The theme parks and resorts in the southwest suburbs of Orlando, Florida burst with a lush, aggressively-gardened greenery that suppresses the wetlands that once defined the area. The warm, rainy climate suits the putting greens in the golf courses and the topiary gardens in Disney World as well as it did the marshes, swamps, and forests that came before them, but much has been lost. In the transition to a version of nature that is defined by clean, trim parks and walkways created to give the families who visit the area a convenient, consumer-friendly experience, a unique and startling ecosystem has been virtually wiped out.
Moreover, the children visiting the parks experience nature as a kind of experiential garnish — just so many ornamental trees and flowers to pass during the walk from a sprawling parking lot to the roller coaster rides roaring and whipping their way through the parks. Nowhere is there a reminder that the region represents the northern border of the Everglades, a huge semi-tropical wilderness that has been paved and developed in the state’s seemingly endless pursuit of vacationers and retirees.
Even the natural sounds that might infiltrate the parks are negated by a ubiquitous, invisible network of piped-in background music. Though generally up-tempo rock and roll or merry fantasy music, the kind one might hear in a Disney movie score, the parks also go so far as to play recorded nature sounds in corners and nooks not specifically themed for another purpose.
Families, look around you. Green is not green in Orlando.