Solomon MacIvey, or Sol, is a sad man with a poor self image, calling himself “the least of the MacIveys,” who ultimately realizes that his actions have destroyed the land that his family pioneered and survived. He has a lot of power and is the third generation’s main character. After his father’s death he became power hungry with his money and the business his family began. Eventually he finds Bonnie, a young waitress, falls in love with her and changes his ways and views. She was unfortunately killed in a hurricane and the loss destroyed him. He eventually reunited with his half-brother Toby, who helped him realize the destruction his greed has brought upon Florida’s environment. He goes to Punta Rasa, which is pretty close to Fort Myers, to live a hermit’s life, alone for his last days and dies of a heart attack at the end of the book.
Sol is the last MacIvey left and lives long enough to remember the old times of southwest Florida, as well as, the more modern times. Sol at a young age learns how to make money off the tourists in his community and take advantage of the resources he grew up with. This becomes a huge turning point in the book because the audience is now seeing that life is becoming more about living on money rather than living off the land. Sol helped destroy most of Florida’s natural, beautiful wonders and changes the terrain permanently. A great majority of his wealth was handed to him from his father and grandfather, so he didn’t learn about the environment and didn’t have to work a lot for what he had. This made him unappreciative of his environment and he wasn’t the only one. People in general don’t appreciate the environment anymore. Few ever see Florida as “a land worth remembering” because we don’t have the opportunity to see or understand Florida for what it once was… wild and free. The state was once dense with trees and brush, beautiful waterways full of tall grasses, full of animals. Our whole lifetimes have seen Florida full of concrete, cars, apartment buildings, malls, airports, and boats and Sol was the beginning of the end for natural Florida. These days, to get anything accomplished, prevented, or improved in Florida’s ecosystem, including panther, mangrove, anti-dredging, anti-fracking and waterway protections, there are board meetings and almost down-and-out fistfights and screaming matches because there are people who passionately care about the environment and there are those trying to make money off of it constantly.
In realizing the error of his ways, Solomon says with one of the most powerful quotes of the book, “If I could rip out the concrete and put back the woods, I would. But I can’t. Progress ain’t reversible. What’s done is done forever, and I’m sure as hell not proud of it. … From what we’ve done to this place in just the past fifty years, what the hell you think it is going to be like in another fifty?” He knew he greatly diminished a beautiful thing that was never going to return again.
This story reminds me of what I have been told about how Mexico changed from very natural, full of farm-land, to a concrete jungle that it is now. Asking a Mexican about living farm-life, they would probably tell you that the city offers opportunity and that the countryside died a long time ago. The countryside has slowly and steadily emptied and more Mexicans are living in cities than ever before. The reason is this: it is very hard to make a life on a farm in Mexico, which is why most farm towns are dirt poor, as where my mother is from, Morelos. My father’s state, Guerrero ranks number one in US migrants due to the lack of available employment. Farming is important in both of these states, but the only ones who can make any money are the people who own the farms. My parents moved here, where me and my brothers grew up. They currently manage a very large nursery near Orlando. My family has very close ties with nature, though without realizing it while I grew up, I grew apart from my roots so to speak. I didn’t have to work outside my whole life to learn and appreciate natural surroundings as much. I was doing irresponsible things without realizing it, though not on the scale of Solomon MacIvey. I have littered before, like most Americans at some point or another, I drive a lot, I have a big carbon footprint. Since being in this class, I am slowly rediscovering my sense of place with the environment. I don’t throw trash out irresponsibly, I recycle a lot more, and I got my hands dirty making a flower garden for my girlfriend this past weekend. Like Sol, my parents and grandparents worked closer with the environment, and I didn’t so much. Also like Sol, I’ve realized the errors I’ve made and I’m trying to do better, however it didn’t take my whole life to realize it.