September 29, 2022

The Mail

Saving Our Swamps

Annie Proulx’s inspiring article about the importance of preserving our swampland reminded me of a time, in the early nineteen-sixties, when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, seeking to relocate and expand Newark Airport, decided to put a new complex in the Great Swamp, a twelve-square-mile wetland (“Swamped,” July 4th). It seemed like a done deal until a local resident, Helen Fenske, began promoting the swamp as an invaluable habitat for wildlife and migrating birds, and warned that an airport on the site would threaten the area’s water sources.

My family and I lived near the swamp then. We wondered what, besides mosquitoes and the odd turtle, could possibly want to live in that bog. But we certainly didn’t want an airport in our back yard, so we listened—and became alarmed. Numerous garbage collectors were using the swamp as a landfill, polluting the streams. So the community rallied behind Fenske and her proposal to save the Great Swamp.

Today, the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which lies just twenty-six miles west of Times Square, is a vital nature preserve and hiking area; the Helen Fenske Visitor Center educates people of all ages on the urgency of conserving wetlands. And Newark’s airport is thriving, right where it always was.

Mary Carey Churchill
West Palm Beach, Fla.

The dewatering of North America that Proulx describes was under way well before the nineteenth century, when westward expansionists began cutting down forests and farmers began draining and tilling fields. By the time those people were “reclaiming” land for their use, fur traders had been wreaking havoc on our wetlands for almost two hundred years, through the commodification of beavers. Their dams had once slowed and spread water through virtually every watershed on the continent. But, as beavers were removed from the landscape, streams and rivers sped up, becoming channelized and disconnected from their floodplains. This hydrologic transformation resulted in the loss of millions of acres of wetland habitat—an ecological nightmare.

Proulx is spot on in capturing “the unequalled joy” of wetland restoration. Those efforts are immensely more successful when paired with the reintroduction of the North American beaver, which is well suited to nurturing, repairing, and resaturating our drying continent.

Dave Schaub
Executive Director
Inland Northwest Land Conservancy
Spokane, Wash.

Sounds Right

Anna Wiener’s piece about Foley artists and their pursuit of the ideal sound was a delightful read (“Noise Makers,” July 4th). I’ve worked as a sound-effects editor in film and television for thirty years, and I can attest to the great excitement that people in my profession feel when they find the sound that fits the moment. I’ve also felt that pleasure when witnessing my peers’ creative decisions in action. A favorite example was produced by the remarkable Foley artist Andy Malcolm and the sound-effects editor David Evans for David Cronenberg’s 1991 film, “Naked Lunch.” In one scene, a character’s use of hallucinogens turns his typewriter into a scarab-like beetle. When the insect tries to escape capture, it runs into a door. The sound we hear is not that of a giant bug crashing against it but, rather, the sharp ding of the typewriter’s margin bell. It’s a perfect artistic choice.

Jane Tattersall
Supervising Sound Editor
Formosa Group
Toronto, Ont.

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