Reading Responses– Evelynn Wyatt

August 30, 2017

The Trouble with Wilderness

I found Cronon’s description of the evolution of the human conception of wilderness to be fascinating. I would never have known that the biblical interpretation of wilderness as a terrifying unknown containing both God and the Devil governed the American experience of the natural world for centuries. Furthermore, as an English student I found Cronon’s discussion of the sublime and romantic in relation to the wilderness deeply interesting. I have personally experienced sublime landscapes that Cronon describes, places to which he attributes feelings of insignificance and the remembrance of one’s own mortality (4). I feel that it is almost impossible not to buy into the romantic myth of “mountain as cathedral” (6) when visiting the “wilderness”. As Cronon’s argument continues to develop, however, I found myself agreeing with his interpretation of the problematic duality that has emerged from this idolization of the natural world. He writes, “Any way of looking at nature that encourages us to believe we are separate from nature–as wilderness tends to do–is likely to reinforce environmentally irresponsible behavior” (17). I found this argument to be extremely compelling though I did wish he offered more concrete solutions for conversations about sustainabilty as opposed to concluding we must simply begin “learning to honor the wild” (20).

As someone who has never taken an environmental studies class, I was unaware of the pervasive misconceptions about wilderness and its preservation that exist in environmentalist circles. In fact, I had never before considered the possibility that the idea of “wilderness” is in itself artificial and contrived. Cronon describes wilderness as a “cultural invention” (2) that has long served as a place where Americans acted as consumers as opposed to producers, thereby “creat[ing] wilderness in their own image” (9). These places, previously romanticized as sublime landscapes or regarded as ideal spots for divine interactions, are home to millions of visitors every year. It is ironic that today this enormous human presence can be extremely damaging to these national parks as they were originally selected to be places of recreation for the few wealthy members of society.


The Meadowlands

I found these two readings to greatly complement one another, though I feel that Robert Sullivan would not agree with Cronon’s assertion that the conception of wilderness itself is the main problem facing modern environmentalism. Sullivan, who uses the subtitle, “Wilderness Adventures on the Edge of a City”, clearly has no qualms about the usage of the word or the images it invokes. Sullivan is more concerned with the physical environmental threats to the Meadowlands (i.e. development, garbage dumps, air and water pollution from factories, etc.), but is not overly sentimental in his description of these problems. In some sections he even describes concrete solutions to these issues, though some, such as digging to the bottom of the meadowlands and pulling all of the untouched soil to the top, are fantastical and physically impossible.

As with the Cronon piece, I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of the literary and the scientific within The Meadowlands. I loved that Sullivan was able to craft a book with the elements of a memoir, human interest piece, nature essay, and environmental history. His initial description of the Meadowlands is incredibly beautiful and heavily tinged with the romantic idealization that Cronon scorns. He writes, “America’s first west… already explored land that has become, through negligence, through exploitation, and through its own chaotic persistence, explorable again” (Sullivan 14-15). After reading  The Meadowlands, I questioned some of the claims in The Trouble with Wilderness, favoring the romantic and sublime that Sullivan invokes over the strictly logical and rational that Cronon advocates.


Daniel Delatte: Intro, Reading, and Article

August 29, 2017


Intro: So, my name’s Daniel and I’m from New Orleans, LA. I’m a junior that is trying to double major in Environmental Studies and International Studies with a minor in Spanish. I really enjoy being out in the wilderness which is why I guess I’ve spent the past couple of years working for the Forest Service trying to see as much of whichever part of the country I’m in each time (also because it’s stupid hot at home honestly.)  I really just hope to learn from everyone else’s experiences and learn how to think differently since it is a seminar type course.

Environmental Issue: Well, Houston is flooding right now because of Hurricane Harvey which is on the anniversary of Katrina. There’s been a lot of talk about the mandatory evacuation notice that was not given, but because of the amount of people in Houston people would have drowned on the freeway all trying to leave at once. It’s also kind of a big deal in Louisiana since just a month ago New Orleans was flooded due to a scandal. Sewage and Water Board (SWB) runs the pumping stations in New Orleans since the city’s below sea level. They pumps are for draining the streets during tropical storms and hurricanes. On July 22, there was a tropical storm and there was about 4 feet of standing water in many parts of the city. SWB repeatedly said that the drains were working when in fact they weren’t since everyone could tell because the water was not moving. After a couple of days of lies, they finally informed the city that the pumping stations were not working/functional. The worst part about that was that they had received funding to fix the pumps since Katrina and had not done so. So, a couple of people have been fired, as well as couple who have resigned. There’s also an ongoing investigation that is being done to find out where the money went. Below is just a link on a post I found about the flooding.


