“Florida: A Sense of Place,” Al Burt's View of his State, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Tampa, Feb. 14, 1985

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“Florida: A Sense of Place,” Al Burt's View of his State, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Tampa, Feb. 14, 1985
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Understanding Florida
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Burt, Al
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Florida Defenders of the Environment
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Tampa, Fla.
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Al Burt Papers
"A Sense of Place"

Florida Defenders of the Environment, Tampa, February 14, 1985 University of Florida



I have been travelling Florida and concentrating on it for The Miami Herald the past 12 years. I should
warn you that I offer only personal observations. The more I travel, the more I think and sound like a
Cracker, and the paper does not wish to be held responsible.

A proper sense of place stimulates confidence and wellbeing. It means knowing the place you live as you
know your family and friends. It involves love as well as familiarity. Its potential and its limits are
understood. There is knowledge of what is appropriate and proper, and comfort in that knowledge.

It might seem a small thing, but I don't think so. A lot of people have recognized the power and
importance of a sense of place in various ways. After the House of Commons in London was bombed
during World War Two, a move started to replace it with a different and more efficient building.
Winston Churchill argued persuasively against it.

Churchill said the chambers should be rebuilt exactly as they were. His arguments touched on one
aspect of this sense of place. He said the style of parliamentary debate in England had been conditioned
by the physical characteristics of the old building. He said that changing it could change the style of
those debates and eventually could alter the structure of English democracy.










E. B. White in his essays wrote of the power of place. He said that driving a car toward home is very
different from driving a car toward a motel. The difference is the emotional direction. Familiarity, the
sense of belonging he continued grants a kind of exemption from evil and shabbiness. It makes us
feel good. Going to the place where you feel at home he said brings the same sensation you get
when receiving a gift from a loved one.

Lawrence Durrell wrote "As you get to know Europe slowly, tasting the wines, cheeses and characters of
the different countries, you begin to realize that the important determinant of any culture is, after all,
the spirit of the place. Just as one particular vineyard will always give you a special wine with discernible
characteristics, so a Spain, an Italy, a Greece will always give you the same type of culture, will express
itself through the human being just as it does through wild flowers."

Closer to home, we have more testimony. Up at the University of Florida, Harry Crews, that wild and
wooly but brilliant writer, paid tribute to a sense of place in his autobiographical book, A Childhood. For
him sense of place began with home but he recognized that it enlarged his feelings about the entire
rural South. He put it this way: "I come from people who believe the home place is as vital and
necessary as the beating of your own heart.... It will always exist, if nowhere but memory. Such a place
is... important to everybody everywhere."

On a political level, you hear about the significant impact a sense of place exerts from such people as
Maggie Hurchalla, that fine Martin County commissioner. She pointed out to me a year ago that we
have leaders in Florida now who have a true sense of the state, who have through personal experience
developed a gut feeling about what Florida should become.

Here's how she said it: "They are Floridians of a time that let them see what was bad about how we
grew. For their fathers' generation, growth meant you got rid of the privy... You got the road paved...
You got rid of malaria... You got schools for the kids... It really meant something good."

"But for their sons, our leaders now, it has meant the public is losing the beaches, the ole fishing hole
has been taken away, the traffic is awful, the schools are on double sessions and crime has hit the
national statistics. That's making a difference in their vision of what Florida should be."

They have a sense of place by birthright.

Some people seem to think that Florida has such exceptional character that it can tolerate almost
anything in almost any numbers. They are like the storekeeper who sold the Cracker a bag of flour. The
Cracker came back and complained there were bugs in it. "Well," the storekeeper said, "they don't eat
much. You ought not mind that." The Cracker replied, "It's not what they eat. That bag don't have any
plumbing in it."

Home, said a cynical friend of mine, who was in the process of losing his because of domestic problems,
is like no place. Only when we lose our sense of it do we realize how true that is. It has special
characteristics, special strengths, special sensitivities. Accommodating those, taking advantage of those,
protecting those, puts a quality in our lives that we can get nowhere else.










Native plants offer an example in blending life and place. We could learn from them. They thrive under
existing local conditions, without needing super quantities of water and fertilizer, without wild growth
that crowds out the diversity of other plant life, because they are geared to living within the means of
their natural environment.

We are learning, though sometimes the lesson is painful, that all living things have their special place
and function. When deprived of it, we become dis-spirited and ill-tempered.

My friend E. W. Carswell up in Chipley gave me an excellent example. He said that for years chicken
farmers kept roosters around in the belief that they were essential to egg production. After they found
out that was not true the number of employed roosters dropped dramatically.

Hens laid eggs good but they were not fertile. Carswell reported farm efficiency went up but said the
atmosphere in the chicken houses was depressing. The hens were unhappy and the few roosters that
did not wind up in the company of dumplings were going through a crisis of doubt about their
"roosterhood." They had lost their sense of place, their certain compatibility with their surroundings.

The population of Florida, sometimes, looks to me as though Rauschenberg had put it together -a living
collage of the disparate, a splash of this and that, an idea that never quite comes to heel, a focus on the
non-focus.

The Florida soul, its sense of identification and place, hides among all those squirming parts. Everything
and everyone seems an exception that fits into a greater exception. We are many little worlds spinning
in their own orbits, convened in a place hanging close to the sun.

Residents come in at least five colors, speak more than half a dozen languages, represent dozens of
nationalities. They eat mullet and possum and black beans and stone crabs and lobster, and enjoy all of
them. They delight in the simple and the complex, the foolish and the wise Disney World, the great
swamp, the waves, porpoises, football games, checkers.

