Still the Same Hawk: Reflections on Nature and New York

Still the Same Hawk: Reflections on Nature and New York

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Still the Same Hawk: Reflections on Nature and New York
    Book Description:

    A groundbreaking new book, Still the Same Hawk: Reflections on Nature and New York brings into conversation diverse and intriguing perspectives on the relationship between nature and America's most prominent city. The volume's title derives from a telling observation in Robert Sullivan's contribution that considers how a hawk in the city is perceived so much differently from a hawk in the countryside. Yet it's still the same hawk. How can a hawk nesting above Fifth Avenue become a citywide phenomenon? Or a sudden butterfly migration at Coney Island energize the community? Why does the presence of a community garden or an empty lot ripple so differently through the surrounding neighborhood? Is the city an oasis or a desert for biodiversity? Why does nature even matter to New Yorkers, who choose to live in the concrete jungle? Still the Same Hawk examines these questions with a rich mix of creative nonfiction that ranges from analytical to anecdotal and humorous. John Waldman's sharp, well-crafted introduction presenting dualism as the defining quality of urban nature is followed by compelling contributions from Besty McCully, Christopher Meier, Tony Hiss, Kelly McMasters, Dara Ross, William Kornblum, Phillip Lopate, David Rosane, Robert Sullivan, Anne Matthews, Devin Zuber, and Frederick Buell. Together these pieces capture a wide range of viewpoints, including the myriad and shifting ways New Yorkers experience and consider the outdoors, the historical role of nature in shaping New York's development, what natural attributes contribute to New York's regional identity, the many environmental tradeoffs made by urbanization, and even nature's dark side where "urban legends" flourish. Still the Same Hawk intermingles elements of natural history, urban ecology, and environmental politics, providing fresh insights into nature and the urban environment on one of the world's great stages for the clash of these seemingly disparate realms--New York City.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5055-4
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Bare Nature in the Naked City
    (pp. 1-12)
    John Waldman

    Dualism is the defining quality of urban nature.

    Few juxtapositions conjure as many mixed reactions from city dwellers—oft confused, occasionally distressed, sometimes remarkably uplifted—as the blatant appearance of “nature” against their urban backdrop.

    This dualism also was a defining quality of my life; I was fortunate to be both Tom SawyerandHuck Finn. I grew up well within New York City limits, in a private house on a busy street in the northeast Bronx, walking distance to the elevated subway and only a few doors from an expressway. All day our home vibrated from speeding trucks. It...

  5. Monarchs of the Urban Mind
    (pp. 13-20)
    Betsy McCully

    On a cloudless September Sunday in 1984, thousands of monarch butterflies descended from the sky to nectar on seaside goldenrods, their collective weight bending the stalks down. One might expect migrating monarchs in a country field, but not in the rock rubble of a Manhattan Beach jetty. Rumors flew around my Coney Island neighborhood, and people rushed down to the impromptu monarch festival, myself among them. Monarchs clustered so densely they turned the goldenrods orange. They hovered above the flowers, each waiting its turn to unfurl its proboscis into the nectar sacs and sip. They floated above our heads and...

  6. Welcome to the H2O Region—Your Second Address!
    (pp. 21-28)
    Christopher Meier and Tony Hiss

    Not long ago we published a book—H2O: Highlands to Ocean—trying to call attention to an astonishing, seemingly unlikely, and often almost invisible fact: the natural world of the New York–New Jersey metropolitan region, site of relentless growth and development for almost four hundred years and now home to sixteen million people, is still, despite everything, such a powerful and dynamic force that it does not even do it justice to call it the elephant in the room that nobody mentions. The elephant envelops the room.

    Our book both presents strong scientific evidence to back up this claim...

  7. Public Place, Brooklyn
    (pp. 29-36)
    Kelly McMasters

    I turned my face away from the small, squat building, watching the cloud-white jet streams streak through the blue Brooklyn sky. Leaning against a pea-green fire hydrant, painted the same color as the house behind it, I waited for the real estate agent to return from touring the other prospective renter around the basement-level space. The ad had called it a “one-bedroom garden apartment,” although after weeks of scouring listings and visiting disappointing place after disappointing place, I knew a converted basement when I saw one. But I loved the frontier feeling of the block, which sported only two lumpy...

  8. Corner Garden
    (pp. 37-46)
    Dara Ross

    The D train rumbles underground as heat rising in waves from subway grates makes corner-store flowers wilt. But here, before the bulldozers, in the name of affordable housing, came into the garden that we made of this vacant lot, summer sun made budding flowers bloom.