  1. How about having a program that promotes environmentalism to the youth? I never really knew about environmental sciences and forestry until I was well in high school. It’s kind of a low-key study at a young age, especially for a minority in the southern part of the states. That way we get the newer generation thinking of ideas earlier.
  2. A blog where people can post really neat places they find in nature that they can share through GPS. They can load pictures and things like that to kind of give a description of the place. I think it’s really cool because in the summer when I worked in California I’d find out about swimming holes by talking to people and sometimes I’d find them through directions they gave, sometimes not.
  3. Bike sharing at school? I know a lot of people drive their cars to class sometimes because their either lazy or late (or both, I do occasionally as well.) We could eliminate some of that if their was an affordable bike sharing program that could be paid at the beginning of the semester and you access through your student ID.

Reading: I really like how Sullivan chose to write the book. One of the ways were by doing a lot of identifying of things that could have been and why those things did not happen. On page 17, he writes how “shopping malls and office complexes and future parks threaten to eat up even more of the old meadows every year.” But the meadows just wont let it happen. There’s a “physical and psychic” power that will not allow new constructions to stay. Roads sink and revert back to the old swamp. It is also intriguing on why the place is dubbed a meadow or “The Meadowlands.” I can see why because of the previous use of it for hay farming, but a meadow by definition would not have standing water, yet it has a swamp. Sullivan also points out how negative human interaction (environmental abuse) has led to living organismic communities. He says, “The big difference between the garbage hills and the real hills in the Meadowlands is that the garbage hills are alive.” (96) For one, the fact that he said real hills in the Meadowlands is interesting because he then goes on to say the garbage hills are alive, but doesn’t give it that same emphasis as though they are real, or that there are fake hills in the meadows. Secondly, I just thought the fact that he pointed this out as though it were a positive that there were garbage hills in existence in such a place that he raved about. He found a way to make human impact look like a good thing that we provided habitat for a new organismic community that would then eat our litter (but what a slow rate.)

“At one point very recently in history the Meadowlands was the largest garbage dump in the world.” (16) I think this is kind of the example we were looking for when trying to connect wasteland to wilderness when we got that definition from describing it as such.

“In 1977, an architectural critic appraised a home and office development built in the Meadowlands as “a new kind of place, either urban nor suburban. It is not a real city, he added, it is not a small town, but something strangely in between. The Meadowlands has physical power too. The new roads rarely stay smooth for long in the Meadowlands. They buckle and sink and eventually begin the long journey down into the depths of the old swamp.” Has the ability to reverse human development on it’s own.

Article: I’m with this article. Cronon gives thought through multiple lenses. He gives points of views from a religious, philosophical, rational, biased, and agnostic which really had me thinking again like where do I stand because some of the views overlap. I really like how Cronon simply put it. “If nature dies because we enter it, then the only way to save nature is to kill ourselves.” The wild is not a place where people shouldn’t be since it was a place where human’s once were all the time. There are just of course some things that we cannot due when dealing with nature. We cannot go back in time as he writes, “The flight from history that is very nearly the core of wilderness represents the false hope of an escape from responsibility, the illusion that we can somehow wipe clean the slate of our past and return to the tabula rasa that supposedly existed before we began to leave our marks on the world.” We have to control what we can control now. One thing I know for sure that needs our attention is the construction of roads that are built each time there’s a newfound gem of nature.

David’s blog posts

August 29, 2017

Hi everyone.  My name is David Herbawi and I’m a senior here in OWU.  I was born and raised in Cambridge Massachusetts, and I lived a little over a year in San Diego before moving back to Massachusetts.  One of my favorite passions in life is traveling, because I’m really good at adjusting to new environments.  I’ve been to Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Morocco, and Jordon, and I hope to travel a lot more after I graduate.  During the summer I always go home and work at a cafe and hookah lounge.  I came to OWU without declaring a major, choosing geography during my junior year.  I like geography because it covers a broad range of important topics in both the political and scientific fields.


For me, the word ‘wilderness’ invokes images of nature unaltered by humans.  A place where people go to escape the noises of organized society and be away from other humans and their inventions.  The Meadowlands has led my to reevaluate my beliefs.  While the area has certainly been subjected to the settlement and industry of humans Robert Sullivan that still feels mysterious, secluded, and even wild. The Meadowlands are littered with waste and pollution, but if anything all the debris only add to its wildness, reminders of all the failed attempts to tame it.  Although I haven’t reached the ending at time I’m writing this, I have so far enjoyed Sullivan’s story telling and his descriptions of people and historical events.


