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The following test is recommended for all those who plan on attending the Annual Meetings of the Association of American Geographers next April, 2014, in Tampa, Florida.  The test is voluntary and you are under no obligation to take it; you may stop at any time, or answer any combination of questions.  Results will be kept confidential to the maximum extent of the law, and will not affect your AAG membership or ability to participate in the meetings.  This test is meant as a learning guide for what you are about to experience, the tipping point from an ecological past to an artificial future.  Disclosure:  One all-purpose answer sufficient; fill in blank at bottom.

1)    What state experienced a rate of natural areas conversion to agriculture and residential land use that exceeded the rate of tropical deforestation during the 1980s?   In what state did the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers do so much environmental damage that hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to undo what they did, and originally justified with cost-benefit analyses demonstrating that the destruction of nature would enhance the value of nature, in part by making lands accessible to hunters, who derive recreational benefits from shooting waterfowl (hint: same state)?

2)    What state possesses 7800 lakes, more than any other south of the glaciated terrains of Wisconsin and Minnesota, The Land of 10,000 Lakes.  What state has 425 species of birds, 3500 species of plants, and 65 species of snakes?  What state possesses the largest concentration of first magnitude artesian springs in the world, as well as the world’s largest spring, with water as clear as air that aborigines and colonials thought possessed curative powers and may have inspired explorations of the North American continent by Spanish conquistadors?  In what state is this unique resource being destroyed by the excessive pumping of aquifers, by nitrogen fertilization, and by changing social preferences that discount the value of natural areas in favor of controlled and artificial environments such as found in theme parks (hint: Think Disney World)?

3)    In what state could settlers launch canoes in the south and paddle through interconnected swamps, marshes, and lakes, all the way to its northern border, some 350 miles distant, traversing five degrees of latitude and a wildly diverse landscape, with stands of tropical mahogany (Swietenia Magahoni) and forests of temperate hardwood emerging from extensive wetlands that accounted for ~53 percent of the state’s original territorial expanse, as granted under the 1850 Submerged and Overflowed Lands act of the Federal Government (hint: Think Everglades National Park)?

4)    In what state did an Amerindian population resist Presidents Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, which deported indigenous peoples along the so-called trail of tears to lands west of the Mississippi River, an Amerindian population that engaged the US Army in three successive wars spanning nearly half a century?  In what state did Amerindians kill the first governor of Puerto Rico, who’d sailed in search of riches but found his own mortality instead?  What state possessed open range and an active settlement frontier that was closed only several decades into the 20th century?  In what state did a murderous gunslinger and a regional development visionary merge in the mind of a single man, immortalized by the historical fiction of Peter Matthiessen for his death at the hands of vigilantes, fearful he would kill them as he’d murdered his African-American cane-cutters rather than pay them wages, in his obsession to create an agricultural economy in a land of swamps and marshes (hint: same state)?

5)    What state presents a microcosm of a global society given its cultural diversity?  What state presents a microcosm of a global ecocide given its exotic species invasions by both land and sea (hint: think rivers choked by Amazonian water hyacinth and Eurasian milfoil, reefs destroyed by the Indo-Pacific lionfish, wetlands desertified by Australian Melaleuca trees, etc.)?

6)    In what state has the august body of the conference coordinating committee of the Association of American Geographers selected a city for their 2014 national meetings that puts conference attendees within 125 miles of several exquisite museums of the recent ecological past, including (a) a subtropical hardwood hammock with old growth cypress (Taxodium distichum) and live oak (Quercus Virginiana); (b) an artesian spring-head whose crystalline waters source a river to the Gulf of Mexico and provide habitat for the aquatically itinerant manatee; (c) a pristine barrier island whose native sabal palm trees (Sabal palmetto) are holding their own against invasive Brazil peppers and Casuarina spp.; and (d) a 24 mile stretch of undeveloped Atlantic coastline with pre-Colombian atmospherics (hint: same state)?  [Note that in less than an hour (~60 miles), attendees may also witness the ecological future, namely (e) the destruction of the natural world and its replacement by artificial environments, an experience partly mitigated by (f) a smoking-hot night-life with great Cuban food in the conference town.]

Answer: ________________________________ [see g below for final hint]

a)     Highlands Hammock State Park
b)     Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
c)     Caladesi Island State Park
d)     Canaveral National Seashore
e)     Disney World and its Splinterlands
f)     Tampa, meeting location
g)     THE SUNSHINE STATE

Robert Walker

DOI: 10.14433/2014.0003