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


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.

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