The Trouble with Wilderness and The Meadowlands and it’s Beauty

So for my first Environmental Geography readings, I was assigned to read William Cronon’s “Trouble with Wilderness” and The Meadowlands by Robert Sullivan. In Cronon’s “Trouble with Wilderness”, he discusses how different aspects of nature are not quite as “natural” as we believe they are. In fact, many aspects of nature that are labelled as wilderness are more of human creation than nature.  For example, national parks are not as wild as we believe they are because while white people did not originally inhabit the land, Native Americans did. Native Americans altered the land to their needs whether that was trimming down trees in certain areas or drawing in the caves.

Glacier National Park is an example of a national park that has been altered before. The area that has trees most likely used to be bigger before Native American inhabited the land.

A week before this reading, I actually read this book for my Environmental Ethics class and talked about more aspects of nature that could arguably either be natural or unnatural or created by humans. We brought in objects that we personally believed were either natural or unnatural and talked about it in groups. I brought in a candle because while it is made of natural beeswax, the wick and shape were from humans. I argued that candles, while made from natural beeswax are not completely natural.

Candles that have been shaped by humans. They are shaped this way because our culture demands beautifully designed items that are pleasing to the eye.

One of my questions really is how can we preserve all of the beautiful nature before humans come around to shape and affect it? This is where the subject of sustainability comes into play. If we are able to create a balance between society and its environment where both parties are benefited, we can help preserve nature and redefine the meaning of natural. As hard as it is for us to admit it, we cannot survive without nature and I personally believe nature cannot survive without us. It is because we are here to solve the problems of the environment, even ones that are not of human creation.


I was also assigned to read The Meadowlands by Robert Sullivan. When Professor Krygier brought up the Meadowlands, I knew exactly what he was talking about since I live very close to them in New Jersey. They are as Krygier and the book described, one the edge of New York and New Jersey. When I take the train from New Jersey to New York City, I always see these Meadowlands outside of the Secaucus train station. When I ride the train, I love looking outside of my window. I see birds flying around, grass scattered everywhere and tiny bodies of water. I personally found Robert Sullivan’s book to really easy to identify with in terms of my views on the Meadowlands.

“After the bus descends through cloverleafs and exit lanes, after it passes through fields of cars waiting to pay tolls, after it turns down onto smaller and smaller ramps and roads and finally onto little local streets, I get out at a bus stop at a mall that, I happen to know, was once an old cedar swamp, or at a bus stop in a grove of outlet stores or at one in the center of Secaucus. To me, Secaucus is the capital of the Meadowlands.” (Sullivan 14)

Robert Sullivan describes the Meadowlands as beautiful which contrasts with everyone’s opinions that it is polluted and dirty. He talks about the Meadowlands as if it is a “secret world” that one likes to retreat to sometimes. He talks about how the Meadowlands are a unique collection of land, often overlooked. What I find very interesting is that both New York and New Jersey, the states that border the Meadowlands, are very industrious and filled with buildings and people while the Meadowlands are so natural and quiet.

Picture of the Meadowlands and how close they are to the city.

I think was really fascinated me about this book was how much he brought the Meadowlands to life through his humor and wit and the concept that there are lands that we do not believe are affected by pollution but really are. He even contemplates on watching a hawk fly or looking at the pollution in the water.

I guess my main question is whether people care as much about these lands as Robert Sullivan does. If they do, I wonder how many other people like to explore lands like Robert Sullivan and if that amount of people will be able to protect these lands from more human activity.

One Response to The Trouble with Wilderness and The Meadowlands and it’s Beauty

  1. […] Week 2: 1/25 The Trouble with Wilderness and “The Meadowlands” (William Cronon, Robert Sullivan) […]

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