Meadowlands Response

The first thing that I noticed whilst reading The Meadowlands was the fact that such a “pristine” parcel of land could be located just a few miles from the largest financial center in the Global North.  I was surprised that NYC hadn’t completely filled in the swamp years ago for a giant parking garage.  Astonishingly, although this ecosystem had undergone some extreme renovations over the last century, there still remained tracts of land “relatively” untouched by humans.  What I found most interesting about the book is while the ability to build infrastructure on a swampland is incredibly difficult, people still manage to fulfill their urge to commercialize.  May have tried and failed and the author goes into great detail discussing the inevitable rise and fall of enterprise in the meadowlands.

some of the more interesting exploits associated with commercialization/industrialization in this region include:

  • The pig farms in Secaucus that advocated recycled food waste
  • The Kearney Library that housed the largest collection of translated works of “Gone With the Wind” long with the amusing tale of how the town came to be named
  • The snake hill that was virtually removed over a mob boss’ rage and the state of the art private airport that was to be built abound it.

Although this ecosystem has seen its better days in the course of two centuries, the author still manages t0  relate its beauty to any pristine wilderness or national park in the same manner as Thoreau.  In additon, he relates the contrasting cultural landscape of garbage dumps, suburbs and sports complexes as if were apart of the natural landscape.  I think this points out the argument made by Cronon in the wilderness article in which he states that you cannot under appreciate ones surroundings in favor of the sublime wilderness of Yellowstone or Yosemite.  Sullivan sees the swamplands for what they really are.  An amazing parcel of land that has managed to resist the tight grip of NYC and remained to this day.

One of the more important ideas brought up in the book that is incredibly pertinent in today’s environmental movement is the conflict of interests concerning the different factions of environmentalism.  He bring up that there are two types of conservationists in the world today.  On the liberal side if the tracks you have the die-hard conservationist who believes that man must remain apart from nature to ensure its livelihood.  Only by completely dissociating yourself from the wilderness around you can its beauty remain intact.  On the other side of the tracks you have the conservative conservationist who believes that humans cannot sever themselves from nature.  That we must learn to live sustainably with the environment by instituting rules and regulations to ensure that our carbon footprint remains small.

Questions:

  • With such an important ecosystem located just several miles form NYC and living in a constantly growing society where the majority of the population is becoming urbanized, is it reasonable to think that there is still enough of the meadowlands left worth preserving?……Or will this ecosystem fall at the expense of capitalism and a rapidly growing population?
  • Do you think if people were more in touch with their surrounding ecosystem (culture, history, etc..) they would better appreciate it and be more inclined to preserve it?
  • Are there other examples in the U.S. or across the globe that face the same problem as the meadowlands?  What if any measures are these other communities doing to ensure that these environments remain intact?

One Response to Meadowlands Response

  1. John Krygier says:

    Very good comments. Look up some of the stuff you noted, links, etc. but overall very good.

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