But we are a state whose memory grows shorter as it grows bigger. We are supposed to have no real
tradition of our own and no real winter, yet in fact our history is rich and both we and our crops have
frozen during most recent winters.

The soul of this peninsula with a panhandle is like a puzzle made up of answers. Florida, with the
desperation moderated, represents to the industrial Northeast and the Midwest what the United States
represents to much of the Third World a place of refuge. Last year, between 600,000 and 700,000 new
residents moved into Florida, most of them from those industrial states. At the same time, half that
number of citizens already here moved out. So we had a net gain of some 335,000.

But those figures are deceptive. We gained 600,000 to 700,000 strangers and we lost 335,000 or so
already here, even people who knew something about Florida. For example 355,000 is enough new
voters in one year's time to change the outcome of most statewide elections. And we are supposed to
receive numbers like that for another 20 years.










But we also have 40 million tourists per year, and thousands of migrant agricultural workers, and
international refugees and intra-state movers. All these are powerful, distinct forces in motion while
Florida searches for balance and stability, for that sense of place.

For us, transience is like a heartbeat. It keeps our pressures high. Understanding and loyalty and
affection take time to develop.

Florida is an urban frontier. It is a state receiving a massive transfusion of new blood all the time. But a
larger portion of that might be like the TV commercial says tired blood. Much of it comes from
people who are fleeing here because they already are tired of coping with the exhausting problems of
life in declining urban settings. They come here ready to relax and to enjoy. It is our job to tell them no,
not yet please. We need your help and your participation.

On numbers alone, the quality of life in Florida declines. The finite natural resources are divided among
greater numbers of people. But if you come here with tired blood, from some place whose problems
make even a wounded Florida look like paradise, you might not appreciate the problem at first. A lot of
people who have lived here all their lives do not have full appreciation of it.

Some of it comes from a misperception of economic necessity, a belief that cannibalizing the
environment is the only way to keep the cash registers ringing. But there is another central reason, I
think, one similar to that expressed some 40 years ago by Aldo Leopold in his Sand County Almanac. We
are letting too many things come between us and the natural Florida, letting too many things obliterate
the natural distinctions. We don't want to become a place stamped out uniformly like a franchise that
originated somewhere else, a place where you wake and cannot tell without a thermometer -
whether you are in Florida or Cleveland. We need to see something that recognizes and pays homage to
Florida. Without that, as Churchill said about the House of Commons, we alter the substance of what
Florida is.

There is jeopardy created when we fashion our urban lives so that we lose touch with all that is natural.
It is too easy to do these days. We are shielded from the sun and the rain, from the full brunt of the heat
and the cold. Weather that once determined our daily routines now (except in its extremes) barely
influences them. In this way, the vital relationships are dimmed.

The mystery that is in the land, in the living and growing things, is denied us more and more. The sense
of a dynamic connection between each of us and the earth is interfered with. We fail to get the
renourishment that is available from being acutely aware of the relationships between people, the
seasons, the land and wildlife. It becomes a problem of the spirit and it reduces our potential. It lowers
our common denominator.

What we are missing is a common framework of understanding and standards. What we need is a
commitment of belonging to this state. Too many residents feel more of a sense of ownership in Florida
than a sense of kinship. Too many consider it as more a place for frolic and speculation than as one that
should be nurtured and preserved.










Not enough Floridians devote themselves to it in long range ways that involve love of place more than
financial options. That is not unique to Florida but I think our transience and the magical unreality that
many people feel during their first years here make it more common.

Too many harbor doubts about Florida's future and routinely set themselves up so that they can bail out
when things go bad or when profits from land values become too tempting to pass up. What is too often
missing is a sense that this is home and always will be and so let's not foul it up.

Many look at our growth patterns and decide that one day Florida will become crowded and shabby,
that it will turn into a place mostly for the rich and the very poor who attend them. Uncertainty and
defensiveness make too many people care less than they should about building quality and permanence
into their lives and their enterprises.

At this point, I nearly always return to a favorite quotation. In his fine book The Star Thrower Loren
Eiseley found great truth in what an Eskimo told an explorer about life in the Arctic. "We fear the cold
and we fear the things we do not understand," the Eskimo said, "But most of all we fear the doings of
the heedless ones among us." There are heedless ones among us, too.

In the old days, we did not talk about hurricanes and their threats because we were afraid it would
upset the tourists and hurt business. We don't do that anymore. Now we understand that was foolish
and dangerous. But we learned late and at the cost of potential disasters along our coasts waiting to
happen with the next major hurricane.

We still need to translate these other realities into that kind of clear and uncompromising advisory. We
need to carry these other messages to the public and especially to the newcomers the same way.
We need to demonstrate our own commitment if we expect newcomers to have one.

Florida cannot establish and sustain that vital, special sense of place unless it somehow educates all its
residents new and old to a clearer understanding of its peculiarities and fragilities and extraordinary
blessings. A state plan is a good and practical beginning but that is not enough. For the plan to work
there must be a broad, clear and present understanding that everything we love is at stake.

We must crystallize a sense of this place Florida.

The population projections leave little question that upon our ability to recruit these new and recently
arrived residents, who outnumber us old-timers more every year, depends our capacity to create a
Florida that can be true to itself a Florida whose every action begins first with a consideration of love
and concern for what we naturally have here.

