Reflections on The Meadowlands and The Trouble with Wilderness, Semester Project Ideas, News Blurb and Introduction to Caitlin McNaughton

The Meadowlands (Sullivan)

As I read The Meadowlands I was struck by Sullivan’s writing style, as well as his perspective on the area and history he described. Sullivan’s style of storytelling and the intimate details he shared about the people he interacted with and the area he explored made me wonder occasionally if the Meadowlands were even a real place. The detailed stories and the history those stories revealed (like how one library in the area came to hold a completely useless collection of copies of Gone With the Wind), seemed almost fantastic at times; however, a quick stop in Google cleared up any doubts I had about the reality of New Jersey’s Meadowlands.

I found this book particularly interesting to read because in Dr. Stone-Mediatorre’s Environmental Ethics class this week I’ve been reading Thoreau’s Walden. In Environmental Ethics we’ve discussed how Thoreau’s writing challenges traditional binaries of Western thinking, and I couldn’t help but notice feeling similarly about The Meadowlands. Reading classmates blog posts so far, it seems that we were all intrigued by the unnatural nature of the swamp and human’s role in creating that gray area. Nature is often depicted as unruly and dangerous or perfect and pure, but in Sullivan’s depiction (the first example that jumps to my mind is of pirates and mobsters) of the area, the environment certainly is not the main instigator of disorder; instead the area is some sort of in between. Examples of the area exhibiting some glimpses of its “original” (undamaged by humans) state (like the man swimming in the river, or where birds are seen), are depicted as a welcome change or an exception. These glimpses are into the swamp’s more simple, and less dangerous state.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am impressed by the author’s dedication to an area the world may have otherwise forgotten all about. To be so personally invested in the life and future of an area like the Meadowlands is an example I believe we could all probably learn from.

The Trouble with Wilderness (Cronon)

The first time I read the first line of this piece (“The time has come to rethink wilderness”), the challenge did not register with me. The second time I read the first line, I had exactly the reaction Cronon then went on to describe. And the third time I read the first line, I had read I bit further and was struck by the thought that perhaps I already had begun that process. I’ve never been challenged to consider what my definition of “wilderness” is, so it is honestly really interesting to me to consider that labeling only the most pristine areas as wilderness really sets them on a pedestal, which we talked about while doing our word association exercise last week. I care a lot about nature, and I do honestly believe that rethinking the word “wilderness” would make our culture more inclusive and appreciative of nature we interact with the nature that’s all around us every day. Cronon talks about the “central paradox,” that every human thing is totally unnatural, which is one of those dualisms that I think The Meadowlands also attempted to address. Reconsidering our assumptions that only totally untouched environments ought to be valued as “wilderness” is an important task for environmentalists.

Project Ideas

1. Wildlife Shelters Project (2014): I was really interested in this project which identified locations for bird and bat boxes, and bee hotels on campus. I think encouraging coexistence with wildlife is a worthwhile endeavor and I would love to pursue a project like this, or as an extension of this. If these shelters need upkeep and monitoring, I would be interested in that work. Along the same line of thought, I would be interested in creating more wildlife friendly areas scattered about campus. I haven’t done any research about the success of similar projects, but having scattered areas (small gardens) of more native flora would probably be beneficial to wildlife communities. Additionally, I would be interested in communicating information about and pictures of OWU’s wildlife to the OWU community (though I’m not sure through what platform yet…). I think being reminded of the natural world just outside our door (which most people walk right by on the way to class!) would encourage a more appreciative mindset toward wildlife.

2. Feral Cat Monitoring and Analysis (2012): I think this project would be fascinating and could have direct benefits to the Delaware area. Feral cats are often considered a nuisance, hold the potential to spread disease, and can be detrimental to populations of native wildlife. To my knowledge, none of these problems are particularly severe at this time, but I do think that monitoring populations of feral cats could be beneficial in diminishing the problems’ potentials.

3. Reusable cups: I think a negotiation to make the use of reusable cups more prominent in campus dining (especially those in the Hamilton-Williams Student Center) would be a good step toward reducing OWU’s waste. I think this could be done a number of ways including encouraging use of reusable cups, either by simply informing students of their benefits, or providing a more clear system for using cups in our current system.

News Blurb 

Can Borneo’s Tribes Survive ‘Biggest Environmental Crime of Our Times’? By Simon Worrall

This article is about a book that’s just been released that I’d like to read. It’s called “Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia” and written by Lukas Straumann. I’m interested in reading the book because it appears to provide a cross-disciplinary look at the timber industry which has been incredibly detrimental to Bornean people. I would be interested in better understanding those circumstances because I know that the wildlife of Borneo is also impacted severely by the timber industry, but in some slightly different ways.


My name is Caitlin McNaughton and I’m a junior majoring in zoology and environmental studies, and minoring in Spanish. I intend to spend my life studying and caring for animals and nature. I’m involved in Greek life and live in the Interfaith House. Aside from those most general details, I love wildlife (even the weird squirrels on our campus) and I have lots of interesting stories about the past two summers over which I worked and volunteered at a wildlife rehab and education center. A few of my favorite things are intramural sports (“STATE CHAMPS”), sugary coffee drinks, and museums.

2 Responses to Reflections on The Meadowlands and The Trouble with Wilderness, Semester Project Ideas, News Blurb and Introduction to Caitlin McNaughton

  1. John Krygier says:

    Excellent comments. It helps when different readings from different classes synch in a way that helps you see the bigger picture. Your comments are the kind of “deep thoughts” that are good to discuss in class, so make sure you try and shape some questions out of them you can interject. But a great start and keep thinking as you read.

    Multiple good project options. Probably the wildlife shelters project or reusable cups (or reusable food containers in general) are the most viable of the projects. Think on these and google around and we can discuss further in class.

  2. […] Week 2, Cronon “The Trouble with Wilderness” and Sullivan The Meadowlands […]

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