About Me

portrait of Betsy McCullyThank you for visiting my website! As a nature writer and historian, I am motivated by my desire to provide my readers with a deep historical perspective on how a place has evolved and how it has been altered by human agency. I believe that knowledge of the ancient history of a place, of the powerful natural forces and processes that have shaped and continue to shape a region, helps us to appreciate the magnitude of human-induced changes in the land.

Some of these changes are irrevocable — we cannot bring back to life a species that we have driven into extinction; we cannot re-create an ecosystem that has been tens if not hundreds of thousands of years in the making. But we can restore at least remnants of old habitats and preserve what’s left.

I’m a contradiction, I suppose. I love the city and I love nature. I believe green cities, that is, environmentally sustainable cities, are possible. Density is more sustainable than sprawl as long as we do not over-run the carrying capacity of the land. I believe in a bio-regional model of development that places our human communities — be they urban, suburban or rural — within the larger biological community. Put simply: We share our space with other living beings. As human beings, we have the consciousness to choose a more sustainable lifestyle, and the imagination to design cities with a smaller ecological footprint. As urban dwellers, we need nature as much as we need food to eat and air to breathe and water to drink — and as you see, these necessities of life are dependent on healthy ecosystems.

My book, City at the Water’s Edge: A Natural History of New York (Rutgers/Rivergate Press, 2007), grew out of twenty years researching the city’s history and exploring the city’s natural world.

I have a Ph.D. in American Literature and have taught English and literature at George Washington University, Hofstra University, New York University, and Kingsborough College of the City University of New York. I recently retired from my position as a professor of English at Kingsborough, where I taught for 17 years. During my tenure, I co-founded the award-winning annual Kingsborough Eco-Festival. Besides my book, I’ve published essays and stories, and  have given many talks on the nature and natural history of my beloved city of New York.

Betsy McCully

Your portal to the nature and natural history of the New York region