The Meadowlands

I have never heard of the Meadowlands before, and considering all that has occurred there I can’t believe I never have. The main perspective I noted from this book is that humans can’t leave well enough alone. We want to find a use for any and all landscapes. And we want whatever the use we find for it to be as profitable as possible. For some time that even meant pigs. That’s right, pigs raised for consumption. This made the Meadowlands not only smell but also a laughing stock to those who knew of it. Although the citizens of the Meadowlands might be embarrassed that their town was used to raise pigs, it didn’t stop them from doing so for a long time. And honestly, if it weren’t for factory farming the land could still potentially be used for pigs. It just got to the point where it was no longer profitable.

This left inventors, farmers, developers, etc. still looking for a way to make the Meadowlands a profitable place rather than an industrial swamp/dump. While they tried developing highways, housing developments, agriculture, etc. they could not find a useful and profitable function for the Meadowlands. So rather than leave it alone or protect the land under  the government it became a dump. The author of the Meadowlands explores and investigates the history of this land and fills us in on all aspects of what he found.

I found it interesting how there is such a large disparity between the author’s opinion of the Meadowlands and basically any other person’s opinion (One man’s trash…). He wants to know anything and everything about The Meadowlands. He was so proud to find the ruins of the Penn Station that he had his picture next to them notarized. And while his wife and Dave were happy for him, my personal guess is they weren’t excited that the first Penn Station was found, but rather happy because they knew it was really important to him. The notary’s quote on page 163 says it all. When he told her, “it was the ruins of a great building that once stood proudly in New York City. She smiled and squinted a little and looked in my eyes and said, “Oh.” I feel for this notary, because I can only assume how thrilled the author was and she couldn’t muster up more than one syllable in response.

What’s actually really sad, is the Meadowlands could probably be a pretty cool place (don’t tell the author I don’t think it already is), but with all the potential developments that have been attempted, and the complete lack of respect from citizens it has become a dump site that no one talks about. Now that it has already been dumped on and treated with complete disrespect I cannot see how the land could ever be cleaned up and put under governmental protection. I can imagine it is probably much more expensive to clean up than it would be worth (in the eyes of the government or the people who’s tax dollars would be used to do so). Unfortunately, this means the poor animals that are feeding on toxic waste and get caught in the trash that is mindlessly thrown into the marshes are also going to be ignored. The only thing I could imagine potentially getting this area protected would be if a species home to this habitat became endangered. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) then calls on the land to be protected, but even then the ESA can be weakly enforced due to the vague wording of the legislation.

In my personal review of this book, I honestly must say I was not a fan. I found the many small bits of information lacking any real purpose. For example, when he mentioned speaking with a resident of the Meadowlands he described the man, his living situation, and a small joke the man made, but then nothing. I felt it was something a student might write when trying to reach a minimum word limit for a paper. This made the book overall kind of hard to read. In most books I get caught up in the flow and can’t put it down. I always want to find out what happens next. This book left me wondering what was happening at that moment or what his point was, and many times I felt he didn’t really have one.

-Shannon Schlater

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