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Remember: Is our future in the Whitehall Parkway?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is our future in the Whitehall Parkway?

The feeling I developed sitting on Bake Oven Knob the night before was even more pronounced in the gullies of the Whitehall Parkway the next day.

The slowly deteriorating ruins of early cement plants litter the park around what was once a quarry. Here, the “bedrock” of our Lehigh Valley community was formed. The “Life after People” vibe was unmistakable. In this park, what gave rise to a century of industrial expansion, is literally crumbling to dust on a developing forest floor. What was most interesting was in the exposed rock that was once a wall. Clearly visible here was the same quartzite I stood on at Bake Oven Knob the day before. The 430 million year old Silurian rock had unsurprisingly survived.

It would be a heck of a thing to be able to speak to the rock. I would imagine hearing something along the lines of “ Man, I miss the beach… Stupid continental drift.. and seriously, a mine? Look who won.”

By the time I had reached the quarry floor, two days of reminders regarding the brevity of human existence bore themselves through me as frustration. I am studying waste and the fate of pollutants at school right now and am amazed how much we screw up our surroundings with the amount of waste we produce. In the 430 million years that quartzite has existed, it has never seen such a destructive, wasteful force - and the majority of said destruction has occurred in a mere 150 years!

It is this quartzite, the mountains that hold us in our valley, and the fragmented forests that surround us that ease the frustration. It is these simple escapes that rectify the mind, that remind us of the permanence of our surroundings. If we do not remember our insignificance, we cannot value that permanence. A plastic island floating in the Pacific speaks volumes to the hubris our species is currently suffering from. The same hubris exists in the chain restaurant, the big box store, in most of what we call “conveniences of modern life.”

Surely, they do make things easy for us, but does the convenient manner in which our species lives makes it easier for the planet? Not at all! In the Whitehall Parkway, the conveniences on which we now depend have their roots in ruin. The ecosystem which our progress as a species has abandoned has taken back its reins. We get to watch it happen.

The scene in the Whitehall Parkway is ultimately the fate of all human construction and development. We hasten its arrival with pollution and waste. Our unbalanced world can only leave us as ruins. And what will be left? Quartzite. Perhaps, we should be more focused on preserving the environment around us if only to secure our best legacy. That legacy should be one of stewardship and preservation not our pop culture , certainly not our war and savagery, most definitely not our pollution and waste.

In the bottom of Whitehall Parkway, I encourage you to go and take a look at our eventual ending. We need to consider our legacy as a species. Such a legacy is manifested daily by the manner in which we tend to the last open areas we remain blessed with. At this moment, in the city of Allentown our open areas need better tending to. Paving projects will be left the way the ruins at Whitehall Parkway are. Invasive species and algal infestations are a plague in our open spaces. We need to leave something better than waste before we go.

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” – Aldo Leopold



Anonymous monkey momma said...

I've never thought about talking to a rock, but now that you mention it, it would be pretty cool.

Your essay is beautiful, and very true.

March 19, 2010 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger michael molovinsky said...

thoughtful post. we could debate the ramifications of the last "150 years". we now have the food production capacity to stop starvation (not that we do), to stop freezing to death, etc..

we can certainly agree about the need to speak out.
we can certainly agree on your conclusion about the need for responsible stewardship in our local parks.

March 19, 2010 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger Katie Bee said...

The Atlantic Ocean also has a garbage patch, now, in its Sargasso Sea. Sheesh, when I saw those I nearly vomited.

And it may be less than the past 150 years for all this destruction. Of course, the industrial era certainly had a lot to do with it, but some of the most destructive litter (and contents of the garbage patches) is plastic produced within the last 50some years. That garbage is going to last thousands of years. Plastic doesn't just go away.

And, Molovinsky, the food we've produced with the capability of stopping starvation is produced through oil. It turns topsoil to dust, causing flooding and subsequent pollution of water supplies. When we export sacks of cornmeal, we're shipping oil overseas. Unless you've grown your own food, or know the farmer who did, every meal is produced with destructive farming practices by 4 main companies.

March 19, 2010 at 8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pave the Whitehall Parkway.

March 19, 2010 at 11:48 AM  

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