Urban Vermin

By Norell, Mark A. | Natural History, October 1997 | Go to article overview

Urban Vermin


Norell, Mark A., Natural History


Concrete Jungle: A Pop Media Investigation of Death and Survival in Urban Ecosystems. Edited by Mark Dion and Alexis Rockman [uno Books, $24.95; 219 pp., illus.)

By Mark A. Norell

Fleas the size of rats sucked on rats the size of cats

And ten thousand peoploids split into small tribes

Coveting the highest of the sterile skyscrapers

Like packs of dogs assaulting the glass fronts of Love-Me Avenue ...

David Bowie, "Future Legend"

REVIEW

Over the course of more than ten thousand years, human history has changed our environment, but the change is not always apparent. Is nature better preserved in Manhattan, where I live now; suburban Los Angeles, where I spent much of my youth; or on the periphery of some Vermont hamlet that is home to toothpaste and ice cream makers? Most would pick Vermont. Concrete Jungle's editors Mark Dion and Alexis Rockman-internationally renowned New York artists whose work deals with issues of the representation of nature-argue otherwise. Humans are part of nature, not a separate entity, and thus Yosemite and the Bowery are equally natural.

A book of interviews and essays, photographs, and illustrations, Concrete Jungle is often funny, sometimes shocking. Historical, contemporary, and futurist, it explores the margins and mainstream of society. So diverse are the contributors (artists, scientists, hobbyists, game-control officers) that describing them or their spectra of expertise would take most of this review. But the editors have reined in this disparate collection and loosely organized it under eight headings: "Wild in the City," "Alien Invaders," "Cats and Dogs," "Rats," "Hosting Others," "Trash," "Road Kill," and "Zoos, Museums and Other Fictions." After two careful readings, I have gained a whole new way of looking at the "natural world."

If you are interested in tree hugging or a description of how pristine places are being ruined and exploited, you won't find much of it here. Instead, the contributors examine basic questions about our role in the natural world, primarily from the perspective of urbanites. Collectively, they deconstruct the mythic view of nature as the equivalent of beauty and reveal a nature that all of us-bushman and beatnik-are part of.

This nature is not depicted in contemporary photographs and documentaries or packaged in gift shops as specialty products of the "nature industry." Unpleasant, distasteful, and sometimes repulsive, the natural world, with its human connection, is vividly portrayed in Concrete Jungle. Alive, we are hosts to hundreds of different parasites, including those that may invade our field of vision or result from too many sushi lunches. When we die, a fate no different from that of our cave man ancestors awaits us: in short order, flies with ultrasensitive scent glands find our bodies, proclaiming that a meal and a home for their young is to be had. Curiously, the succession of creatures feeding on our decomposing bodies is so exact (just like the succession of plants in a forest after clear-cutting) that it can be used as a forensic tool.

Is urban existence good for wildlife? Yes and no. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Urban Vermin
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.