Eric Sanderson on the ecological history of Manhattan

The Five Thousand Pound Life: Land, Nature and the City (Part 1)

September 26, 2014

Eric Sanderson details the previously rich ecology of Manhattan or Mannahatta, “land of many hills,” and the disruption of natural systems following European settlement in the 17th century. He warns that the modern economy has treated nature as a free good: “Every time we build a building or a road, we are taking from the ecological commons, the commons of nature, and we are appropriating something to our private good.”

Sanderson is an expert in the ecology of New York City, a Senior Conservation Ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), and the best-selling author of Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City (2009) and Terra Nova: The New World After Oil, Cars, and Suburbs (2013).

The Five Thousand Pound Life: Land was a symposium on rethinking land and its value in light of climate change organized by The Architectural League and co-sponsored by The Cooper Union Institute for Sustainable Design in September 2014.

The Nature and the City panel brought together two experts in ecological history to present New York City’s natural history and development and debate how we value — or don’t value — nature today.