Essay Sample: New York Before the City

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1954 words
Sewanee University of the South
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Eric Sanderson uses imagery to describe and define how the city looked like in the past. Sanderson illustrates through a task, which he and his colleagues have been working on to identify the natural environment, known as the Mannahatta project. He uses an illusion map to create a mental picture of how the earth looked like in the beginning. He describes the environment in which he grew up, the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the Red Rock Canyon where he first learned about landscape (Sanderson, 2009). It was characterized by natural plants; noting that streams, forests, and cliffs made the natural habitat for both humans and animals. For instance, he indicates that there is a natural landscape was appealing to the eyes and provided the balance needed to support life. Co-existing with each other was easy. It was therefore surprising to him when he left his motherland and landed in New York that has buildings and constructions have a different version of what involves diversity in an ecological setup. He sought to understand how the city through its diverse and unique landscape worked to provide a natural for both humans and animals.

Sanderson explains that he gained interest in New York City after viewing different buildings and he wanted to understand what existed in the past. This would make him understand the relationship between the ecological system; and how it supports human life and that of other living organisms (Sanderson, 2009). He accessed different paintings in the museum available to the public, which gave Sanderson insights about how the city looked like in the past. For instance, one painting shows how 125th Street looked like from the West Side Highway. Once a beach, the current 125th Street had a large water body where people could go and have fun. Currently, the place has buildings and has no single stream running through it. After reading history about how New York came into being, he learned that the metropolitan was a mega city that housed more than 10 million people due to it's available and evenly distributed natural resources (Sanderson, 2009). This was in the early 1950s where people did not tamper with the environment as they have in the modern day.

Another painting shows how the Greenwich Village looked like in the mid1700s where two students in a college are seated down overlooking a hill. The place as depicted in the image has trees, which make a huge percentage of the natural surrounding with grass on the hills. There are houses on the farthest corner meaning that people did not take much space in putting up constructions (Sanderson, 2009). The painting illustrates an environment that allowed plants to grow and flourish, and humans enjoyed the serene quietness. Sanderson continues researching about the city and runs across rich historical information that adds to what he has already identified. Through robust digital cameras, Sanderson and his team were able to create illusions of how the past might have looked like when the natural world existed. For instance, the map by militants gives detailed information about the ecological shape of New York City. It also has the geographic information system.

Sanderson shows a map after the Revolution meaning that New York City had gone through a significant change after industrialization. He points out places like Wall Street and City Hall Park, and after zooming to show how the Manhattan area looked like and how it has changed in the modern day (Sanderson, 2009). Some of the areas Sanderson claims have changed include Collect Pond, which provided New York City with fresh water for the first 200 years and Native-Americans before that and the Lispenard Meadows draining on what is TriBeCa in the modern day. Others areas that have since disappeared are beaches that come all the way to the 42nd Street. Sanderson uses a military map that has detailed description of the road network that made it easy for militants to understand their geographical surrounding. In addition, the map has areas of mutual interest to both biological information and to militants like hills, marshes, and streams. Militants needed to know where specific natural landmarks existed like sources of water so that they could access it when they traveled across the nation as they fought. Hills were used as hiding places (Sanderson, 2009). At the current position where Times Square is, two streams made it a wetland at the end of the Revolution.

Sanderson and his team decided to geo-reference the map of New York City so that they could identify the lost features in the way the town looks like in the modern day. This would make it easier for people to create mental images of how things would be if the city had large water bodies, forests, and buildings that allowed people to do their daily duties (Sanderson, 2009). By putting streets, buildings, and open spaces in the map, it is possible and easier to create a mental image. Sanderson uses the position of Collect Pond to give his illustration. He digitizes the pond to show where water would be and allows the audience sees where different paths leading to the surrounding would move. Sanderson used other areas in the modern and placed them in the old map-making sure that the audience follows up what he meant.