We preserve our own futures only by living in harmony with it. Maybe it all sounds like poetry and
magic, but it's not. A real sense of this place Florida is where we have to begin if we have any hopes of
regaining paradise.










S2011 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.
Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement.




Full Text






Too many harbor doubts about Florida's future and routinely set themselves up so that they can
bail out when things go bad or when profits from land values become too tempting to pass up. What is
too often missing is a sense that this is home and always will be and so let's not foul it up.

Many look at our growth patterns and decide that one day Florida will become crowded and
shabby, that it will turn into a place mostly for the rich and the very poor who attend them. Uncertainty
and defensiveness make too many people care less than they should about building quality and
permanence into their lives and their enterprises.

At this point, I nearly always return to a favorite quotation. In his fine book The Star Thrower
Loren Eiseley found great truth in what an Eskimo told an explorer about life in the Arctic. "We fear the
cold and we fear the things we do not understand," the Eskimo said, "But most of all we fear the doings
of the heedless ones among us." There are heedless ones among us, too.

In the old days, we did not talk about hurricanes and their threats because we were afraid it
would upset the tourists and hurt business. We don't do that anymore. Now we understand that was
foolish and dangerous. But we learned late and at the cost of potential disasters along our coasts
waiting to happen with the next major hurricane.

We still need to translate these other realities into that kind of clear and uncompromising
advisory. We need to carry these other messages to the public and especially to the newcomers the
same way. We need to demonstrate our own commitment if we expect newcomers to have one.

Florida cannot establish and sustain that vital, special sense of place unless it somehow
educates all its residents new and old -to a clearer understanding of its peculiarities and fragilities and
extraordinary blessings. A state plan is a good and practical beginning but that is not enough. For the
plan to work there must be a broad, clear and present understanding that everything we love is at stake.

We must crystallize a sense of this place Florida.

The population projections leave little question that upon our ability to recruit these new and
recently arrived residents, who outnumber us old-timers more every year, depends our capacity to
create a Florida that can be true to itself a Florida whose every action begins first with a consideration
of love and concern for what we naturally have here.

We preserve our own futures only by living in harmony with it. Maybe it all sounds like poetry
and magic, but it's not. A real sense of this place Florida is where we have to begin if we have any
hopes of regaining paradise.


2011 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.
Acceptable Use, Copvright, and Disclaimer Statement.













Al Burt Papers


University of Florida Libraries










Florida's Roving Reporter and Miami Herald Columnist

"A Sense of Place"

Florida Defenders of the Environment, Tampa, February 14, 1985

I have been travelling Florida and concentrating on it for The Miami Herald the past 12 years. I
should warn you that I offer only personal observations. The more I travel, the more I think and sound
like a Cracker, and the paper does not wish to be held responsible.

A proper sense of place stimulates confidence and wellbeing. It means knowing the place you
live as you know your family and friends. It involves love as well as familiarity. Its potential and its limits
are understood. There is knowledge of what is appropriate and proper, and comfort in that knowledge.

It might seem a small thing, but I don't think so. A lot of people have recognized the power and
importance of a sense of place in various ways. After the House of Commons in London was bombed
during World War Two, a move started to replace it with a different and more efficient building.
Winston Churchill argued persuasively against it.

Churchill said the chambers should be rebuilt exactly as they were. His arguments touched on
one aspect of this sense of place. He said the style of parliamentary debate in England had been
conditioned by the physical characteristics of the old building. He said that changing it could change the
style of those debates and eventually could alter the structure of English democracy.

E. B. White in his essays wrote of the power of place. He said that driving a car toward home is
very different from driving a car toward a motel. The difference is the emotional direction. Familiarity,
the sense of belonging he continued grants a kind of exemption from evil and shabbiness. It makes
us feel good. Going to the place where you feel at home he said brings the same sensation you get
when receiving a gift from a loved one.










Lawrence Durrell wrote "As you get to know Europe slowly, tasting the wines, cheeses and
characters of the different countries, you begin to realize that the important determinant of any culture
is, after all, the spirit of the place. Just as one particular vineyard will always give you a special wine with
discernible characteristics, so a Spain, an Italy, a Greece will always give you the same type of culture,
will express itself through the human being just as it does through wild flowers."

Closer to home, we have more testimony. Up at the University of Florida, Harry Crews, that wild
and wooly but brilliant writer, paid tribute to a sense of place in his autobiographical book, A Childhood.
For him sense of place began with home but he recognized that it enlarged his feelings about the entire
rural South. He put it this way: "I come from people who believe the home place is as vital and
necessary as the beating of your own heart.... It will always exist, if nowhere but memory. Such a place
is... important to everybody everywhere."

On a political level, you hear about the significant impact a sense of place exerts from such
people as Maggie Hurchalla, that fine Martin County commissioner. She pointed out to me a year ago
that we have leaders in Florida now who have a true sense of the state, who have through personal
experience developed a gut feeling about what Florida should become.

Here's how she said it: "They are Floridians of a time that let them see what was bad about how
we grew. For their fathers' generation, growth meant you got rid of the privy... You got the road paved...
You got rid of malaria... You got schools for the kids... It really meant something good."

"But for their sons, our leaders now, it has meant the public is losing the beaches, the ole fishing
hole has been taken away, the traffic is awful, the schools are on double sessions and crime has hit the
national statistics. That's making a difference in their vision of what Florida should be."

They have a sense of place by birthright.

