November 16, 2011 Features & Images » Feature Story

Ken Melamed 

Fire in the soul

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"I've seen five development proposals for that land," he says, not referring solely to the university. "What gets me going is when people say this is sustainable because we're staying away from the most sensitive areas. I'm not a biologist, but I've talked to enough biologists and ecosystem experts who say a wetland depends on its high ground and the adjoining habitat areas as much as what we used to call swamps.

"They call wetlands the lungs of the planet but biodiversity doesn't work without the richness of the variabilities, so you need the wet, open areas, you need the transition areas, you need the tall, open forest. Imagine what 1,500 people would look like. What would you do, put a fence around the school so they didn't wander into the old growth and wetlands?"

Melamed is facing five opponents in total, and two of them have spent months building electoral machines, canvassing social media and holding events to make a name for themselves among the voters.

His campaign has seemed low-key by comparison. At the end of October, Melamed didn't yet have a website, nor any signs up on the highway. He spent more time strategizing and listening to what his opponents were saying than actually jumping on the hustings himself.

"It's been kind of fun watching them go at each other, not knowing if I was going to run or not," he says. "It was entertaining to see how they were going to position themselves."

Melamed's advisors tell him a campaign often comes down to its last week.

On our way out of the forest, Melamed looks offended when he notices discarded pieces of plastic scattered near his stonework - a "callous act," he calls it, as he picks them up and carries them out of the woods, his own small contribution to keeping the Emerald Forest pristine.

Reflecting one last time on his surroundings, he adds: "It's an amazing place, it can be more amazing."

 

 

 

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