a glance at The Meadowlands

Pg 21.Right away the Meadowlands is referred to as a “land of terror” “wild” “inaccessible” and “remote”. These adjectives instantly reminded me of the definitions of wilderness that we looked at in class last week. I found this interesting since the Meadowlands isn’t necessarily what we think of when we say wilderness today. (Goes along with Cronon article and the issue with defining wilderness)

pg 53.“These lands…lie too near this splendid city to be abandoned”.  I found this quote interesting just because it says something for the geogrpahy of things. If the Meadowlands were located elsewhere it probably wouldn’t have as rich a cultural history or as severe abuse by people. It might look a bit more similar to the old Meadowlands of flower fields and forests.

After the first and second chapter it is hard not to notice how the meadowlands were sucked dry. It had a lot of resources to offer, and people gladly ate them all up with little concern for the kind of condition they were leaving the land in. If nothing else can be gained from The Meadowlands  it can definitely be used as an example of how an ecosystem might look after years of overexploitation.

I was impressed by what a vast and interesting history the Meadowlands have. From soccer players to mining to inventors and murders. I had never heard of the Meadowlands before this book and so each new facet of this area came as another layer of understanding the importance of the Meadowlands.

Walden Swamp Chapter: I enjoyed reading about Sullivan’s meadowlands expeditions and comparing them to my trips into more “typical” wilderness settings. The type of environment that he ventured into presented new and interesting challenges and dangers. These included dangerous & dirty waters full of cigarette butts and pollution and Turnpike crossings with the canoe. Still, his issues with navigation through the meadowlands and the mystery and challenge of the unknown environment are similar issues that occur when adventuring in any wilderness area. I was also intrigued by the his descriptions in this chapter:

“the waterlogged cigarette butts were bloated and curled as if impersonating shrimp.” pg 80.       “A.. rusted cable sticking up out of the water like a water snake.” pg 80. “We steered the canoe toward the banks and secretly observed the migratory patterns of the cars.” pg 87

“Dave spotted an egret… its white feathers the color of Styrofoam.” pg 80. “The scales on [the backs of the carps] were gross and coarse in the pattern of worn-down radial tires.” pg 81.

The first set of quotes describe human trash and vehicles in terms of animals while the second set compares these animals in the Meadowlands to human garbage. This method of description, I feel, gives some insight into Sullivan’s opinion of these things and/or how he feels others view these things in the Meadowlands. Sullivan definitely appreciates the Meadowlands for its unique history as well as its wilderness quality and so it makes sense that he would give the garbage living characteristics because to him all of the waste and the dump in this area has a history and a story. On the other hand I was slightly troubled by his animal-trash comparisons. Maybe his point here is to say that these sickly struggling creatures who try and survive here have been treated as garbage. In overlooking the effects that people’s actions were having on the environment we were also ignoring these animals, leaving them to slowly waste away. This idea of the Meadowlands as a more human wilds then a natural wilds can be seen in this chapter.  

pg 96.“The big difference between the garbage hills and the real hills in the Meadowlands is that the garbage hills are alive”. This quote refers to the microorganisms digesting the trash in the man-made hills. It is also another example of the waste/the unnatural described as the living as apposed to nature as the living. Does Sullivan believe that the protection and understanding of the “lives” of the garbage in this area is as important and the protection and the lives of species in other areas? Well maybe not the protection, but I think understanding this garbage is more important than we might think and definitely gives Sullivan some unique insight into the Meadowlands.

Skeeters Chapter: I want to point out that the efforts to control mosquitoes described in the chapter had no real regard for the resulting effects on the environment. It also was a classic example of pitting humans against nature (in this case mosquitoes). I think this is another circumstance from the Meadowlands history that we can learn from and avoid in the future.

Concluding thoughts on The Meadowlands:

I think the main things to take from this book are –

(1) To take Sullivan’s exploration as an example in the importance of looking beyond typical classifications of places and reaching past first-glance impressions to see deeper. By doing this Sullivan was able to show us the unique, important and sometimes even fascinating history of this place as well as its current story. He finds beauty, adventure, and life lessons in a place most people barely take the time to glance at.

(2) We must learn from the mistakes of the past such as the Meadowlands overexploitation and over industrialization and not repeat them.

(3) Wilderness does not always come in a pretty package. The Meadowlands is undoubtedly wild and is just as rich and important and in need of protection as other ecosystems.

I am glad that Sullivan ended his book with a chapter on the Meadowlands’ two environmentalists because although they often clash they are both making strides in the area. It makes me believe that one day the Meadowlands can be cleaned up.

The final chapter, Point-No-Point, demonstrates that even after all this research and exploration there are aspects of the Meadowlands that Sullivan still fears. In this sense it seems that the Meadowlands will always hold this idea of a wild uncontrollable place.

One Response to a glance at The Meadowlands

  1. John Krygier says:

    Great set of notes for the readings. Well organized, good comments/thoughts, points of discussion. Keep up the good work!

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