Some people seem to think that Florida has such exceptional character that it can tolerate
almost anything in almost any numbers. They are like the storekeeper who sold the Cracker a bag of
flour. The Cracker came back and complained there were bugs in it. "Well," the storekeeper said, "they
don't eat much. You ought not mind that." The Cracker replied, "It's not what they eat. That bag don't
have any plumbing in it."

Home, said a cynical friend of mine, who was in the process of losing his because of domestic
problems, is like no place. Only when we lose our sense of it do we realize how true that is. It has special
characteristics, special strengths, special sensitivities. Accommodating those, taking advantage of those,
protecting those, puts a quality in our lives that we can get nowhere else.

Native plants offer an example in blending life and place. We could learn from them. They thrive
under existing local conditions, without needing super quantities of water and fertilizer, without wild
growth that crowds out the diversity of other plant life, because they are geared to living within the
means of their natural environment.





PAGE 1

Florida s Roving Reporter and Miami Herald Columnist A Sense of Place Florid a Defenders of the Environment, Tampa, February 14, 1985 I have been travelling Florida and concentrating on it for The Miami Herald the past 12 years. I should warn you that I offer only personal observations. The more I travel, the more I think and sound like a Cracker, and the paper does not wish to be held responsible. A proper sense of place stimulates confidence and w ellbeing. It means knowing the place you live as you know your family and friends. It involves love as well as familiarity. Its potential and its limits are understood. There is knowledge of what is appropriate and proper, and comfort in that knowledge. It might seem a small thing, but I d on t think so. A lot of people have recognized the power and importance of a sense of place in various ways. After the House of Commons in Londo n was bombed during World War Two a move started to replace it with a differe nt and more efficient building. Winston Churchill argued persuasively against it. Churchill said the chambers should be rebuilt exactly as they were. His arguments touched on one aspect of this sense of place. He said the style of parliamentary debate in E ngland had been conditioned by the physical characteristics of the old building. He said that changing it could change the style of those debates and eventually could alter the structure of English democracy. E. B. White in his essays wrote of the power of place. He said that driving a car toward home is very different from driving a car toward a motel. The difference is the emotional direction. Familia rity, the sense of belonging he continued grants a kind of exemption from evil and shabbiness. It make s us feel good. Going to the place where you feel at home he said brings the same sensation you get when receiving a gift from a loved one. Al Burt Papers University of Florida Libraries

PAGE 2

Lawrence Durrell wrote As you get to know Europe slowly, tasting the wines, cheeses and characters of the differ ent countries, you begin to realize that the important determi nant of any culture is, after all, the spirit of the place. Just as one particular vineyard will always give you a special wine with discernible characteristics, so a Spain, an Italy, a Greece will always give you the same type of culture, will express itself through the human being just a s it does through wild flowers. Closer to home, we have more testimony. Up at the University of Florida, Harry Crews, that wild and wooly but brilliant writer, paid tribute to a sense of place in his autobiographical book, A Childhood For him sense of place began with home but he recognized that it enlarged his feelings about the entire rural South. He put it this way: I come from people who believe th e home place is as vital and necessary as the bea ting of your own heart.... It will always exist, if nowhere but memory. Such a place is... imp ortant to everybody everywhere. On a political level, you hear about the significant impact a sense of place exe rts from such people as Maggie Hurchalla, that fine Martin County commissioner. She pointed out to me a year ago that we have leaders in Florida now who have a true sense of the state, who have through personal experience developed a gut feeling about what Florida should become. Here s how she said it: They are Floridians of a time that let them see what was bad about how we grew. For their fathers You got s It really meant something good. But for their sons, our leaders now, it has meant the public is losing the beaches, the ole fishing hole has been taken away, the traffic is awful, the schools are on double sessions and crime has hit the national statistics. That s making a difference in their vi sion of what Florida should be. They have a sense of place by birthright. Some people seem to think that Florida has such exceptional character that it can tolerate almost anything in almost a ny numbers. They are like the storekeeper who sold the Cracker a bag of flour. The Cracker came back and complained there were bugs in it. Well, the storekeeper said, they don t eat much. You ought not min d that. The Cracker replied, It s not what the y eat. That bag don t have any plumbing in it. Home, said a cynical friend of mine, who was in the process of losing his because of domestic problems, is like no place. Only when we lose our sense of it do we realize how true that is. It has special chara cteristics, special strengths, special sensitivities. Accommodating those, taking advantage of those, protecting those, puts a quality in our lives that we can get nowhere else. Native plants offer an example in blending life and place. We could learn from them. They thrive under existing local conditions, without needing super quantities of water and fertilizer, without wild growth that crowds out the diversity of other plant life, because they are geared to living within the means of their natural environ ment.

