Literature Program

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.


Talking Leaves...Books presents

David Stradling

The Nature of New York

The Nature of New York A Reading & Book Signing

From the arrival of Henry Hudson's Half Moon in the estuarial waters of what would come to be called New York Harbor to the 2006 agreement that laid out plans for General Electric to clean up the PCBs it pumped into the river named for Hudson, this work offers a sweeping environmental history of New York State. David Stradling shows how New York's varied landscape and abundant natural resources have played a fundamental role in shaping the state's culture and economy. Simultaneously, he underscores the extent to which New Yorkers have—through such projects as the excavation of the Erie Canal and the construction of highways and reservoir systems—changed the landscape of their state.

Surveying all of New York State since first contact between Europeans and the region's indigenous inhabitants, Stradling finds within its borders an amazing array of environmental features, such as Niagara Falls; human intervention through agriculture, urbanization, and industrialization; and symbols, such as Storm King Mountain, that effectively define the New York identity. Stradling demonstrates that the history of the state can be charted by means of epochs that represent stages in the development and redefinition of our relationship to our natural surroundings and the built environment. New York State has gone through cycles of deforestation and reforestation, habitat destruction and restoration that track shifts in population distribution, public policy, and the economy. Understanding these patterns, their history, and their future prospects is essential to comprehending the Empire State in all its complexity.

"David Stradling's survey of New York's nature over four hundred years—from the Lenape and Leatherstocking to Levittown and Love Canal—is a marvel of environmental writing. In at times heartbreaking detail, he reminds us that New York, like anywhere, is a living place—pristine, violated, cleansed, preserved—where humans are just one organism, a part of and apart from the destiny of the place" (Gerard Koeppel, author of Water for Gotham: A History and Bond of Union: Building the Erie Canal and the American Empire).

"Don't be fooled by the term 'environmental history' in its subtitle. The Nature of New York is a big, broad, ambitious, important, and best of all, highly readable book. Given that the Empire State has so often led the nation in environmental progress (and at times in degradation as well), this book will interest anyone who cares about American attitudes toward our natural inheritance. For New Yorkers in particular, David Stradling's book should be required reading" (Paul Schneider, author of The Adirondacks: A History of America's First Wilderness).

"What most impresses me about The Nature of New York is David Stradling's focus on events, people, and places that are obviously connected to the state's natural history and his ability to connect that environmental history to the overall history of the region. Simply put, Stradling persuasively illustrates how one cannot fully understand the history of the Empire State without also taking into account the state's intimate relationship to the natural environment" (Neil M. Maher, author of Nature's New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement).

David Stradling is Associate Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of Making Mountains: New York City and the Catskills and Smokestacks and Progressives: Environmentalists, Engineers, and Air Quality in America, and the editor of Conservation in the Progressive Era: Classic Texts.