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February 06, 1970 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1970-02-06

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Friday, February 6, 1970


Page Five

Friday, February 6, 1970 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Five

it rir I ww nw >

Environment: Of marshes and men'

The Honorable Kamal Monsour
First Druz Candidate to the Israel Knesset (Parliament)

John and Mildred Teal, Life
and Death of the Salth Marsh,
Little, Brown and Co. $7.95.
Now that Mother Earth is
increasingly supplanting Moth-
erhood as the safe issue of
American politicians, the en-
vironmentally concerned are
subjected to more and more "in-
formation" pollution. The pol-
luters are sometimes ignored
and lying out of vested interest.
Fortunately, the writings of
John and Mildred Teal, effec-
t vely supplemented by the
d awings of Richard Fish, serve
admirably as a kind of marsh
land information pollution con-
trol at present. I hope they will
also be used as a source for
ideas on marsh land enhance-
ment in the future.
Mr. and Mrs. Teal have writ-
ten about the salt marsh-the
low, wet, grassy land generally
found between the inland high
tide mark and the barrier beach-
es of the Eastern coast of North
America. Despite the proximity
of salt marshes to the large
population along the Atlantic
.seaboard, they are seldom fre-
quented and poorly understood
by most. People who do visit
and use the marsh are likely to
be eradicative agents: land fill
developers, marina magnates,
dredging fiends, pesticide users,
and industrial and civil garbage
dumpers. As it stands, nature'
'' lovers, commercial and sports
fishermen, hunters, and natu-
ralists concerned with future
human needs - those who re-
quire the preservation of the
unique marsh land ecology-are
in a power minority. Life and
Death of the Salt Marsh gives
an account of both of these

human uses of the marsh as
well as the ecological and geo-
logical developments instru-
mental in its being and becom-
The first part of the book
serves to introduce the reader
to the salt marsh. A short sen-
sitive visit to the marsh is fol-
lowed by a 'description of the
genesis and subsequent changes
occurring in a particular marsh
in New England. Here geologi-
cal and biological events since
the retreat of the Laurentide
Glacier, about 10,000 years ago,
are blended with archaeological
knowledge of Indian habitation
and historical accounts docu-
menting.. the settlement of a
pioneer English family and their
descendants. The result is a
story, at first heavily depend-
ent on geological and biological
inference, 1 a t e r dramatically
aided by social inference. While
the style is somehow appealing
in its simplicity and the con-
tinuity is appreciated, the read-
er lacks evidence or references
to support such inferences as
"One autumn (thousands of
years ago) there was an unus-
ually severe storm." Perhaps this
is legitimate poetic license.
It is in the second section of
the book, dealing with the pres-
ent day ecology of salt marshes,
that the Teals are the most en-
gaging. Indeed, much of the
discussion is based on research
they are best acquainted with.
The differing geographical and
geological coniditions which pre-
vail in a latitudinal direction
along the coast are related to
the variations in biological
adaptations a n d s e a s o n a l
changes observed.
Salt marshes are seen as a
narrow zone of especially in-
teresting geomorphic and or-

ganic activity. Their soil and
drainage depends on a delicate
interaction between fresh water
sediment deposits and ocean
tides while the forms of life
which inhabit them have had to
become adapted to everchang-
ing conditions of oxygen and
nutrient availability, water level,
salinity, light, and temperature.
Survival of the salt marsh eco-
logy is continually threatened by
such relatively frequent hazards
as extreme river flooding and
hurricanes as well as major long
term trends in climate and
Among the plants, the Spar-
tina marsh grasses along most
of the coast, and the mangrove

Novel entertainments:

trees in Florida, are the prin-
cipal species. As ecological "do-
minants," the Spartina are dis-
cussed in considerable detail.
They have evolved special feat-
ures to adapt to the saline con-
ditions, high evaporation rate,
and mud oxygen shortage com-
mon to salt marshes which
frustrate the development of
most plants. These remarkable
mechanisms, combined with the
productivity of various marsh
algae, enable the marsh to be
unsually productive of organic
material. In fact they seem to
produce at least twice as much,
in terms of tonnage per acre
per year, as any environment, at
a comparable latitude.
As with plants, there are re-
latively few species of animals
on the salt marsh, but those
that adapted include some of
the most interesting and tasty
creatures known to man. The
Teals tell of the extremely suc-
cessful adaptive mechanisms of
such pests as mosquitoes and
biting flies, as well as the curious
habits and physiology of snails,
burrowing worms and mollusks,
various crabs, and other shell-
fish. Not surprisingly, the marsh
and its nearby estuarine en-
vironments are our only sup-
pliers of clams, shrimp, lobster,
crab, oysters, and various fish
an Easterner sorely misses in
Michigan. It is also an impor-
tant gastronomic host to such
visitors as raccoons, wrens, owls,
and exotic waterfowl, and the
extensive chain of marshes
along the Atlantic provides food,
and resting and nesting places
for many species of migratory
birds and fish.
Marsh conservation is the
subject of the final section. The
Teals are staunch advocates
for preserving the ribbon of
coastal salt marshes, citing their
current and potential value for
managed food supply, their re-
creational advantages, and their