PAGE 3

We are learning, though sometimes the lesson is pain ful, that all living things have their special place and function. When deprived of it, we become dis spirited and ill tempered. My friend E. W. Carswell up in Chipley gave me an excellent example. He said that for years chicken farmers kept roosters around in the belief that they were essential to egg production. After they found out that was not true the number of employed roosters dropped dramatically. Hens laid eggs good but they were not fertil e. Carswell reported farm efficiency went up but said the atmosphere in the chicken houses was depressing. The hens were unhappy and the few roosters that did not wind up in the company of dumplings were going through a crisis of doubt about their rooster hood. They had lost their sense of place, their certa in compatibility with their sur roundings. The population of Florida, sometimes, looks to me as though Raus chenberg had put it together a living collage of the disparate, a splash of this and that, an idea that never quite comes to heel, a focus on the non focus. The Florida soul, its sense of identification and place, hides among all those squirming parts. Everything and everyone seems an exception that fits into a greater exception. We are many littl e worlds spinning in their own orbits, convened in a place hanging close to the sun. Residents come in at least five colors, speak more than half a dozen languages, represent dozens of nationalities. They eat mullet and possum and black beans and stone cra bs and lobster, and enjoy all of them. They delight in the simple and the complex, the foolis h and the wise Disney World, the great swam p, the waves, porpoises, football games, checkers. But we are a state whose m emory grows shorter as it grows bigger. W e are supposed to have no real tradition of our own and no real winter, yet in fact our history is rich and both we and our crops have frozen during most recent winters. The soul of this peninsula with a panhandle is like a puzzle made up of answers. Flor ida, with the desperation moderated, represents to the industrial Northeast and the Midwest what the United States represents to much of the Third World a place of refuge. Last year, between 600,000 and 700,000 new residents moved into Florida, most of t hem from those industrial states. At the same time, half that number of citizens already here moved out. So we had a net gain of some 335,000. But those figures are deceptive. We gained 600,000 to 700,000 strangers and we lost 335,000 or so already here, even people who knew something about Florida. For example 355,000 is enough new voters in one year s time to change the outcome of most statewide elections. And we are supposed to receive numbers like that for another 20 years. But we also have 40 million tourists per year, and thousands of migrant agricultural workers, and international refugees and intra state movers. All these are powerful, dis tinct forces in motion while Florida searches for balance and stability, for that sense of place.

PAGE 4

For us, trans ience is like a heartbeat. It keeps our pressures high. Understanding and loyalty and affection take time to develop. Florida is an urban frontier. It is a state receiving a massive transfusion of new blood all the time. But a la rger portion of that might be like the TV commercial says tired blood. Much of it comes from people who are fleeing here because they already are tired of coping with the exhausting problems of life in declining urban settings. They come here ready to relax and to enjoy. It is o ur job to tell them no, not yet please. We need your help and your participation. On numbers alone, the quality of life in Florida declines. The finite natural resources are divided among greater numbers of people. But if you come here with tired blood, fr om some place whose problems make even a wounded Florida look like paradise, you might not appreciate the problem at first. A lot of people who have lived here all their lives do not have full appreciation of it. Some of it comes from a mis perception of ec onomic necessity, a belief that cannibalizing the environment is the only way to keep the cash registers ringing. But there is another central reason, I think, one similar to that expressed some 40 years ago by Aldo Leopold in his Sand County Almanac. We a re letting too many things come between us and the natural Florida, letting too many things obliterate t he natural distinctions. We don t want to become a place stamped out uniformly like a franchise that originated somewhere else, a place w here you wake a nd cannot tell without a thermometer whether you are in Florida or Cleveland. We need to see something that recognizes and pays homage to Florida. Without that, as Churchill said about the House of Commons, we alter the substance of what Florida is. Th ere is jeopardy created when we fashion our urban lives so that we lose touch with all that is natural. It is too easy to do these days. We are shielded from the sun and the rain, from the full brunt of the heat and the cold. Weather that once determined o ur daily routines now (except in its extremes) barely influences them. In th is way, the vital relationships are dimmed. The mystery that is in the land, in the living and growing things, is denied us more and more. The sense of a dynamic connection between each of us and the earth is inter fered with. We fail to get the renourishment that is available from being acutely aware of the relationships between people, the seasons, the land and wildlife. It becomes a problem of the spirit and it reduces our potent ial. It lowers our common denominator. What we are missing is a common framework of under standing and standards. What we need is a commitment of belong ing to this state. Too many residents feel more of a sense of ownership in Florida than a sense of kins hip. Too many consider it as more a place for frolic and speculation than as one that should be nurtured and preserved. Not enough Floridians devote themselves to it in long range ways that involve love of place more than financial options. That is not uni que to Florida but I think our trans ience and the magical unreality that many people feel during their first years here make it more common.

PAGE 5

Too m any harbor doubts about Florida s future and routinely set themselves up so that they can bail out when thing s go bad or when profits from land values become too tempting to pass up. What is too often missing is a sense that this is home and always wil l be and so let s not foul it up. Many look at our growth patterns and decide that one day Florida will become cr owded and shabby, that it will turn into a place mostly for the rich and the very poor who attend them. Uncertainty and defensiveness make too many people care less than they should about building quality and permanence into their lives and their enterpris es. At this point, I nearly always return to a favor ite quotation. In his fine book The Star Thrower Loren Eiseley found great truth in what an Eskimo told an explorer about life in the A rctic. We fear the cold and we fear t he things we do not understand, the Eskimo said, But most of all we fear the doings of the heedless ones among us. There are heedless ones among us, too. In the old days, we did not talk about hurricanes and their threats because we were afraid it would upset the tou rists and hurt bu siness. We don t do that anymore. Now we under stand that was foolish and dangerous. But we learned late and at the cost of potential disasters along our coasts waiting to happen with the next major hurricane. We still need to translate these other realiti es into that kind of clear and uncompromising advisory. We need to carry these other messages to the public and es pecially to the newcomers the same way. We need to demonstrate our own commitment if we expect newcomers to have one. Florida cannot estab lish and sustain that vital, special sense of place unless it someh ow educates all its residents new and old to a clearer understanding of its peculiarities and fragilities and extraordinary blessings. A state plan is a good and practical beginning b ut that is not enough. For the plan to work there must be a broad, clear and pres ent understanding that everything we love is at stake. We must crystallize a sense of this place Florida. The population projections leave little question that upon our abilit y to recruit these new a nd recently arrived residents, who outnumber us old timers more every year depends our capacity to create a Florida that can be true to itself a Florida whose every action begins first with a con sideration of love and concern f or what we naturally have here. We preserve our own futures only by living in harmony with it. Maybe it all sound s like poetry and magic, but it s not. A real sense of this place Flor ida is where we have to begin if we have any hopes of regaining paradis e. 2011 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries. All rights reserved. Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement.








