The tropical beauty of South Florida unfolds beneath the wings of the Cessna 340 as we bank out over the Atlantic beaches, the ocean the color of a bluebird's wing, the white beaches below crowded with people out enjoying the May sun and surf. We level out, heading almost perfectly southwest, and leave the ocean, the Indian River Lagoon, and the St. Lucie River behind, flying over the gun-barrel-straight C-44 Canal, the same canal that carries polluted Lake Okeechobee water to the coast during rainy years. Then Lake Okeechobee appears, a huge blackwater expanse, walled-in by the Herbert Hoover Dike, control structures and floodgates leading to more canals, more straight lines, more grids, all the massive infrastructure required to turn what was once the Everglades into the flat green monoculture of square miles of sugarcane. Oral surgeon Ed Lippisch, of the Stuart, Fla.,-area, is our pilot, and this is his airplane. His wife, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch—the former mayor of Sewall's Point, Fla., a resident since 1952, and a local historian and chronicler—is our guide. "Things have reached a crisis level," Jacqui says, through our headsets. "But the whole time we've been setting up this wholly managed system—the canals, the dikes, the settling basins, the clearing of all this land—we, the people here, have known for decades that this would ruin the future of South Florida. There were people in our grandparents' day who knew this wasn't going to work." Jacqui gave me a copy of the book Stuart on the St. Lucie, written by her mother, historian Sandra Thurlow, which, along with being a fascinating look back at the settlement of this part of Florida, documents the collapse of local sport and commercial fishing after the 1923 opening of a canal between Lake O and the St. Lucie River. That canal would later be called the C-44, which is the source of the discharges that are destroying the river now.