Graniteville Swamp

Blog post 1

Celine Seifi

Reading both “The Transmission of Affect” and “Vibrant Matter” made me realize the importance of my ecology, my positionality in this precarity and what I am bringing to it. Graniteville Swamp, a 42-acre wetlands and woodlands in Staten Island, has been undisturbed for centuries. Yet now, real estate developers are putting the site, and locals who benefit from it, at risk. It seems as though locals, who have formed the Coalition for Wetlands and Forests, have been fighting a losing battle. Developers have proposed a 28-acre development within the Graniteville Swamp site, seeking both residential and commercial zoning permission, including gas stations, wholesale clubs, and massive parking spaces.

Stepping into the still-untouched Graniteville wetlands this weekend was like entering a different world. I left the hectic, bustle of New York city behind and was greeted with peace and heavenly nature. Teresa Brennan’s “The Transmission of Affect” argues that the energies and emotions of a person or group can enter directly into the other. Brennan’s theory of affect is based on constant communication between individuals and their physical and social environments, as she says “there is no secure distinction between the individual and the environment” (Brennan, 6). The Graniteville Swamp is not a natural site that simply exists nearby to its surrounding community, it is a landmark that influences the way that community lives; the Swamp and the community live in tandem. Affect means to impact or change and as Brennan puts it “affects are material, physiological things” (Brennan, 6). This ecosystem provides a crucial physiological function to locals, by acting as a natural buffer to floods from storms and rising sea levels. In addition to removing protection to local homeowners, a wide variety of animals call Graniteville home as well. During Hurricane Sandy, this wetland was the reason the community was saved from the horrendous storm. You may be wondering, how did the people living there survive? Well, let me explain it to you in six words. Nature was able to protect Graniteville. The trees blocked the winds, absorbed the water and shielded the community. Until now, providing security and safety were a two-way street. The protections afforded by the Swamp were in return for its community protecting the Swamp’s very existence.

A forest with tall trees with green leaves.
“The Wetland Forest” (Nathan, Kensinger).

Jane Bennett’s “Vibrant Matter” inspired me to talk about this issue, create a website to garner awareness, in hopes that there will be enough local support to derail the proposed developments, and to allow the developers to recognize the consequences of said propositions. In claiming that she wants to promote “greener forms of human culture and more attentive encounters between people-materialists and thing materialists” (Bennett,X), Bennett is attempting to incite more intelligent and sustainable engagements with vibrant matter and lively things. In her book, Bennett explores the roles of inanimate objects and how humans interact with them. She uses case studies to make the reader understand what agency is and who or what is capable of possessing and using agency. She also emphasizes on the goal of shaping consciousness in order to expand humanity’s understanding of its place in the world. Perhaps, this understanding would be furthered by acknowledging the long-term affects of human actions, on humanity’s prospects. This wetland is soon to be destroyed for material gain, and without this natural buffer, homes (and the new developments) are going to be at risk from the next big storm. The community is at risk to be flooded and residents are now forced to get flood insurance that currently isn’t required in order to protect their personal belongings. This causes homes to be unaffordable. In addition to that, since more than 1700 trees are going to be cut down, there will be an increased susceptibility to illnesses due to the CO2 pollution. They want to build a gas station, meaning that the ground water in this area is going to be polluted and contaminated.

“Destroying The Wetland”(Nathan, Kensinger).

Works Cited:

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: a Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press, 2010.

Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Cornell University Press, 2004.

Nathan, Kensinger. “Destroying The Wetland.” Curbed NY, 6 Sept. 2019, ny.curbed.com/2019/9/6/20851432/staten-island-graniteville-swamp-development-photo-essay.

Nathan, Kensinger. “The Wetland Forest.” Curbed NY, 6 Sept. 2019, ny.curbed.com/2019/9/6/20851432/staten-island-graniteville-swamp-development-photo-essay.

~ by celineseifi on September 28, 2019.

One Response to “Graniteville Swamp”

  1. Learned From Most: NY is not traditionally thought of as the greenest city in the world, so I have never thought of how nature works in tandem with communities that live here. The fact that the Graniteville Swamp saved the community from the hurricane is an interesting fact that I have discovered, but it also prompted me to think more about the synergies that environments create.

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