by Meredith Denning
On January 29, Prof. Adam Rome is coming to Georgetown. Ahead of his visit, I’ve been re-reading The Bulldozer in the Countryside (2001) and thinking about the landscape that shaped my interest in environmental change. Rome’s work addresses the American environmental movement and explores how post-World War II suburban landscapes shaped perceptions of environmental change just as powerfully as traditionally ‘natural’ landscapes like the National Parks.
New Toronto, where I grew up, is not exactly a Baby Boom suburb. Laid out as a self-contained manufacturing town at the turn of the twentieth century, it has an electric streetcar running down the main street twenty-four hours a day, three bus lines and two commuter train stations. A car is hardly necessary and the layout is classic urban Ontario, with tidily numbered streets and high-density amenities like greengrocers, a fish-and-chip shop, cafes, and a third-generation cobbler.
However, one of Rome’s points in Bulldozer resonates for me, and that is the powerful impact that witnessing the transformation of a landscape can have upon a person. I also find myself thinking about how useless it is to try to distinguish between ‘natural’ and ‘human’ landscapes.