The Fall 2009 Environmental Planning Lecture
Mannahatta: Dr. Eric Sanderson
Wednesday, September 30 @ 4:00
Alampi Room, Institute of Marine & Coastal Sciences
(Book signing after lecture)
More art book than typical natural history book, Sanderson and Boyer recreate the ecology of Manhattan in Mannahatta as it was that 1609 September afternoon when Henry Hudson first saw it. The Mannahatta Project is a current exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York; the book is a New York Times Best Seller; it is on this month’s cover of National Geographic.
The Mannahatta Project began a decade ago, when landscape ecologist Dr. Eric Sanderson, a native Californian, moved to New York City to work for the world famous Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo. Dr. Sanderson realized that, to fully appreciate the concrete landscape of streets and buildings that was his new home, he would have to “go back in time” to recreate the its ecology from the “ground up.” As a landscape ecologist, Dr. Sanderson uses spatial analysis techniques to protect wildlife in modern landscapes. His revolutionary idea was to apply these techniques to recreate an extinct, historic landscape in detail, that is, to recreate, in digital form using mapping software, each and every hill, valley, stream, spring, beach, forest, cave, wetland, and pond that existed on Mannahatta.
"The larger idea here is that the best way for the city to plan ahead is to look back."
The goal of the Mannahatta Project has never been to return Manhattan to its primeval state,” Sanderson writes. “The goal of the project is to discover something new about a place we all know so well, whether we live in New York or see it on television, and, through that discovery, to alter our way of life. New York does not lack for dystopian visions of its future. . . . But what is the vision of the future that works? Might it lie in Mannahatta, the green heart of New York, and with a new start to history, a few hours before Hudson arrived that sunny afternoon 400 years ago?
- NYT Book Review, Robert Sullivan, 5.22.09