Mannahatta 2409: Simulating the City Four Centuries in the Future
February 5, 2014
In geometry class, if you start with a false assumption, the proof that follows will also be false, no matter if all the intermediate steps were reasoned correctly. America started with just such a false presumption — the idea that there is always more to be had from the natural world. More oil, more land, more air, more water, more soil, more nature. No matter how much you consume, there is always more to be had over the next hill, in the next valley, on the frontier, somewhere else.
The American presumption is older than the nation itself, formed in ignorance during the time of European discovery and settlement, and then codified into our system of laws and economic practices. When the country was first explored, sciences like modern geology and ecology were still hundreds of years away and few understood how land was created or how the qualities of land varied and were sustained.
Sadly, that same original presumption persists today in how Americans manage our cities, despite centuries of accumulated knowledge. We build cities as if the fossil fuels that power them and the concrete that hardens them were infinite in abundance and can be deployed without regard to the air, water, soil and climate on which all life depends.
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