utility in limiting mainland
damage caused by sea flooding
and wave action. On a less ob-
viously pragmatic level, the
marshes are defended for their
uniqueness and the variety of
organisms they support. Ecolo-
gists have found that some of
the adaptive features of unusual
organisms may be of instruc-
tive value to environmental man-
agement. Moreover the diversity
of natural environments can act
as an effective buffer to the
often locally monotonous and
h e n c e calamity-prone I a n d-
scapes shaped directly by human
As one would suspect, marsh
destruction is proceeding al-
armingly, particularly in recent
decades and in the more pop-
ulous areas. The Teals, however,
do not take the extremist posi-
tion, popular among some con-
servationists, that modern man
is simply no good for salt
marshes. Nor do they take the
rhetoric-steeped attitude that
capitalist industry is the only
bad guy. Instead they are quite
capable of going beyond cate-
gorical judgments; they cite
conscientious and malicious pri-
vate initiative as well as ef-
fective and destructive public
policy. This selectively critical
view leads to an array of sug-
gested solutions which are hu-
mane to both humanity and the
marsh and are implementable
given a reasonable amount of
money, a reshuffling of govern-
mental power, public interest,
and continued research.
After reading the book I was
pleased to see that the Teals did
not want me out of their marsh
-that human beings could be
appreciated as positively inter-
achting with "nature." An earlier
statement about a in a n 1 e s s
marsh-"The entire system has
been constructed by natural se-
lection so that it functions with
great economy."-had essential-
ly forewarned "No Trespass-
ing!" It is encouraging to see
the conservation-minded incor-
porating man batk into nature,
and I would hope that future
research reflects this recogni-
tion. Quite ironically, on a re-
cent trip, I had tried to get to
Sapelo Island, Georgia where,
as it turns out, most of the salt
marsh research has been done.
A local boatman told me it was
Today's writers.. .
Jack Eichenbaum t a u g h t
chemistry in Switzerland and
England before coming to the
University; he is, presently a
Doctoral Candidate in Geogra-
phy. Melissa Alexander, a PBK-
pinned housewife, consumes
novels at a prodigious rate.



HILLEL LOU NGE-1429 Hill Street

8:30 P.M.

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Mee ting

Sun day, Feb,


I i
, s

Myles Eric Ludwig, Golem, Wey-
bright and Talley, $6.95
Anthony Dekker, Temptation in
a Private Zoo, Morrow, $5.95
TarJel Vesaas, The Birds, Mor-
row, $5.00
Alexis Tolstoy, Vampires, Haw-
thorne, $4.95
Golem: New York Jew, col-
lege drop-out (what was he do-
ing at the University of N. Car-.
olina anyway?), pothead, phil-"
osopher, "comic villain," sexual
explorer, moral protagonist; in
short, a "Hero for our Time."
His existential adventures cul-
minate in an explosive, Mor-
gan-like scene during a Yom,
:Kippur service. The novel con-
tains some very funny bits on
Americana - from 'tv "Super-
market Sweepstakes" to N e w
York Gurus - insights i n t o
America as fiction ("a meta-
phor for itself"), and lots of
just plain, and not so plain,
sex. The writing is often dense
with ideas, sometimes ridicu-
lously obtuse, in parts awkward
and uneven, but in the main,
startlingly original and success-
Norwegian Tarjei Vesaas has
twice been nominated for a No-
bel Prize. His novel The Birds
reveals a strength and sensi-
tivity which have distinguished
his as o n e of Scandanavia's
greatest living authors. Journ-
eying into the doubting, super-
sensitive and frightened mind

of Mattis, callede "Simple Si-
mon'' by the villagers, The
Birds tells the bittersweet and
tragic story of a man unable to
cope, for everyone seems to him
so much more "clever." Work-
ing in the farmers' fields, he be-
comes troubled and confused;
only alone in the woods or row-
ing on the lake can he relax
and think clearly: he becomes
the ferryman for a lake no one
wants to cross. His final tragedy
is precipitated by the potential
loss of his sister, who has al-
ways supported and protected
him. The power of the novel lies
in the utter simplicity and sym-
pathy with which it is told.
Reading Temptation in a Pri-
vate Zoo is like going to a James
Bond mdvie, only it takes long-
er. The' novel, replete with girls
outfitted to color-match the
Jaguars they drive, a hero en-
dowed with prodigious sexual
prowess and raw nerve, a hero-
ine as good-looking as she is
clever and clean, and a villain
with designs on the entire
world, revolves around a pleas-
ure weekend at a secluded man-
sion, whose chief attraction is
a restored bearcave, where
murder, blackmail, and deceit
lurk behind the extravagant
trappings. Aside from some un-
successful attempts at' flam-
boyant writing and a few very
obvious intrigues, this suspense
novel is quick-moving, absorb-
ing, and satisfying reading.
When in paperback, it will be
perfect for a boring plane trip
or long hospital stay.

Written by an elder cousin of
the Tolstoy, the four stories in
Vampires might have shivered
the imagination of the good la-
dies of 19th century Russian so-
ciety, but they lack any real
sense of foreboding and dread,
or the kind of gripping horror,
which might make them com-
pelling for us now. They read
like weird parlor dramas or
Grimm's Tales a la Russe. Part
of the problem lies in the fact
that the author has failed to
create living characters w i t h
any more depth or reality than
his phantoms have. Part of the
problem lies in history, which
removes from our realm of ex-
perience the settings for most
of the stories - 19th Century
Russian salons and mansions,
Serbian peasant h u ts; the
worlds of the real and the sup-
ernatural seem oddly similar,
thus easing any sense we might
have of invasion into our world
by threatening and mysterious

3529 SAB

7.00 p.m.

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