Streams

Mannahatta

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson takes us back to what the isle of Manhattan must have looked like back in 1609. Sanderson combed through historical and archaeological records, geographically matched an 18th-century map of Manhattan to the modern cityscape, and used modern principles of ecology and computer modeling to re-create the wilds of the island four centuries ago. The book Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City is filled with illustrations. Visit the interactive Mannahatta Project website. The exhibition "Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City," is on view May 20 through Oct 12 at the Museum of the City of New York.

Event: Eric W. Sanderson will be speaking at the World Science Festival
Thursday, June 11th, at 6:30 pm
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
More information here.

Guests:

Eric Sanderson
News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
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Comments [8]

nat from brooklyn

The author's closing comment about the way we choose to live on the land or in an environment is the real take away of such a thought experiment.

As he mentioned, humans had lived in this area for thousands of years. While they shaped the land through fire and migration, their methods were ultimately sustainable. They maintained the biodiversity while meeting their needs for millenia.

What the Europeans brought was a different way to live that encouraged viewing the land as source of wealth, and not as a source of sustenance. We hunted the mink and the beaver to local extinction for fur. Killed off the wolves and coyotes because they threatened livestock (and not necessarily humans).

In what is an unimaginably short period in evolutionary time we have fought and won a war on our own natural ecology. It is time that we rethink this choice of how to live and our relationship to ecology. We've had 400 years to prove that our choice was a bad one.

May. 19 2009 01:10 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I find it ironically appropriate that the exhibition on the state of Manhattan Island before European contact ends on Columbus Day.

May. 19 2009 12:57 PM
Dan from Manhattanville

The Carolina Parakeet - another extinct bird that lived on Mannahatta?

May. 19 2009 12:53 PM
Shiro from Roosevelt Island

Any history on Roosevelt Island? Was this different than Manhattan?

May. 19 2009 12:53 PM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Charles C. Mann is his book “1491’ said that a lot of the America’s and the East Coast of the US was not really a totally untamed wilderness but rather a human managed landscape. Dose your guest have anything to say about that Leonard?

May. 19 2009 12:49 PM
Viktoria

What about the outer boroughs of New York City?

May. 19 2009 12:48 PM
Bobby G from East Village

On the 1609 map that has been created, what do the light yellow-green areas indicate? (for example, the East Village east of Ave B and the East Side north of 110th St.)

May. 19 2009 12:35 PM
Catherine Manning Flamenbaum from Babylon, NY

NYC is a human creation. Imagine a rocky, hilly, woods, prone to flood in the deep downtown city. It's population was and has remained 'diverse. Unlike the Puritans of New England, and the Catholics of Baltimore, The heart of New York beat to the rythym of trade exchange and 'the market'. Sailors in and out of NY's ideal seaport call to mind our images of the 'wild, wild west'. NY has always made and remade itself. NYC's atttraction is less about history and beautiful vistas. Rather its about the new and exciting. How astonishing!

May. 19 2009 12:34 PM

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