We are learning, though sometimes the lesson is painful, that all living things have their special
place and function. When deprived of it, we become dis-spirited and ill-tempered.

My friend E. W. Carswell up in Chipley gave me an excellent example. He said that for years
chicken farmers kept roosters around in the belief that they were essential to egg production. After they
found out that was not true the number of employed roosters dropped dramatically.

Hens laid eggs good but they were not fertile. Carswell reported farm efficiency went up but
said the atmosphere in the chicken houses was depressing. The hens were unhappy and the few
roosters that did not wind up in the company of dumplings were going through a crisis of doubt about
their "roosterhood." They had lost their sense of place, their certain compatibility with their
surroundings.

The population of Florida, sometimes, looks to me as though Rauschenberg had put it together -
a living collage of the disparate, a splash of this and that, an idea that never quite comes to heel, a focus
on the non-focus.

The Florida soul, its sense of identification and place, hides among all those squirming parts.
Everything and everyone seems an exception that fits into a greater exception. We are many little
worlds spinning in their own orbits, convened in a place hanging close to the sun.

Residents come in at least five colors, speak more than half a dozen languages, represent
dozens of nationalities. They eat mullet and possum and black beans and stone crabs and lobster, and
enjoy all of them. They delight in the simple and the complex, the foolish and the wise Disney World,
the great swamp, the waves, porpoises, football games, checkers.

But we are a state whose memory grows shorter as it grows bigger. We are supposed to have no
real tradition of our own and no real winter, yet in fact our history is rich and both we and our crops
have frozen during most recent winters.

The soul of this peninsula with a panhandle is like a puzzle made up of answers. Florida, with
the desperation moderated, represents to the industrial Northeast and the Midwest what the United
States represents to much of the Third World a place of refuge. Last year, between 600,000 and
700,000 new residents moved into Florida, most of them from those industrial states. At the same time,
half that number of citizens already here moved out. So we had a net gain of some 335,000.

But those figures are deceptive. We gained 600,000 to 700,000 strangers and we lost 335,000 or
so already here, even people who knew something about Florida. For example 355,000 is enough new
voters in one year's time to change the outcome of most statewide elections. And we are supposed to
receive numbers like that for another 20 years.

But we also have 40 million tourists per year, and thousands of migrant agricultural workers,
and international refugees and intra-state movers. All these are powerful, distinct forces in motion while
Florida searches for balance and stability, for that sense of place.










For us, transience is like a heartbeat. It keeps our pressures high. Understanding and loyalty and
affection take time to develop.

Florida is an urban frontier. It is a state receiving a massive transfusion of new blood all the
time. But a larger portion of that might be like the TV commercial says tired blood. Much of it comes
from people who are fleeing here because they already are tired of coping with the exhausting problems
of life in declining urban settings. They come here ready to relax and to enjoy. It is our job to tell them
no, not yet please. We need your help and your participation.

On numbers alone, the quality of life in Florida declines. The finite natural resources are divided
among greater numbers of people. But if you come here with tired blood, from some place whose
problems make even a wounded Florida look like paradise, you might not appreciate the problem at
first. A lot of people who have lived here all their lives do not have full appreciation of it.

Some of it comes from a misperception of economic necessity, a belief that cannibalizing the
environment is the only way to keep the cash registers ringing. But there is another central reason, I
think, one similar to that expressed some 40 years ago by Aldo Leopold in his Sand County Almanac. We
are letting too many things come between us and the natural Florida, letting too many things obliterate
the natural distinctions. We don't want to become a place stamped out uniformly like a franchise that
originated somewhere else, a place where you wake and cannot tell without a thermometer -
whether you are in Florida or Cleveland. We need to see something that recognizes and pays homage to
Florida. Without that, as Churchill said about the House of Commons, we alter the substance of what
Florida is.

There is jeopardy created when we fashion our urban lives so that we lose touch with all that is
natural. It is too easy to do these days. We are shielded from the sun and the rain, from the full brunt of
the heat and the cold. Weather that once determined our daily routines now (except in its extremes)
barely influences them. In this way, the vital relationships are dimmed.

The mystery that is in the land, in the living and growing things, is denied us more and more. The
sense of a dynamic connection between each of us and the earth is interfered with. We fail to get the
renourishment that is available from being acutely aware of the relationships between people, the
seasons, the land and wildlife. It becomes a problem of the spirit and it reduces our potential. It lowers
our common denominator.

What we are missing is a common framework of understanding and standards. What we need is
a commitment of belonging to this state. Too many residents feel more of a sense of ownership in
Florida than a sense of kinship. Too many consider it as more a place for frolic and speculation than as
one that should be nurtured and preserved.

