The Adventures of Eco Man

The death of Port Bougainville understandably frightened the captains of commerce. One by one, other, smaller developments gave up the ghost. The water pipeline built in 1980-81 went unused. Under a plan promoted by Davidson and other conservationists, most of the 3000 remaining developable acres in North Key Largo have been purchased by Florida's Department of Natural Resources, or are being considered for such acquisition. Last year Davidson helped arrange the sale of the second-largest chunk of land, urging the state to pay fair prices to its private owners. So far, $40 million in tax revenues have been spent by the state.

Perhaps even more important than the tangible changes, Davidson's successful fight to stop Port Bougainville permanently raised the level of consciousness over environmental issues in the Keys. Davidson says he was astonished and gratified by the recent grassroots opposition to proposed oil drilling in Monroe County. "When I was a kid, no one had the faintest idea we were screwing up the world," he says, taking the global view. "All the men in my childhood worked at the car plants in Buffalo or at Bethlehem Steel. We drove past miles of purple water and yellow smoke and gray soot, and we thought that was normal. Today, an increasing majority of the American people have serious environmental concerns - and are willing to spend money to preserve things and clean things up."

Davidson, having fought the good fight, isn't thinking about retirement. And his optimism about the future of South Florida's natural beauty only runs so deep. You can find him any day of the week working the phones and the marine radio in his cramped dive shop at Biscayne National Park, or out scouting the blue waters of the bay. When you do, he will most likely reel off a litany of nearby environmental bogeymen: "The Jack Nicklaus golf course at Cutler Bay - fifty-some acres of wetland on the edge of a national park - what a bunch of crap! The county landfill is producing leachate, which pours into the bay - it's scandalous! So we're going to chop down mangroves along one section of coastline, pour disgusting garbage effluents into the bay along another, and meanwhile wait for Turkey Point to melt down. I'd say there's a few things left to be worried about.

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