Toxic cloud on Sussex coast may have come from ship, say sources

A toxic cloud appeared in Sussex, England resulted in 150 people seeking medical services.  Pollution monitoring sites picked up on ozone levels four times higher than usual within the cloud.  It is believed that the cloud did not originate on land and it is suggested that the cloud came from a ship’s vents, but this is not yet confirmed.


Project ideas:  (1 a program that recycles uneaten food from the campus dining areas for fertilizer or animal feed.  (2 a program where you could rent items like refrigerators and microwaves for your room and return them at the end of the semester.  This could reduce the number of these items thrown away once students return home and no longer have use for them.

Allie Niemeyer- intro, news, project ideas and reflections

August 29, 2017

Hi, I’m Allie, I’m a junior Zoology, Environmental Studies, and Spanish major.  I don’t exactly know what I want to do with my life, but something with conservation.  This summer I studied abroad in Costa Rica, it was awesome, I really love travelling and this was a totally new experience for me.  I am also on the swim team here at OWU.  I also enjoy reading, specifically fantasy, but I guess I’ll give this non-fiction opinions thing for the semester.  One of my goals in life is to make it to all of the national parks in the US, I’d also like to make it to as many countries, cultures, and continents as I can.

That’s all I can think of right now, so I guess that’s the nutshell of my life.  Though I’m not sure how nuts my life actually is, but I digress…


News: In Mumbai there were 5 dogs found that apparently “turned blue” which originally leaked as being due to chemicals in a local river, Kasardi, though this turned out to be false.  The dogs were actually died due to blue died standing water from a pigment factory that was 2 miles from the river, however, this did lead to investigations into the quality of the river water and the discovery of illegal dumping by the factory.  This is now being shown to have had negative effects on the fish in the river, which local fishermen say has led to a 90% decrease in their catch volumes.  There has also been shown that the pollution levels in this river are over 13x the safe limit for fish and 40x the the limit for human consumption.

Local environmentalists hope this will lead to a larger crackdown on enforcement in regards to illegal dumping and lead to efforts to reduce the pollution and waste, however there is a greater fear that the lack of connection to the dogs will decrease interest in the issue and it will lead to no changes.


Project Ideas: I would be interested in further developing the composting agenda with the composting dumpsters and making a plan with chartwells.  I am also interested in looking into furthering the food recovery project, and the Delaware run restoration project.


The Meadowlands response:

Sullivan tends to often imply that the Meadowlands would be better without humans, he touches on how the natural world there was working perfectly before humans involved themselves (16).  He quotes Mayor Just in saying that government should save the area (29).  He describes in depth the idea of the toxic water flowing and how their might be a single drop somewhere that has not been in contact with humans and is therefore safe (97).  Though these are all important ideas, we can’t just remove humans from nature in order to save nature because it takes away the naturalness of the area, as humans are a part of the planet, we need to find an in-between, where we are not destroying the area, but we are also not being removed from the area.

Even though he says that we should “save” the area by putting it aside, he often makes it sound undesirable and unremarkable, it’s an industrial waste area, he complains about the smell and the undrinkable water, there are areas that have waste that might explode randomly (64) The mob is involved and doesn’t follow environmental regulations that are currently in place (94).  I’m not saying that this means that we shouldn’t do anything to make the area cleaner and a more sustainable habitat, but for me, I kept wondering when he said this place needed to be put aside and left to be as it would, why the disgusting place he was describing warranted that, or if he had a plan on how we should intervene.  Additionally, one case that he had for saving the area, specifically, was the panoramic view near the city that looks completely natural (61), but where I’m from this is nothing special, so it wasn’t a particularly moving argument.

However, I did get the idea that he was trying to make the argument that one man’s waste was another’s treasure (in this area literally, 80).  At one point he calls it special because of its unattractive attractiveness (60).  There was also the man who was willing to swim in the water regardless of the so-called toxicity (89) because for him it was beautiful and it hadn’t proved otherwise, where areas considered safe had been toxic to him.  Sullivan also wrote about how to get something to be considered natural, by getting people interested and aware of it, and this then needs to be proactive in order to create conservation promotion (190).  This argument into the unexpected beauty in the area and the history and beauty that the area had for those who lived there and that being a reason to save it for the future was much more convincing to me than the other arguments he was making.

I thought the book did a good job of pointing out the idea that our society often feels the need to control areas, first trying to develop the Meadowlands over and over again (44) and later with the idea that we can always improve on the area with the people currently saying that we need to find a new use for the Meadowlands (48).  He also showed this with a couple of quotes from different times they were building roads, bringing more people to the area.  When he discussed the first road in the area he showed a quote, “it proves to what point may be carried that patience of man, who is determined to conquer nature” (172).  This showed the feelings of the people there at the time that nature was an obstacle that we must overcome in order to be more civilized.  Later he described how the use of the skyway got passersby to “praise the development of the Meadowlands, which they hoped the skyway would help transform the marsh to fields filled with factories.” (177)  This shows again the lack of perceiving the area as beautiful and therefore designating it no value.

