Landscape as Habitat

I chose examine the street outside of the Quarry using the lens of landscape as habitat. The most notable feature of this habitat right now is the construction in the middle of the road, blocking off one of the lanes. The street is littered with cones, a small crane, and the occasional construction worker. In the background, the crossing guard guides students across the street and in the foreground construction workers guide cars through the intersection. Across the street is the Holland Union Building and on my side, further up the street is Althouse. Both sides of the streets have flower beds and patches of grass with trees.

Examining this landscape through the lens of habitat was somewhat difficult and depends on what you describe as nature. On one hand, Meinig describes altered landscapes as “man’s selection from earth’s great bounty and his reworking, retraining, rearranging in to desirable forms.” This is true of the landscape I observed. We paved streets and sidewalks to make it easier to travel between locations, built buildings to protect us from the elements while we eat and study, and even kept some trees and flowers so it would look pretty. The construction workers are actively engaged in rearranging something underground so it works better for human use. There are clear examples of man “altering [landscapes] in productive ways.”

However, what I found difficult to grapple with was the idea of man working towards symbiosis with nature. From what I was observing, the habitat I observed has almost no relationship with what I would consider to be natural. There are a few trees, flowers, and grass and while I could hear the birds and I know there are squirrels around, there are no signs of the other animals and plants that must’ve lived here before we paved it over. I also struggled with Meinig’s idea of man as both the steward and cultivator for earth. He uses those two words as if they are synonyms but I don’t think they mean or imply the same idea at all. A steward is somebody who protects and perhaps uses responsibly, but a cultivator is somebody who utilizes or harvests something for personal gain. If I had gone into my observations knowing I would be using the gaze of landscape as habitat, I would have shifted my gaze further left of the road where there is a lot more natural, green space between Althouse and the Quarry. The paths there are narrower and the greens pace bigger. It still serves our purpose of ease of passage, but retains more of what I think of as the natural world.


Meinig, D.W., “Landscape as Habitat.”

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