they erode state of of florida fence millions of dollars each year i think $65 million to restore those beaches that is the tourist economy 85% of erosion is caused by human activity.
engineering projects around the gulf p coast whether a bridge or a causeway or a tty or a channel or canal for shipping. zippy coastline the beautiful white -- beaches completely artificial. so what do you see the future of the golf? we see the development of the shoreline seems like it iss permanent, what do you see for thee future? >> despite the doom and miami optimistic about the future of the gulf and i tried not to be all doom and there are success
stories with heroes in the book have done much over the decades to restore those environments. we almost lost everything o by the 70s because of the raw sewage pumped into the water locally and those engineering projects for local federal or state policy we could bringt those back to life so that requires live volunteer effort and people love the gulf of mexico and i discovered that with this book i hope it would raise awareness i have been honored and flattered ande pleasantly surprised people
are extremely enthusiastic they love it so americans really do care so all of that gives me hope. >> as a historian? >> only through the writing. >> that i am curious to see the relationship between being a historian a and academic and an activist. >> i find it very hard as a writer i am an introvert. i am not as comfortable around groups like that. i love them and support them but i am not and organizer or who gets on the phone and asking people to donate or who
talks to a politician or policymakeron so my contribution however minor it may be the one of the reasons i write today eagle block is i want to be able to write and speak to speak to the fox news listeners about the environment and have a conversation with those folk as well. and what better subject than the bald eagle? you may not be a tree hugger butt you embrace the national bird and you are proud of that. and requiring the red viable american to bring people back to life again.
>> when do we see that book right. >> i told my publisher november 2020 does usually one year after but my life is not my own so i have not been able to spend i much time it's not a bad problem i am honored and flattered but i am hoping 2021 the same publisher. >> as i read this book telling so many stories that covers so much ground in terms of time and people in geography, how does it come together? >> that is a good question. i approach this book differently. non- vision riders tend to chapterhapter by outline and i used to be like t
that but and i will stick very closely to them but my outlined turned out to be a posted on my file cabinet or who to address in the chapter and put that on my file cabinet they gave me the opportunity and i would have a very general idea how we wanted the chapter to look and as i was sitting down and writing every day in history was showing me how it wanted to be rich in and it was exposing surprises to me a most every day interesting characters would emerge that i did not realize the great guys
scraper artifact had a one-story vacation house on the mississippi gulf coast that i have to include him i did not know about the connection between the tabasco sauce that i started to write about thean birds i certainly didn't know that connection to bird conservation so you know howw fiction riders say everybody tries to figure that out. [laughter] it isn't a condiment for birds that fiction riders will say their characters will show them the way through their stories tuesday and that is what wass happening as i was writing this book and i found myself rachel carson style if
you will and that is what we do go to the microphone for questions. >> my name is george i grew up in key west florida in the early 50s. that was unusually frontier type of town the nearly 50s the main industry was probably shrimping which is nonexistent the navy was number two and talk about the elevation of the sea rising, key west is
only a few inches above sea level at the highest point maybe a foot and a half so i worry about key west. i had the good fortune to go to alaska for years ago with family and the american eagle is beautiful and all over the place and also i am a writer of a nonfiction book. i agree sometimes you are not lookingg for things they just pop up you ever served on death researching something else. so could you tell me your thoughts on key west? very little navy, no shrimping, all tourism the
last big hurricane wiped out most of the low class housing so those demographics have changed somebody has moved in and you just cannot afford it anymore so tell me your thoughts. >> my daughter and i went to alaska thisy summer to do research on the bald eagle. the largest population is now 30,000 but key west is unique because it is on both the atlantic and the gulf of mexico. right by the gulfstream. i am sorry to say i believe key west is doomed. has a lot of the i gulf mainland what goes first is not the houses it is the infrastructure the freshwater
resourcesul that will make it more and mordifficult to live in these places. but they are the very embodiment of contradiction historically even today we do things that wise real estate in miami the highest it has ever been if you have to walk your poodle wearing boots? it will be gone. you cannot get homeowners insurance either but we continue to buy andnd live in harm's way. i'm sorry to the say that the ks are doomed and go back to where they were several thousand years ago whichanat was underwater. >> i'm sorry to hear that. congratulations on winning your award.
>> thank you. it was. >> he grew up in caitlin -- key west and you grew up on the gulf. so what is the connection with the relationship to the gulf as a kid. >> and then to spend a lot of time and then when i started to write this book my mind was cast back to those days and then realizing which i believe found its way down into the book. also a labor of love.
>> i still get to the gulf. only 65 milesway also to the atlantic. i have not converted my daughter yet. >> as a south florida native grew up in the 10000 islands non- chapter chicago 33 years but now the size of those 31 states how optimistic are you with the interstate cooperation? to bring about meaningful chang change? or was served the midwest for so long? we make exactly right
it will require interstate cooperation it isn't that forthcoming yet the scientists that i interviewed those that discovered the dead zone back in 1974 still workingn the dead zone he and other scientists are not optimistic either federal initiatives or any sort of interstate initiative. in fact even research money is in the dead zone that is even larger. >> what is your opinion about the everglades? with sugar and other crops? see that being resolved in the state of florida?
>> this is described as a wicked problem because there are so many interests involved that the state level and thought -- federal level business interests, environmental interests, landsts ownership involved to get them to agree because they all have their own agenda it is very difficult i don't see there a resolution with the everglades until the sea route one -- sea level rise is to the point you cannot grow there anymore. >> thank you for the question. we are out of. time. this is the book it is for sale out there he will be out there citing copies thank you all very much for coming. enjoy thee rest of lit fest. [applause] >> thank you for coming to the program.