Sanderson argues that taking away buildings, roads, streets, and 18th Century features would enable him to create an image of how New York City looked like in its natural ecological environment (Sanderson, 2009). It would also be easy to understand how man existed in such a natural environment that accommodated animals as well. Sanderson makes digital elevation model that makes it easy to understand the composition of the soil in the city as it were. Topographical information gives details of how high the hills were and made it possible to follow the slopes, aspect, and directions the winds took in all seasons. Whe Equipped with this rich information, it is possible to understand the environment where Native-Americans existed. From the illustration, red places in the map show good areas in the Manhattan that would sustain life with ease as they were close to water bodies and that meant fish for them to eat as well as places protected from strong winds. The Lenape settlement was at the place near the Collect Pond they engaged in horticultural farming and grew beans, flowers, amongst other plants (Sanderson, 2009). Manhattan has 55 diverse ecological types that allowed different plants to grow with ease. For instance, there were forests, wetlands, marine communities, and the beach.

Sanderson states that they studied the birds, bees, and frogs, fish and found that there were different kinds of each both big and small animals. For instance, there were more than fifty different species of fish living in the Manhattan and heath chickens, which existed in that period and are no more (Sanderson, 2009). It was also easy to spot beavers and weasels along the streams as well as black bears in the forests. Sanderson explains that Native-Americans used the natural landscape for their benefit. To understand this argument, Sanderson introduces a concept of mapping a food chain. There was food, water, shelter, and reproductive resources and an intersection of these four factors provided the Native Americans with a natural habitat. Therefore, the Native Americans would be comfortable to live in an area that gave them access to food, water, shelter, and reproductive resources. They were also able to move with their animals and lived in diverse environments. The presence of large water bodies allowed them to grow plants for their home use during the time they settled at that specific place.

The speaker goes ahead and gives examples of how animals too find their natural habitats as long as they can access their necessities like food, shelter, and water. In addition, people and animals were able to live together since they had an indirect relationship (Sanderson, 2009). Sanderson and his team were able to create maps that allowed them to predict natural habitats for organisms and humans and came up with a conclusion that there existed a network in the society known as the Muir web.

Each point on the web represented an animal species, streams of water, or different solid type while lines connecting them showed how they related to each other. They make the nature resilient and allow it to work in the natural way where everything falls into place to complete the web in a complete manner (Sanderson, 2009). After taking the Muir webs into the map, it was possible to understand how people moved from one place to another. However, they encountered trees, vegetation on the ground, animals, and humans who would make their journey from one place to another easy or hard. They had to learn how to overcome such challenges presented in such a situation (Sanderson, 2009). With the use of technological knowledge, it is possible to create how ecological differences between places would look. It would also be easy to understand the landscape of New York City and how it was over four hundred thousand years ago. Sanderson shows images like the Hudson River, Times Square, and Collect Pond. Sanderson notes that science and visualization enables an individual to come up with different images and understand things as they work. He also states that Manhattan was a special place to live for both plants and animals due to the diversity in the ecological system (Sanderson, 2009). There was resilience in nature, which is needed in the modern world. The city as it is today shows a strong dependence on diversity so that people and animals can live with each other despite the changes taking place in the environment. It is the responsibility of individuals living in the city to find strengths in it and use for their benefit.


Sanderson argues that cities are a natural habitat for people, which means that they seek to have a balance in their places. However, in the current world, as it is, people are focusing on things like technology and science, which have less meaning as opposed to what people need to live comfortable lives. Sanderson states that people need to divert their attention to water, shelter, food, and reproductive sources. The intersection of these needs will provide a natural habitat for people who will enjoy spending their lives in an ecological environment that brings the balance. People will look forward to living comfortably with each other in the city irrespective of the number of people living in one place at a time.

Sanderson imagines New York City with fewer vehicles in the city that transmit gas and instead replace cars with bicycles, as they would cause less traffic in the metropolitan area. It would also be prudent to replace the current storm drains and sewers and have more streams running across the city with a large percentage of the town being covered in trees. Further, both residential and commercial buildings would adopt green rooftops, which would increase the greening levels in peoples habitats. Windmills would provide the powerhouses need as there would be a free flow of air around the city. Streams winding through the residential areas complete the idea city for all dwellers. The current twelve million people that live in the city would be living in the Manhattan area where wetlands and farmlands form the highest percentage. This would allow an ecological balance where man co-exists with the environment peacefully and takes care of it. This will help increase diversity in nature and people will sustain the ecological well-being for future generations.

Sandersons sentiments are impractical if they were taken in a literal way. This is because with the current globalization and industrialization of cities, having green cities is almost impossible. For instance, it would be hard to have...

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