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    A River's Place: High School Student Activism and Environmental Protection on Long Island, New York, 1956-1974
    By Neil Buffett | February 22nd 2010 10:38 AM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

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    Footnotes were somehow lost in translation. Listed Below: “Riding to a River’s Rescue,” Newsday, 26 April 1973, P. 9; Pamela Warrick, “…And the River Kept Chuckling Along,” Newsday, 12 June 1974, P. 17; Dennis Starin, “Students Chart Carmans River,” The New York Times, 16 June 1974, P. 89; Nancy Sailor Philips, interview with author, 31 August 2006; Arthur P. Cooley, interview by author, 8 September 2006; Michael Butler, interview with author, 21 September 2006; and, I. William Bianchi, interview with author, 29 September 2006. Later that same year, the federal government passed its own bill, the Marine Mammal Protection Act (1972), which mirrored the New York State legislation. Butler interview, author. Elizabeth Shreeve, interview with author, 12 September 2006. In the author’s interview with him, Cooley confirmed that he relegated all questions of activism and politics to the students to be discussed and decided upon by them. The SEQ did not disband in 1974, and the collaboration between Cooley and members remained strong until 1989 when he retired from BSHS. The organization still exists to this day with current advisor Dan O’Connor. William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” in William Cronon, ed, Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996), 69-90. Rosalyn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewen, Picture Windows: How the Suburbs Happened (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 158; For more on the suburban home as achievement and the most prized consumer item, see Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumers’ Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (New York: Vintage Books, 2003), Part III; For other contemporary works on the suburban America, see Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985); Robert Fishman, Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia (New York: Basic Books, 1987); Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998); Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New Right (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001); Becky M. Nicolaides, My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Bruce D. Haynes, Red Lines, Black Spaces: The Politics of Race and Space in a Black Middle Class Suburb (New Haven: Yale University, 2001); Dolores Hayden, Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000 (New York: Pantheon, 2003); Andrew Wiese, Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2004); Kevin M. Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); Matthew D. Lassiter, The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); and, Chales M. Lamb, Housing Segregation in Suburban America Since 1960: Presidential and Judicial Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). Gael Graham, Young Activists: American High School Students in the Age of Protest (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2006), 7, 97, 174, 198, 205-206; Previous studies have also highlighted high school student activism, but again, environmentalism has not been one of the issues acknowledged, see: Jeanne F. Theoharis and Komozi Woodard, eds. Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South, 1940-1980. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003); Franklin, Barry M. “Community, Race, and Curriculum in Detroit: The Northern High School Walkout.” History of Education. Vol. 33. No. 2. March 2004. 137-156; Gael Graham, “Flaunting the Freak Flag: Karr v. Schmidt and the Great Hair Debate in American High Schools, 1965-1975,” The Journal of American History. Vol. 91. No. 2. (September, 2004); In the early 1970s, several edited volumes were published which provided first hand accounts of high school student activists, including: Marc Libarle and Tom Seligson, eds. The High School Revolutionaries (New York: Random House, 1970); and, John Birmingham, ed. Our Time is Now: Notes from the High School Underground (New York: Praeger, 1970). For example, high school students throughout the New York Metropolitan Region organized various environmental action groups in the months and years following Earth Day, including, among others, John Dewey High School’s Marine Biology Club in Brooklyn, New York; Students Against Violence to the Environment (S.A.V.E) in Farmingdale, New York; the Nissequogue Environmental Committee (N.E.C) from Saint Anthony’s High School in Smithtown, New York; Students Concerned About Tomorrow (S.C.A.T) from Dover-Sherborn High School in Dover, Massachusetts; Trenton Central High School’s Ecology Club in Trenton, New Jersey; The Society for Human Survival from Conard High School in West Hartford, Connecticut; and, the Environmental Action Regional Task Force of Hartford (E.A.R.T.H), which was composed of high school students from schools across Greater Hartford; For examples of high school environmental activists’ archived position papers and analyses, see Lou Siegel, Harold Silverstein and students in Advanced Marine Biology, John Dewey High School, A Critical Analysis of the Report Submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers, “Proposed Beach Erosion Control and Hurricane Protection Improvement – Atlantic Coast of New York City – From Rockaway Inlet to Norton Point (21 March, 1972), 3-4, from the private collection of Lou Siegel; Marine Biology Club of John Dewey High School, “A Critical Analysis of the ‘Preliminary Draft Environmental Impact Statement Rockaway Inlet to Norton Point, New York Beach Erosion