    I miss our garden as I walk down the block. I pass Julio, Felix, and Manny sitting on milk crates in front of the bodega, talking their usual talk.

    “Boy, this heat sure is a bitch.”

    “Shit! This ain’t no heat! Last week when I was down in San Antonio visiting Magdalena in school it...

  9. A Land Ethic for the City
    (pp. 47-62)
    William Kornblum

    Students who take the risk of registering in my undergraduate environmental sociology course at Queens College will encounter the following poem in the first five minutes of the first day of class. It’s not one of Robert Frost’s best-known works, but it serves extremely well to get students thinking concretely about our heavy footprints on the earth. The poem begins to lead us toward the goal of the course, which is to use some of the classics in American environmental literature to arrive, as dwellers in the nation’s most urban place, at a personal land ethic for the city.


  10. Can Naturalists and Urbanists Find Happiness Together?
    (pp. 63-70)
    Phillip Lopate

    Why does nature matter to New Yorkers? Or maybe the question to be asked is: Why should New York and other big cities matter to naturalists? And can naturalists and urbanists find happiness together? We might all agree that theyshouldfind happiness together, but not necessarily that theycanfind happiness together. They should because, from my perspective, the real hope for the future is to have both cities and wilderness, and to find a way to contain suburban sprawl, which is now eating up one acre per hour. The only way that is going to happen is by...

  11. Can You Eat in Soup? Nine Million Ways to Look at a Raccoon—and an Apple
    (pp. 71-84)
    David Rosane

    My friend John Waldman has asked me the following question: “Does nature matter to New Yorkers?”

    I asked him, “Is the Pope Catholic?”

    My first premise: the world as we know it is going to hell in a handbasket. Our entire planet is in a state of overshoot. In one year we consume what the earth needs a year and three months to produce. To bring the world population to North American consumer levels would require four additional planets.

    My second premise, a quote from Canadian zoologist David Suzuki: “We are the environment, there is no distinction … just a...

  12. The Dark Side; or, My Time Spent in the Nature That People Would Rather Not Think About
    (pp. 85-100)
    Robert Sullivan

    If nature were a political candidate, and if newspapers and television networks took surveys of the public’s opinion of nature, then nature would, at this moment in the twenty-first century, most likely have, to use the pollsters’ phrase, high positives. For the majority of Americans who live in suburbs or the various rural and semi-rural permutations of the suburbs (exurbs and ruburbs, as they are known), nature looks good. It’s the place where we like to vacation. It’s the view from our calendar. The place we get away to—literally, or in video or in books and magazine of all...

  13. The Futures of New York
    (pp. 101-108)
    Anne Matthews

    Taking New Jersey Transit from Princeton Junction to New York’s Penn Station means a fifty-eight-minute trek (off-peak, one way) through a profoundly disturbed landscape of chemical mudflats and industrial slurb. Yet crossing the Meadowlands one bleak February morning, I saw from my commuter-train window a dozen egrets, flying fast and low, an arrow of white headed straight for midtown. What are theydoinghere? I wondered, horrified, amazed. How do theylive?

    Nature knew what I did not: that over thirty years of environmental cleanup have brought egret and bittern, glossy ibis and yellow-crowned night heron back to city waters....

  14. Imagination, Beauty, and the Urban Land Ethic: Teaching Environmental Literature in New York City
    (pp. 109-121)
    Devin Zuber

    The problem with nature in New York is that there isn’t any.

    A student said this to me in a class I was teaching, Environmental Literature, in response to a question I had asked about how one can maintain contact with nature and the wild in New York. Her response was typical of an attitude I encounter at the start of the semester in this course: a prevailing assumption that nature is separate from our densely populated streets, that it is in upstate New York’s Adirondacks, in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, perhaps, maybe, in the north of Central Park, but...

  15. Nature in New York: A Brief Cultural History
    (pp. 122-146)
    Frederick Buell

    The writers in this volume see themselves, for the most part, as coming to their subjects with both a special urgency and a sense of doing something almost outrageous, against the grain, counterintuitive. To that one can add a touch of that populist form of civic pride New Yorkers know and cultivate, the theatrical arrogance of doing it in the Big Apple, on the largest stage there is.

    And there is truth in the contrarian outrageousness. For to write about nature in cities goes against the grain of at least four centuries of modernity, which has done its best conceptually...

  16. List of Contributors
    (pp. 147-152)