Losing It All to Sprawl: How Progress Ate My Cracker Landscape / Edition 1

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As development threatens his very sense of place, an award-winning nature writer finds hope in the rediscovery and appreciation of his historic Cracker farmhouse.
Losing It All to Sprawl is the poignant chronicle of award-winning nature writer Bill Belleville and how he came to understand and love his historic Cracker farmhouse and “relic” neighborhood in central Florida, even as it was all wiped out from under him. Belleville’s narrative is eloquent, informed, and impassioned, a saga in which tractors and backhoes trample through the woods next to his home in order to build the backbone of Florida sprawl—the mall.
As heavy machinery encircles Belleville and his community--the noise growing louder and closer, displacing everything Belleville has called home for the past fifteen years--he tells a story that is much older, 10,000 years older. The story stretches back to the Timucua and the Mayaca living in harmony with Florida’s environment; the conquistadors who expected much from, but also feared, this “land of flowers”; the turn-of-the-century tourists “modernizing” and “climatizing” the state; the original Cracker families who lived in Belleville’s farmhouse. In stark contrast to this millennia-long transformation is the whiplash of unbridled growth and development that threatens the nearby wilderness of the Wekiva River system, consuming Belleville’s home and, ultimately, his very sense of place.
In Florida, one of the nation’s fastest growing states (and where local and state governments encourage growth), balancing use with preservation is an uphill battle. Sprawl spreads into the countryside, consuming not just natural lands but Old Florida neighborhoods and their unique history. In Losing It All to Sprawl, Belleville accounts for the impacts—social, political, natural, personal—that a community in the crosshairs of unsustainable growth ultimately must bear, but he also offers Floridians, and anyone facing the blight of urban confusion, the hope that can be found in the rediscovery and appreciation of the natural landscape.

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Editorial Reviews

E Magazine
"Belleville weaves tales of vivid scenery and feral neighbors with the environmental devastation."
Lakeland Ledger
"Emotional, powerful prose."
Hartford Courant
"In this world of global warming and suburban sprawl, we need some more serious warnings than these provided by LL Bean and Marks and Spencer. Bill Belleville's book - part memoir, part poetic observation of the natural world and part analysis of our shared contemporary condition - provides a warning sincere and serious and urgent."
The Apalachee Tortoise
"...if you don't read any other books about Florida this year, read this one and share it with some youngsters. If enough people enjoy this book, perhaps it will motivate them to become better stewards of heir environments."
Florida Today
"Belleville reminds us there is an irreplaceable Southern rural environment that we are losing just so we all can have T-shirts from The Gap. Like a memoir of a beloved friend who is dying, Belleville writes poetically of the loss of this Florida."
Florida Times-Union
"This is a book for people who are concerned over the rapid change they see taking place in Florida, be they native or newcomer. There's plenty learn and ponder as you follow Belleville's literary hike over the sandy uplands and lush swamp bottoms of Central Florida--and along the way, if you pay attention, you could well develop a deeper sense of place for this true wonderland."
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"A compelling story... Despite the book's focus on a tiny patch of the state, it provides an enormous amount of information on how government, business and the environment work in Florida."
Library Journal
This book is about loss-the loss of community, neighborliness, connection with the land, wetlands, potable water, wildlife, and native plants; in short, the loss of Florida's unique character. Once known for its vast stretches of fecund wetlands and untainted springs, Florida is fast becoming a land of homogeneous, sterile developments. Here, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and nature writer Belleville (River of Lakes: A Journey on Florida's St. Johns River) describes the gradual destruction of his Cracker-style rural homestead and neighborhood near Orlando in central Florida. Knowing that this area will be lost forever under strip malls and apartment buildings, he documents the region's human and natural history. His thoughts meander like the wild streams he loves to paddle; chapters merely designate a convenient place to break. A sensitive writer relating a story that is both heartbreaking and poignant, Belle-ville displays a thorough understanding of ecology and the economic, social, and environmental impact of uncontrolled development. Given that urban sprawl is pervasive in the United States, this work should attract a wide readership. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, Lake Superior State Univ. Lib., Sault Ste. Marie, MI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813029283
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Series: Florida History and Culture Series
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Belleville is a veteran author and documentary filmmaker specializing in environmental issues. He has written for such publications as Newsweek, New York Times Syndicate, Audubon, Sierra, Sports Afield, Islands, and Oxford American. His books include the critically acclaimed River of Lakes: A Journey on Florida’s St. Johns River, Deep Cuba: The Inside Story of an American Oceanographic Expedition, and Sunken Cities, Sacred Cenotes, and Golden Sharkes: Travels of a Water-Bound Adventurer. Belleville won an Emmy for the production and scripting of Wekiva: Legacy or Loss? He has lectured widely on environmental literature and was named Environmental Writer of the Year by Florida Audubon Society and Florida Wildlife Federation. An avid kayaker, hiker, and diver, Belleville now lives in Sanford, Florida.
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