The book also brought up a few environmental concerns to me.  Firstly, there was a whale that was hit by a boat and killed and then removed from beach and dropped in the Meadowlands (100).  This concerns me because whales are extremely important to the ocean ecosystem as food sources and carbon sinks, so it seems irresponsible to remove them from this job just for beach beautification.  It also talks about the goal to completely remove the mosquitos from the area and this being a nationwide project (111).  This seems a bit shortsighted as mosquitos are important to freshwater food chains.  Later, it talks about how the water that is most polluted is least likely to freeze (133), which is concerning in terms of the wildlife that lives in it and their survival through the winter, as the ice provides a warmer controlled environment for the underlying water.  I was also disconcerted by the not in my backyard approach to the cockroaches that were removed from the subsequent houses in the area because they have an important ecological role as well (138).  He also talked about how there were efforts to change the area into a salt marsh as it was considered more valuable (199) and this scares me because everyone’s ideas about nature are different but if we kill off environments that we don’t like for ones that we do like, we get into dangerous territory of playing at gods and deciding what lives and what dies, not based on its purpose, but on its perceived beauty.  All of this is underlined by the scariness of the pollution produced by the landfills themselves, the fires used to burn them and the chemicals that are released during this burning, the trash that has toxins in it that are being leached back into the environment, etc.  In general, there were a lot of environmental concerns brought up by the book that should be addressed.


The trouble with wilderness response:

I think this article has some really good points that are kind of hard to read at first, but they make you think critically about your biases and subconscious ideals about nature.  I think its important to note that wilderness is a product of civilization and that the definition of wilderness has changed over time, because we often think about conserving the areas that are unique and that are far away, and are on their own, uninhabited, and without human influence, but this leaves us with nowhere for humans to go as well as a lack of appreciation for conserving the nature and diversity of areas around us that have been affected by humans.  Additionally I think that it’s important to talk about the idea that the plots that we are setting apart as “wild” are more and more tamed by humans in order to increase economic benefits and to make them more attractive to visit, removing the history of the areas, removing the peoples that lived there, despite our desire to be more like them when we visit these areas.  This is an injustice to the history and culture that has been cultivated in these areas and makes them less authentic, rather than the other way around. 


Introduction, Meadowlands Response, Environmental News, Project Ideas – Zak Hill

August 29, 2017


Hi, my name is Zachary Hill.  I  am a junior, and I am an environmental studies and urban studies major.  I am in Phi Delta Theta and play on the Ultimate Frisbee team.  I enjoy spending my time hiking and exploring the outdoors.  I am from Rockville, Maryland which is right outside Washington D.C.  Every year my dad and I try to make a trip out west to explore some of the National Parks, and natural wonders like Antelope Canyon in Arizona, and Zion National Park in Utah which is one of my favorite places to explore because of the diversity of the Canyon.  My family also owns a home in Breckenridge, Colorado which is a favorite destination of mine to spend school breaks.  The breathtaking views of the mountains are indescribable and makes me want to keep going out there to learn more about how I can preserve this place I love.

The Meadowlands Response:

This novel by Robert Sullivan takes an interesting approach to exploring this unique landscape.  The Meadowlands is an area in between New Jersey, and New York City that has been historically used as a dumping ground for trash, and other harmful materials. However it was once, “Where European landscape painters once set up their easels to paint the quiet tidal estuaries, and old cedar swamp… but where, now, there are real hills in the Meadowlands and there are garbage hills.  The real hills are outnumbered by the garbage hills.”  The landscape is described as a unique contrast between the worlds of nature and civilization.  Sullivan notes the diverse amount of life that is present in what we as people see as a wasteland, and a dumping ground.  However, he also describes the landscape and area as a place that was used as an industrial wasteland.  The New York Giants football stadium is also located in the Meadowlands where Sullivan even says, “In the mid-  1980’s playing in the Meadowlands meant possibly risking your life because shortly after the stadium opened players for the Giants began developing cancer… Players complained of occasionally foul smelling water.”  Sullivan then describes the water as, “an espresso of refuse,”  to imply the foul nature of the water.  He points out a lot of sources of pollution but points the readers attention to the cyanide, and unregulated medical waste that could have biological consequences, and the mercury in the soil.  In the mid-1980’s, there was so much mercury in the ground you could see a silvery liquid on the ground when you dug a hole, “As recently as 1980, it was possible to dig a hole in the ground and watch it fill with balls of shiny silvery stuff.”  The description of The Meadowlands reminded me of Gary Indiana, and how close that city is to Chicago which is a booming city.  Gary Indiana and adjacent towns in that area are used for industrial purposes which inevitably leads to heavy pollution if the waste materials are not properly handled/disposed of.  It was interesting that he pointed out in one dump in Kearny that there was rubble in The Meadowlands from Europe and the bombings of London. This shows even in what is thought of a waste land still contains artifacts/evidence of significant world events.  There were also interesting pieces about underlying sub plots about what he expected to find out there in The Meadowlands from the original Penn Station to the resting ground of  Jimmy Hoffa.  He also takes his canoe to the, “submerged remains of a radio station that was thought to be the first to ever broadcast the voice of Frank Sinatra.”  There is also a comment about if you dig, in The Meadowlands it wouldn’t take long to unearth evidence of buildings/structures from civilization.  The novel was interesting in the fact that it explored places created by humans that have been taken over by the world of nature, but still has some significance to the worlds history.

