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American Anthropologist 2008

Ogden, Laura. The Everglades Ecosystem and the Politics of Nature. American Anthropologist 2008 Vol. 110(1):21-32.

Laura Ogden re-examines how the meaning of the word “ecosystem” is implemented within the applied function of government environmental policy. More specifically promotes a subject concerning the restoration of the Florida Everglades. She explains how environmental science has become an embedded yet partially convenient interest for government institutions. These institutions are divided according to their functional aspects by quasi-governmental organizations or government bureaucracies. Despite the amount of work and benefit that is put into environmental restoration, she claims that government policies un-proportionally assess what environmental needs are essential in restoring the Florida Everglades.

Ogden presents her stance first by outlining the chronological order of events that initiated environmental policy in the United States as well as contributions that rendered the creation of Everglades restoration. By tracing the political progress from the Swamp and Overflow Land Act of 1850 to the integration of environmental NGOs between the science community and natural resource agencies in the mid-1980, Ogden creates an historical paradigm of events that detail the manifestation of such institutions as well as their beneficial output. She divides her work into five sections which include: The Pre-Ecosystem Everglades, The Everglades as Ecological Ecosystem, The Sociological Ecosystem, The Ecosystem as Water Management Plan, and Discussion and Conclusion.

Ogden closes by using a concept that Max Weber called “Modern Officialdom,” which was more or less another form for the word bureaucracy. The idea of “fixed and official jurisdiction areas” is what discourages environmental progress and makes government environmental policy, in most realms, entirely void. It is essential, if not vital, that scientific research, methods, and data be presented without the pressures of political context. There is a problematic issue that arises when political input overrides any collected scientific data that can be used to aid restoration. She also contests that government policy uses science merely to legitimize their interests, which can leave negative consequences in restoring the Florida everglades. In the end Ogden hopes that these institutions are able to revaluate and reform their understanding of the concept “ecosystem.”

JOSHUA RAMIREZ Valdosta State University (Melissa Rinehart).