I wrote this essay for Humans and Nature on the resonances of William Faulkner’s “The Bear” right here in Brooklyn, a long way and a long time since the “big woods” of the south. But there are actual remnants of those lost big woods just down the street from where I live, which got me thinking. I believe readers of B & B will be intrigued by my thoughts over at H & N.
Archive for the 'Art Culture Politics' Category
Tags: Brooklyn Bridge Park
I spend a fair amount of time exploring Brooklyn’s edges. These border zones are absolutely agog with feral cats. Here a few recent sightings.The standard wild city feline is a black and white job. Tiger-striped numbers probably come second. But there are all types, including the long-hair below, who looked like a slumming debutant.A street-side feeding station on 39th St; there’s always some well-meaning, but highly selective “animal lover” who encourages this plague. One or more of these people at Floyd Bennett Field’s Ecology Village has/have left the trash of dozens of empty cat food cans stretched along the edges of woods.Some of these cats are pretty cute and adorable looking. But the issue is that Brooklyn’s only part of one of the worst examples of invasive species running amuck.The damage feral cats do to wildlife is mind-boggling: 20 billion individual birds and mammals killed.What a mess! An irresponsible pet industry; idiots who don’t spay/neuter their pets; fools who release their animals when they never should have gotten one in the first place; the rat-feeders (because they are also obviously feeding rats); and, of course, those vocal defenders of such feral cats, unaware and/or unconcerned about their avian and mammalian toll. This is human-made problem. How shall we solve it?
I wrote about the science behind the problem for JSTOR Daily.
Jamie Wyeth’s painting “Raven,” at the show ending this month at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This is a large painting, something such images on the little screen never convey. Here’s what it looks like in context. By the way, Wyeth’s Herring Gulls are pretty good, too. Evidently he is obsessed with their eyes.
Tags: books, Nantucket
Heading towards ‘Sconset on the Milestone Road will take you past the Middle Moors, which are nicknamed “the Serengeti” on Nantucket.This nickname is probably the result of too many nature documentaries and the lesson that they usually teach: nature exists somewhere else and is exotic, something to sit back and enjoy from your living room without having to put up with foreigners and suspect plumbing. In fact, though, these 400 acres are maintained in coastal heathland and sandplain grassland, both rare habitats on the island and elsewhere. This landscape is exotic enough and doesn’t need external referents, thank you very much.
Once sheep grazed this area, making sure nothing ever grew very high. Left untended by those Mesopotamian herbivores (bought in after whaling lost its preeminence for the island economy in the mid 19th century) or, now days, human wielding mowers and fire, the land would quickly become a dense scrub thicket. Habitats are always in flow. Why should we stop them? In this case it’s largely because of the Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) and some other invertebrate and plant species that make this rare habitat home. Did you catch that reference to “Mesopotamian herbivores”? I picked that up in George Monbiot’s Feral, where he rages against sheep as the “white plague,” an invasive species which has devoured the British Isles and remains the main obstacle to re-wilding. Monbiot argues persuasively, because he calls up the science, that the British Isles, particularly the wet western edges of Wales and Scotland, used to be lush rain forest. Temperate rain forest, like our Northwest, which often takes second place to the glories of tropical rain forest, but are just as rich and wonderful. (The skirts of Dartmoor felt like rainforest when I trod under them last year.)
This is a very interesting book. I will admit to be bogged down in the initial chapters where the author seemed to be in the midst of mid-life crisis and an urge to find his inner animal and challenge the elements. Written very well, but I can take that or leave it. But his ultimate point kept me through to the far more exciting later chapters: we need to re-wild, largely by letting it alone, our world.
The Rivers of America series started in 1937 and ended in 1974. Sixty-five books were ultimately published. I recently tried reading the volumes on the Hudson, the Colorado, and the St. Lawrence, but I couldn’t get past the first chapter of any of them. They were too Forties for me, a whitewashed, cheerleading view of history. Ah, well.
Anyway, here’s the listing as of the 1940s. Because the names of American rivers have a magic to them: Housatonic, Shenandoah, Susquehanna, Monongahela, Mississippi…. Many, of course, have Native American names (or European debasement of Native names); rivers often hold on the oldest languages.