Not enough Floridians devote themselves to it in long range ways that involve love of place
more than financial options. That is not unique to Florida but I think our transience and the magical
unreality that many people feel during their first years here make it more common.





PAGE 1

A Sense of Place Florid a Defenders of the Environment, Tampa, February 14, 1985 I have been travelling Florida and concentrating on it for The Miami Herald the past 12 years. I should warn you that I offer only personal observations. The more I trav el, the more I think and sound like a Cracker, and the paper does not wish to be held responsible. A proper sense of place stimulates confidence and wellbeing. It means knowing the place you live as you know your family and friends. It involves love as wel l as familiarity. Its potential and its limits are understood. There is knowledge of what is appropriate and proper, and comfort in that knowledge. It might seem a small thing, but I d on t think so. A lot of people have recognized the power and importance of a sense of place in various ways. After the House of Commons in Londo n was bombed during World War Two a move started to replace it with a different and more efficient building. Winston Churchill argued persuasively against it. Churchill said the chamb ers should be rebuilt exactly as they were. His arguments touched on one aspect of this sense of place. He said the style of parliamentary debate in England had been conditioned by the physical characteristics of the old building. He said that changing it could change the style of those debates and eventually could alter the structure of English democracy. Al Burt Papers University of Florida Libraries (Photographer) All Rights Reserved. Al Burt Papers University of Florida Libraries

PAGE 2

E. B. White in his essays wrote of the power of place. He said that driving a car toward home is very different from driving a car toward a motel. The difference is the emotional direction. Familia rity, the sense of belonging he continued grants a kind of exemption from evil and shabbiness. It makes us feel good. Going to the place where you feel at home he said brings the same sensation you get when receiving a gift from a loved one. Lawrence Durrell wrote As you get to know Europe slowly, tasting the wines, cheeses and characters of the differ ent countries, you begin to realize that the important determi nant of any culture is, after all, the spirit of the place. Just as one particular vineyard will always give you a special wine with discernible characteristics, so a Spain, an Italy, a Greece will always give you the same type of culture, will express itself through the human being just a s it does through wild flowers. Closer to home, we have more testimony. Up at the University of Florida, Harry Crews, that wild and wooly but brilliant writer, paid tribute to a sense of place in his autobiographical book, A Childhood For him sense of place b egan with home but he recognized that it enlarged his feelings about the entire rural South. He put it this way: I come from people who believe the home place is as vital and necessary as the bea ting of your own heart.... It will always exist, if nowhere but memory. Such a place is... imp ortant to everybody everywhere. On a political level, you hear about the significant impact a sense of place exerts from such people as Maggie Hurchalla, that fine Martin County commissioner. She pointed out to me a year ago that we have leaders in Florida now who have a true sense of the state, who have through personal experience developed a gut feeling about what Florida should become. Here s how she said it: They are Floridians of a time that let them see what was bad about how we grew. For their fathers It really meant something good. But for their sons, our leaders now, it has meant the public is losing the beaches, the ole fishing hole has been taken away, the traffic is awful, the schools are on double sessions and crime has hit the national statistics. That s making a difference in their vi sion of what Florida should be. They have a s ense of place by birthright. Some people seem to think that Florida has such exceptional character that it can tolerate almost anything in almost any numbers. They are like the storekeeper who sold the Cracker a bag of flour. The Cracker came back and comp lained there were bugs in it. Well, the storekeeper said, they don t eat much. You ought not min d that. The Cracker replied, It s not what they eat. That bag don t have any plumbing in it. Home, said a cynical friend of mine, who was in the process o f losing his because of domestic problems, is like no place. Only when we lose our sense of it do we realize how true that is. It has special characteristics, special strengths, special sensitivities. Accommodating those, taking advantage of those, protect ing those, puts a quality in our lives that we can get nowhere else.

PAGE 3

Native plants offer an example in blending life and place. We could learn from them. They thrive under existing local conditions, without needing super quantities of water and fertilizer, without wild growth that crowds out the diversity of other plant life, because they are geared to living within the means of their natural environment. We are learning, though sometimes the lesson is pain ful, that all living things have their special pla ce and function. When deprived of it, we become dis spirited and ill tempered. My friend E. W. Carswell up in Chipley gave me an excellent example. He said that for years chicken farmers kept roosters around in the belief that they were essential to egg pr oduction. After they found out that was not true the number of employed roosters dropped dramatically. Hens laid eggs good but they were not fertile. Carswell reported farm efficiency went up but said the atmosphere in the chicken houses was depressing. Th e hens were unhappy and the few roosters that did not wind up in the company of dumplings were going through a crisis of doubt about their roosterhood. They had lost their sense of place, their certa in compatibility with their sur roundings. The populatio n of Florida, sometimes, looks to me as though Raus chenberg had put it together a living collage of the disparate, a splash of this and that, an idea that never quite comes to heel, a focus on the non focus. The Florida soul, its sense of identification a nd place, hides among all those squirming parts. Everything and everyone seems an exception that fits into a greater exception. We are many little worlds spinning in their own orbits, convened in a place hanging close to the sun. Residents come in at least five colors, speak more than half a dozen languages, represent dozens of nationalities. They eat mullet and possum and black beans and stone crabs and lobster, and enjoy all of them. They delight in the simple and the complex, the foolis h and the wise D isney World, the great swam p, the waves, porpoises, football games, checkers. But we are a state whose m emory grows shorter as it grows bigger. We are supposed to have no real tradition of our own and no real winter, yet in fact our history is rich and bot h we and our crops have frozen during most recent winters. The soul of this peninsula with a panhandle is like a puzzle made up of answers. Florida, with the desperation moderated, represents to the industrial Northeast and the Midwest what the United Sta tes represents to much of the Third World a place of refuge. Last year, between 600,000 and 700,000 new residents moved into Florida, most of them from those industrial states. At the same time, half that number of citizens already here moved out. So we had a net gain of some 335,000. But those figures are deceptive. We gained 600,000 to 700,000 strangers and we lost 335,000 or so already here, even people who knew something about Florida. For example 355,000 is enough new voters in one year s time to ch ange the outcome of most statewide elections. And we are supposed to receive numbers like that for another 20 years.