Project – Prepared by the U.S. Army Engineer District – New York, 28 November 1972’ – Promise and Performance,” (22 March, 1973), 6-8, found in the personal collection of Lou Siegel; Marine Biology Club of John Dewey High School and Faculty Advisors, Opposition to Petition of NY City EPA (Petition No. Tw-20,000-0068, To fill in with solid waste incinerator residue the area of Queens section of Spring Creek Development) (23 January, 1974), 1-4, from the private collection of Lou Siegel; Marine Biology Classes of John Dewey High School and Faculty Advisers, Opposition to Petition of NY City EPA to Fill Area Bounded by Springfield Boulevard to the West, 149th Avenue to the North; A Continuation of 232nd Street to the East and Proposed Rockaway Boulevard to the South (Petition No. TW-24, 107-0068), (3 February, 1974), 1, from the private collection of Lou Siegel; Nissequogue Environmental Committee, Survey of the Nissequogue River (Smithtown, NY: Saint Anthony’s High School), 1971 - Found at the Smithtown Public Library and the Frank Melville Jr. Memorial Library, Stony Brook University, Government Documents Collection; Nissequogue Environmental Committee, Survey of the Nissequogue River (Smithtown, NY: Saint Anthony’s High School), 1973, ix, found at the Smithtown Public Library; and, Nissequogue Environmental Committee, Survey of the Nissequogue River (Smithtown, NY: Saint Anthony’s High School), 1977, found at the Smithtown Public Library. For example, see: Susan R. Schrepfer, The Fight to Save the Redwoods: A History of Environmental Reform, 1917-1978 (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1983); Samuel Hays, Beauty, Health, and Permanence: Environmental Politics in the United States, 1955-1985 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Roderick Frazier Nash, The Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1989); Kirkpatrick Sale, The Green Revolution: The American Environmental Movement, 1962-1992 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993); Philip Shabecoff, A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993); Hal K. Rothman, The Greening of a Nation: Environmentalism in the United States Since 1945 (Fort Worth: Harcourt Press, 1998); Thomas R. Dunlap, Faith in Nature: Environmental as Religious Quest. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004); and, Bill Christofferson, The Man From Clear Lake, Earth Day Founder, Senator Gaylord Nelson (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2004). For example, see: Robert D. Bullard, Race, Class, and Environmental Quality (Boulder: Westview, 1990); Riley E. Dunlap and Angela G. Mertig, eds. American Environmentalism: The U.S. Environmental Movement, 1970-1990 (New York: Taylor & Francis, 1992); Robert Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement (Washington: Island, 1993); Andrew Szasz, EcoPopulism: Toxic Waste and the Movement for Environmental Justice (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994); Andrew Hurley, Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945-1980 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, 1995); Laura Pulido, Environmentalism and Economic Justice: Two Chicano Struggles in the Southwest (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1996); David E. Camacho, ed. Environmental Injustices, Political Struggles: Race, Class, and the Environment (Durham: Duke University, 1998); Daniel Faber, ed. The Struggle for Ecological Democracy: Environmental Justice Movements in the United States (New York: Guilford Press, 1998); Christopher Sellers, “Body, Place and the State: The Makings of an ‘Environmentalist’ Imaginary in Post-World War II U.S.,” Radical History Review 74 (Spring,1999), 31-64; Luke W. Cole & Sheila R. Foster, eds. From the Ground Up: Environmental Justice Movement (New York: New York University, 2001); Adam Rome, The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); David Naguib Pellow, Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002); and, Adam Rome, “’Give Earth a Chance’: The Environmental Movement and the Sixties,” Journal of American History 90, 2 (2003), 525-554. Samuel Hays, Beauty, Health, and Permanence: Environmental Politics in the United States, 1955-1985 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 3-4. Adam Rome, The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 1-6. Cooley interview, author; Arthur Cooley, interview with Christopher Sellers, 7 April 1997; All SEQ members interviewed distinctly remember participating in the bird-watching expeditions, see Shreeve interview, author; Nancy Shellabarger, interview with author, August 28, 2006; Nancy Sailor-Phillips, interview with author, August 31, 2006; Ron Rozsa, interview with author, 1 September 2006; Linda Jensen, interview by author, 5 September 2006; Nina Herrera, interview with author, 13 September 2006; John Jensen, interview with author, 15 September 2006; and, Pamela Borg, interview with author, 19 September 2006. Cooley interview, author; Cooley interview, Sellers; Shreeve interview, author; Shellabarger interview, author; Sailor-Phillips interview, author; Rozsa interview, author; Jensen interview, author; Herrera interview, author; Jensen interview, author; and, Borg interview, author. Cooley interview, author. Sailor-Phillips interview, author; Shreeve interview, author; Rozsa interview, author; Cooley interview, author; Shellabarger interview, author. Sailor-Phillips interview, author. Cooley interview, author; Cooley interview, Sellers; Dennis Puleston, interview with Christopher Sellers, 23 September 1996; Sellers, “Body, Place and the State,” 1999; and Myra Gelband, Brookhaven Town Natural Resources Committee, A Call For Action unpublished paper, 16 May 1969, Environmental Defense Archive: Arthur Cooley Papers, Special Collections Department, SUNY Stony Brook. Shellabarger interview, author. Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Bantam Books, 1993). Linda Jensen interview, author; Shreeve interview, author. Rozsa interview, author. Cooley interview, author; Cooley interview, Sellers; Rozsa interview, author. According to the 1971 BSHS Yearbook, The Log, only ten members were involved in the first year. However, through interviews with “Cooley Kids” there seems to be many more who identified with SEQ even though they are not in the official SEQ pictures. Cooley’s other students may have participated in many of the group’s events and programs. Cooley interview, author; Cooley interview, Sellers; and, Rozsa interview, author. Cooley interview, author. Ronald Rozsa and John H. Jensen to Senator Bernard Smith and Assemblyman Peter J. Costigan, et al, 17 March 1971. Arthur Cooley Collection, SEQ, Bellport Senior High School. Paul M. Kelsey, “Youth and the Environment,” The Conservationist (August-September, 1971), 32-33, Arthur Cooley Collection, SEQ, Bellport Senior High School.; Cooley interview, author; Cooley interview, Sellers. Cooley interview, author; Cooley interview, Sellers; and, Kelsey, 1971. Cooley interview, Sellers. Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Title 27, New York State Environmental Conservation Law, 15-2701 - 15-2723 found in New York Consolidated Law Service: Annotated Statutes with Forms, Environmental Conservation Law, Articles 15 to 22 Vol. 12A, (Rochester: The Lawyers Co-operative,1982), 206. Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977), 6, quoted in Tim Cresswell, Place: A Short Introduction (Malden: Blackwell, 2004), 8. Cooley interview, author; Linda Jensen interview, author; Borg interview, author; Shreeve interview, author; Arnold Rubin, “Lifeways, Quality of Life: How to Save a River,” Senior Scholastic (16 January 1975), 4-7. Borg interview, author. Rubin, 5; U.S. Census ’70: The Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board, Vol. 1, “Number of Inhabitants,” (1971), 20-21; See also: Kenneth T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York, Oxford University Press, 1985), P. 4. Jackson notes that by 1980, 40% or over 100 million Americans lived in suburban communities; In Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia (New York: Basic Books, 1987), Robert Fishman notes that between 1950 and 1970 American suburbs grew by 85 million people (182). Rubin, 5. Rome, The Bulldozer in the Countryside, 225-230, 236-247; Hays, 164-170, 450-457. I. William Bianchi, interview with author, 29 September 2006; Cooley interview, author; Rubin, 6. “Public Meeting Mar. 22 On Scenic River Bill,” The Long Island Advance, 15 March 1973, P. 1, Sec. 1. Bianchi interview, author. Bianchi interview, author. Jon Margolis, “Bill to Save a Scenic River is Sinking,” Newsday, 11 April 1973. “Bianchi Discusses Conservation Bills with SEQ Students at BHS,” The Long Island Advance, 19 April 1973, P. 1, 6. Rubin, 5. Bianchi interview, author. Robin Young Roe, “Two BHS Students Take The Long Way to Albany,” The Long Island Advance, 26 April 1973, P. 1,7. Roe, 7; Cooley interview, author; Butler interview, author. “Travelers Rained Out But Sun May Shine on River,” The Long Island Advance 3 May 1973, P. 1,15; Bianchi interview, author. “Carmans River Bill Signed by Governor,” The Long Island Advance 21 June 1973, P. 7; Bianchi interview, author. Cooley interview, author; Rubin, 6. Bellport Senior High School Advanced Biology Students, A Study of the Carmans River Basin unpublished study, 1970, Post Morrell Foundation, Brookhaven, New York and Arthur Cooley Collection, SEQ, Bellport Senior High School; Cooley interview, author. Bellport Senior High School Students for Environmental Quality, The Carmans River Study: Recommendations for the Inclusion of the River in the New York State Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, unpublished report prepared by BSHS SEQ for the New York State Department of Conservation, (January 1974), Melville Library, SUNY Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York. See Richard White, The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995), in which technological manipulation of the Columbia River altered human relations with the waterway. Pamela Borg and Elizabeth Shreeve, The Carmans River Story: A Natural and Human History, 1974, Melville Library, SUNY Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York. Shreeve interview, author. Shreeve interview, author; Borg interview, author. Pranay Gupte, “L.I. Students Rejoice in Signing Of Bill to Protect Carmans River,” The New York Times, 12 June 1974; Warrick, 17; and, “Carman’s River Now Protected by State,” The Long Island Advance, 13 June 1974, 1, 23. Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers System Title 27, New York State Environmental Conservation Law, 15-2701 - 15-2723 found in New York Consolidated Law Service: Annotated Statutes with Forms, Environmental Conservation Law, Aticles 15 to 22 Vol. 12A, (Rochester: The Lawyers Co-operative,1982), 211; Cooley interview, author. Rubin, 7. Baxandall and Ewen; Cohen. Interview with James Gamaldi, by author, 26 October 2006. Jacoby, 64-65, 73, 76-77, 141-146; See also, Steinberg, Nature Incorporated, Chapter 4; Richard W. Judd, Common Lands, Common People: The Origins of Conservation in Northern New England (Cambridge: Harvard University, Press, 1997). Rubin, 7; James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998); See Scott’s theory applied to conservation in Karl Jacoby, Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001). Rome, 210. Hays, 147. “Top Ecology Award to Bellport Students,” The Long Island Advance, 20 June, 1974. Cooley interview, author.
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