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).
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).
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.