Project Ideas:

  1. Start a recycling program in the Fraternities, and houses on Williams Drive, and move to reusable kitchenware for all houses.  My house creates a lot of recycling material from scrap papers from classes, to plastic and metal bottles/cans that can be recycled instead of thrown out if we started a recycling program for the living houses over there.  I am sure the other fraternities and other houses on Williams drive create a substantial amount of recyclable materials.  My fraternity also uses styrofoam cups, and the number of cups being wasted allows for solutions to reduce our impact on the environment, even if it is small like
  2. Start a travel program (possibly over breaks) to allow students to go to some of the beautiful natural destinations in the United States to possibly spark a sense of responsibility on campus to reduce our negative impacts on the environment, and preserve these beautiful landscapes.
  3. Look into the No Plastic Day idea, and how to inform the student body, and have them properly prepared for the day, so there is no confusion/late notice which ensures participation from a majority of the campus population.

Environmental News:

This news article explores the idea of ParkRx, which is where doctors in South Dakota are prescribing their patients to go out into the State Parks, and Recreation Areas.  Just like a typical prescription for medicine the doctors give the patients a prescription slip that is labeled park prescription.  This prescription gives the patient one free day in the state parks where they are able to explore the outdoors and feel the healing effects of nature.  There are no proven medical benefits from spending time in nature but there is some evidence of the medical benefits of exercising.  The typical activities done in the parks require the patient to get physical exercise which can help their overall health.  I think after I visit a National Park, and spend a long day of hiking in a beautiful landscape I feel better physically and emotionally.  I feel like going out in these natural wonders gives people a sense of freedom, and alleviation that gives them healing effects, or what seem to be healing qualities.

Janelle Valdinger Intro, Reading, Current Event, and Project Ideas

August 29, 2017

Introduction:  My name is Janelle Valdinger.  I grew up in a small village, Scio, in Eastern Ohio on a dairy farm.  I spent my entire adolescent life raising cattle, sheep, and horses.  Upon graduating high school I pursued higher education, had several life altering events happen, and spent years putting my life back together.  All those events led me to where I am now though.  I am a Sophomore at OWU majoring in Geography with a GIS specialization.  I own my own home here in Delaware, am employed by the City of Delaware as their GIS/CMMS Public Utilities Technician, and am a mom to a beautiful Australian Shepard named Taz.  At the “young” age of 28 I’m pretty happy with how my life has turned out thus far, and I look forward to finishing my degree at OWU.

Reading:  The Meadowlands, written by Robert Sullivan, is a somewhat comical, eye opening, and challenging compilation of “adventures”.  From interviewing Major Just who raised pigs in Secaucus, to the rather creepy old man who handed Sullivan the Reader’s Digest full of murder mysteries, the author interacted with an array of interesting, “experts” of the Meadowlands.  I was enlightened by the wide spectrum of environmental events touched on in this book, because I didn’t realize the extent of the damage done by the events that took place.  Dumping trash, toxic chemicals, swill, Penn Station remains, and human remains (suspect) into the this once “apt” wetland is a testament to the lack of understanding our predecessors possessed.  Each chapter took you deeper into the history, and fragile nature of the Meadowlands.  A rock containing copper “precipitated the industrial revolution in America”, along with “precipitating America’s first gold rush, yet a child fell “into a manure filled marsh in Secaucus and drowned;  this area outside of New York City has been home to some of the greatest, and some of the most disturbing events in our history.

Current Event:  “Blue-eyed humans have a single common ancestor”  This article is not exactly “current”, but I did find it interesting.

According to Professor Hans Eiberg we all originally had brown eyes, but a genetic mutation literally turned off the “switch” responsible for producing brown eyes. The OCA2 gene affected by the mutation codes the “P protein” involved in the production of melanin.  Melanin gives our hair, eyes, and skin it’s color.  Blue eyed individuals only have a small variation in the amount of melanin in their eyes, which led to the conclusion that all blue-eyed individuals are linked to the same ancestor.  Brown eyed individuals have considerable variations in the area of their DNA that controls melanin production.  This is neither a positive or negative mutation, and has no effect on a human’s chance of survival.

University of Copenhagen. “Blue-eyed humans have a single, common ancestor.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 January 2008.

Project Ideas:  1.) Establishing OWU rain gardens around the catch basin near field house by coordinating with the City of Delaware Watershed Coordinator.  2.)  Establish a city wide, environmentally friendly, rain barrel program similar to that of our refuse program.  3.)   Still working on a third idea. 

Introduction, Environmental Issue, and Project Ideas — Evelynn Wyatt

August 29, 2017

Introduction: Hi, I’m a senior English and biology double major who enjoys reading and writing about the natural world. I’m from Louisville, KY, but over the summer I worked as a counselor and nature educator at a camp in Hocking Hills, OH. On campus I work in the greenhouse and serve as a writing and botany tutor. I hope that this course will improve my understanding of environmental issues, sustainability practices, and ecological processes.

Environmental Issue: A recent study published in Ecological Modeling attempted to determined the monetary value of all trees planted inside ten distinct “megacities”. The researchers found that the trees in places like Beijing, Los Angeles, and Mumbai provide approximately $500 million in benefits (per city) to the people that live there. These “tree-based ecosystem benefits” include reducing air pollution, decreasing stormwater runoff, lowering energy costs associated with heating and cooling buildings, and reducing carbon emissions. Those involved with the study recommend planting a greater number of trees in order to increase the monetary and personal value of these benefits. After reading this article I was curious to know if these cities will end up experiencing a large number of environmental crises all at once if they choose to reduce trees and green space in favor of expansion.


Project Ideas:

  1. Reestablish the student garden outside of the observatory using sustainable methods. Improving the design and aesthetic quality of the area to encourage student visitation and use.
  2. Create a database and map of the trees within the Jane Decker Arboretum on campus using arcGIS.
  3. Weed, prune, and replant the mini prairie habitat across from the science center parking lot (near the echo circle). Develop a permanent maintenance plan for its upkeep by future students.


Collin Rastetter’s Readings

August 29, 2017


Hello, I’m Collin Rastetter, and I’m currently a junior here at Ohio Wesleyan. As for coursework, I’m a geography and philosophy double major, with a particular interest in how we interpret landscapes through the lens of our existential condition. I grew up in Mansfield, Ohio, which is a decaying industrial town about equidistant from Columbus and Cleveland. At one point, Mansfield featured a Westinghouse factory, where a relatively sophisticated robot was built and subsequently displayed at the 1939 World’s Fair. Nowadays, Mansfield is probably most notable for our old Reformatory, which has been featured in several films. According to one of my fellow Ohioans at OWU, Mansfield is apparently also known for its methamphetamine problem. From manufacturing town to meth town, what a contemporary cliché.

Ideas for Project:

One idea I had would be a botanical project here on campus, designed to protect the integrity of our grassy knolls. Many people tread through the grass, myself included, on a daily basis, but this cannot be conducive to the grass’s health. Thus, I propose we plant stinging nettles along the pathways on campus so that trespassers would be deterred from walking through the grass.

Another idea would be to write a paper investigating the spiritual or numinous personification of the environment. Touching on topics like fairies, land wights, and nature deities.

My final idea is a paper investigating the symbolism and theory involved in high fantasy mapping. For example, the importance of choosing symbolism to fit the various cultures and lore of the universe. Furthermore, addressing why it isn’t necessary to produce fantasy maps in a faux-medieval style. Another subject worth discussing would be the cultural bias, both from the real world as well as preferred in-universe cultures, that could infiltrate and distort such maps. Also, of course, making sure that the location of land masses with lore-determined biomes makes environmental sense (like preventing a tropical island from being mapped next to a frigid landscape).

Meadowlands Response:

In Robert Sullivan’s The Meadowlands, we encounter a landscape where the juxtaposition of humankind and nature yields only rejection. We see it in the region’s many losses in industry. The determination of the likes of Robert Swartwout to redeem the land were all dashed hopes. His attempts to transform the land into a dairy farm to supply New York City were rejected by that city’s officials (Sullivan 53). Soon enough, the Meadowlands itself rejected Swartwout’s efforts, for his projects were all destroyed by flooding (Sullivan 53). Even the industrial successes of the Meadowlands were eventually rejected by the people who lived there. The region’s famous, once-celebrated inventor, Seth Boyden, faded into obscurity (Sullivan 47). In Kearny, the library contains the world’s largest collection of Gone with the Wind translations, yet the book’s author came to resent the very existence of all these foreign publications (Sullivan 72). All the success to be found in the Meadowlands is ephemeral and bound for some annihilation, like the once vibrant flora and the titanic Snake Hill the landscape once contained. Botanical life aside, even human life gets rejected and thrown away in the Meadowlands. The brutal death of Nicole DeCombe stands as just one example of this fact (Sullivan 180). As does, of course, the legend of union leader Jimmy Hoffa’s burial in the midst of the Meadowlands (Sullivan 143). Indeed, the Meadowlands is a pessimistic landscape, where a historical dialectic between humans and nature only yield destruction for them both. As much as the humans try to shape and alter the land, it only ever reclaims, even if humans have to abet this reclamation. Ultimately, the entire character of the Meadowlands can be described by he story of the monumental drainage dikes. “But in fact, the land didn’t destroy them; it made them its own…you can spot them. They are bright, rusty red” (Sullivan 51-52).

Current Event:

In Peru, indigenous groups are rallying against the government’s decision to grant a 30-year contract for oil extraction in their territory. According to law, the government must obtain prior consent from the indigenous people, which they have refused. In retaliation and against the warnings of the UN, the Peruvian government has asserted authority of the indigenous peoples’ decision. The Peruvian government has rejected the ability of tribal leaders to veto the planned extraction process, which the indigenous people have threatened to interfere with and halt.

Colten Harvey’s readings

August 28, 2017

Meadowlands: Its amazing to me the carelessness that has been displayed and the massive amounts of pollution that has/is occurring in the Meadowlands area. One of the things that really stood out to me was the mercury dumps talked about on page 85. I couldn’t believe that such an enormous amount of mercury was disposed of in this area. A few pages later, on page 93, Sullivan writes about the many dumps located in this area and the massive amount of garbage put here, “an amount that would just about fill Giants Stadium,” and again I was amazed at just how much waste we can produce. Giants Stadium, or the Meadowlands Sports Complex, which is located near the edge of the swamp, has also been effected. The complex has been rumored to have lasting negative medical effects on players who spent a lot of their time there. During the 1980’s, shortly after the complex opened, players for the New York Giants began to develop multiple types of cancers and tumors (page 88), due to the pollutants in the area. Another section of the book the I found particularly interesting was the portion about the pirates (page 133). I thought it was an interesting approach to burn the pirates out, which in turn ended up burning down the entire cedar forest. In my eyes this story seems to sum up the radical approaches taken in attempts to solve the many problems occurring within the Meadowlands. It astounds me, much like it does countless other people, that this wilderness still exists in a place so close to the biggest city in all of America. You would think that by now someone would have been able to put this area to a better use, rather then making it a garbage dump. However, it goes to show that sometimes as hard as we may try, we are no match for mother nature. This book turned out to be quite interesting and very eye opening. I found it quite surprising that Sullivan took such an interest in this place. When I first began reading I thought, why is this man so obsessed with an area that is essentially a wasteland. However, as I continued to read I realized that although the Meadowlands has its fair share of issues, it is still an amazing place with lots of potential to become something great.


The Trouble With Wilderness: The article, written by William Cronon, was very interesting to me because he took a very different approach then I have ever heard before. I enjoyed reading Cronon’s comparisons of what the meaning of nature previously meant as compared to what we think of today (quote #1). Cronon also discusses the wilderness and how it is in actuality a human creation, I found that odd because when we typically think of wilderness we tend to think of a nonhuman place (quote #2). Another aspect of the article that I found interesting was the discussion of nature’s relationship with religion and how this has shaped our views and ideals (quotes #3). Cronon really grabbed my attention when he discussed the wilderness, at least of America, as having a mythical origin story of never being inhabited by humans and being a place of peace, and how we are repeating these same actions with those who inhabit the rainforests (quotes #4). And finally, he discusses that humans have been impacting the environment since the beginning of the human race and in theory the only way to restore the wilderness would be to kill ourselves. Obviously this isn’t a realistic solution, so instead he talks about how we need to narrow our idea of wilderness and recognize all natural things to be wilderness, not just those places we have painted in our minds  (quote #5).

Relavant quotes:

1) To be a wilderness then was to be “deserted,” “savage,” “desolate,” “barren”—in short, a “waste,” the word’s nearest synonym. Its connotations were anything but positive, and the emotion one was most likely to feel in its presence was “bewilderment” or terror.

2) But is it? The more one knows of its peculiar history, the more one realizes that wilderness is not quite what it seems. Far from being the one place on earth that stands apart from humanity, it is quite profoundly a human creation

3) -“Satan’s home had become God’s Own Temple….In the wilderness the boundaries between human and nonhuman, between natural and supernatural, had always seemed less certain than elsewhere”

-“Among the best proofs that one had entered a sublime landscape was the emotion it evoked…“they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.”

-But the romantic sublime was not the only cultural movement that helped transform wilderness into a sacred American icon during the nineteenth century. No less important was the powerful romantic attraction of primitivism, dating back at least to of that the best antidote to the ills of an overly refined and civilized modern world was a return to simpler, more primitive living.

4) Among the things that most marked the new national parks as reflecting a post-frontier consciousness was the relative absence of human violence within their boundaries. The actual frontier had often been a place of conflict, in which invaders and invaded fought for control of land and resources….The removal of Indians to create an “uninhabited wilderness”—uninhabited as never before in the human history of the place—reminds us just how invented, just how constructed, the American wilderness really is.there is nothing natural about the concept of wilderness. It is entirely a creation of the culture that holds it dear, a product of the very history it seeks to deny.

5) But such a perspective is possible only if we accept the wilderness premise that nature, to be natural, must also be pristine—remote from humanity and untouched by our common past. In fact, everything we know about environmental history suggests that people have been manipulating the natural world on various scales for as long as we have a record of their passing.

-Wilderness gets us into trouble only if we imagine that this experience of wonder and otherness is limited to the remote corners of the planet, or that it somehow depends on pristine landscapes we ourselves do not inhabit. Nothing could be more misleading. The tree in the garden is in reality no less other, no less worthy of our wonder and respect, than the tree in an ancient forest that has never known an ax or a saw—even though the tree in the forest reflects a more intricate web of ecological relationships



Amber’s intro, ideas and event

August 28, 2017

Intro: I am Amber, a senior (graduating in December) Pre Professional Zoology major and minoring in Environmental Science and Psychology-Research. I grew up in Tallahassee, FL and love traveling. I am the current president of the OWU Equestrian Club Team and am on the OWU Women’s Tennis team. After OWU I plan on attending graduate school where I can further study the effects humans are having on the environment and animal behavior.

Current Event: A recent news article that was published about how the coral reefs off Belize have been steadily growing healthier despite increasing amounts of pollution and climate change. Despite the signs of improvement and being hailed the largest coral restoration project in the Caribbean, the coral is still heavily threatened by macroalgae, dwindling fish numbers, oil extraction and lack of enforcement of laws that protect the coral reefs.

Course Project Ideas

  1. One idea I have is to continue the campus habitat project. I believe that it would be a good idea to plant plants native to Delaware, Ohio that could be beneficial to pollinators and birds.
  2. The feral cat project is also interesting as I have numerous times seen the cats out wandering at night. It is known that cats can have a detrimental effect on the environment as they tend to hunt local animals and birds. Due to their lack of human contact, catching them is a difficult task but being able to help control the population would be beneficial. Start up some form of monitoring of the cats and a catch and release program would help keep tabs on the animals and minimize their growth.  
  3. When I walk back from the science center late at night I have noticed that a number of the buildings are lit up light Christmas tree with their indoor lights. To help conserve energy, some of the indoor lights should be turned off at night and not left on all night. Outdoor lighting and lights used for safety should remain on but large quantities of unused lights should be turned off after usage. Be able to find new ways to continue to educate students and the public on ways to help the environment. 

Meadow Lands Notes

The Meadowlands by Robert Sullivan is an interesting book to read as it describe an area that is inhabited by people but at the same time remains very isolated from humans. Located between New York and New Jersey, the Meadowlands have been affected by the damage humans cause from being used as a dumping ground and being semi developed. The author presents the area in a positive light and in ways describes the area like it is the wilderness of an uninhabited place. The part of the book that I enjoyed the most was when the author decided to take a trip across the Meadowland to Walden Swamp. As he is traveling throughout the area he describes how he encountered a weird combination of man made items/ structures such as NJ turnpike and barbwire fences and natural environment. It is difficult for me to visualize a place like the Meadowland because I have never encountered a place similar to it. One part of the book I find particularly creepy is digging and bodies. In these chapters the author explains how he and Dave went looking for Jimmy Hoffa’s body and Penn Station and in the process learned about the dumping/ landfill history of the place. He also learn of a various number of people who had perished in the swamp over the course of history. By the end of the book it seems as if the author has learned and explored enough of the Meadowland that he no longer wishes to venture to it anymore yet he wonders what will become of the Meadowland in the future.

I found this quote interesting: From an architectural critic describing the Meadowland as “a new kind of place, neither urban nor suburban. It is not a real city, its not a small town, but something strangely between.” (Sullivan 17)