PAGE 4

But we also have 40 million tourists per year, and thousands of migrant agricultural workers, and international refugees and intra state mo vers. All these are powerful, dis tinct forces in motion while Florida searches for balance and stability, for that sense of place. For us, transience is like a heartbeat. It keeps our pressures high. Understanding and loyalty and affection take time to de velop. Florida is an urban frontier. It is a state receiving a massive transfusion of new blood all the time. But a la rger portion of that might be like the TV commercial says tired blood. Much of it comes from people who are fleeing here because they already are tired of coping with the exhausting problems of life in declining urban settings. They come here ready to relax and to enjoy. It is our job to tell them no, not yet please. We need your help and your participation. On numbers alone, the quality of life in Florida declines. The finite natural resources are divided among greater numbers of people. But if you come here with tired blood, from some place whose problems make even a wounded Florida look like paradise, you might not appreciate the probl em at first. A lot of people who have lived here all their lives do not have full appreciation of it. Some of it comes from a mis perception of economic necessity, a belief that cannibalizing the environment is the only way to keep the cash registers ringin g. But there is another central reason, I think, one similar to that expressed some 40 years ago by Aldo Leopold in his Sand County Almanac. We are letting too many things come between us and the natural Florida, letting too many things obliterate t he natu ral distinctions. We don t want to become a place stamped out uniformly like a franchise that originated somewhere else, a place w here you wake and cannot tell without a thermometer whether you are in Florida or Cleveland. We need to see something that recognizes and pays homage to Florida. Without that, as Churchill said about the House of Commons, we alter the substance of what Florida is. There is jeopardy created when we fashion our urban lives so that we lose touch with all that is natural. It is t oo easy to do these days. We are shielded from the sun and the rain, from the full brunt of the heat and the cold. Weather that once determined our daily routines now (except in its extremes) barely influences them. In th is way, the vital relationships are dimmed. The mystery that is in the land, in the living and growing things, is denied us more and more. The sense of a dynamic connection between each of us and the earth is inter fered with. We fail to get the renourishment that is available from being ac utely aware of the relationships between people, the seasons, the land and wildlife. It becomes a problem of the spirit and it reduces our potential. It lowers our common denominator. What we are missing is a common framework of under standing and standard s. What we need is a commitment of belong ing to this state. Too many residents feel more of a sense of ownership in Florida than a sense of kinship. Too many consider it as more a place for frolic and speculation than as one that should be nurtured and pr eserved.

PAGE 5

Not enough Floridians devote themselves to it in long range ways that involve love of place more than financial options. That is not unique to Florida but I think our trans ience and the magical unreality that many people feel during their first y ears here make it more common. Too m any harbor doubts about Florida s future and routinely set themselves up so that they can bail out when things go bad or when profits from land values become too tempting to pass up. What is too often missing is a sense that this is home and always wil l be and so let s not foul it up. Many look at our growth patterns and decide that one day Florida will become crowded and shabby, that it will turn into a place mostly for the rich and the very poor who attend them. Uncertainty and defensiveness make too many people care less than they should about building quality and permanence into their lives and their enterprises. At this point, I nearly always return to a favor ite quotation. In his fine book The Star Thrower Lor en Eiseley found great truth in what an Eskimo told an explorer about life in the A rctic. We fear the cold and we fear t he things we do not understand, the Eskimo said, But most of all we fear the doings of the heedless ones among us. There are heedles s ones among us, too. In the old days, we did not talk about hurricanes and their threats because we were afraid it would upset the tou rists and hurt business. We don t do that anymore. Now we under stand that was foolish and dangerous. But we learned late and at the cost of potential disasters along our coasts waiting to happen with the next major hurricane. We still need to translate these other realities into that kind of clear and uncompromising advisory. We need to carry these other messages to the pub lic and es pecially to the newcomers the same way. We need to demonstrate our own commitment if we expect newcomers to have one. Florida cannot establish and sustain that vital, special sense of place unless it someh ow educates all its residents new a nd old to a clearer understanding of its peculiarities and fragilities and extraordinary blessings. A state plan is a good and practical beginning but that is not enough. For the plan to work there must be a broad, clear and pres ent understanding that everything we love is at stake. We must crystallize a sense of this place Florida. The population projections leave little question that upon our ability to recruit these new a nd recently arrived residents, who outnumber us old timers more every year depends our capacity to create a Florida that can be true to itself a Florida whose every action begins first with a con sideration of love and concern for what we naturally have here. We preserve our own futures only by living in harmony with it. Maybe it all sound s like poetry and magic, but it s not. A real sense of this place Flor ida is where we have to begin if we have any hopes of regaining paradise.

PAGE 6

2011 University of Florida George A. Smather s Libraries. All rights reserved. Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement.