Cities need healthy chunks of the world's ecosystems to persist if they are to survive; yet cities, like parasites, grow and prosper by local destruction of these very ecosystems. In this absorbing and wide-ranging book, the authors use New York City as a microcosm to explore both the positive and negative sides of the relationship between cities, the environment, and the future of global biodiversity. They illuminate the mass of contradictions that cities present by offering the best and the worst of human existence. Eldredge and Horenstein demonstrate that, though cities have voracious appetites for resources such as food and water, they also represent the last hope for conserving healthy remnants of the world's ecosystems and species. With their concentration of human beings, they bring together centers of learning, research, government, finance, and media – institutions that increasingly play active roles in solving environmental problems.
Some of the topics covered in Concrete Jungle:
- The geological history of the New York region, including remnant glacial features visible today
- The early days of urbanization on Manhattan Island, focusing on the history of Central Park, Collect Pond, and Manhattan Square
- The history of early railway lines and the development of New York’s iconic subway system
- The problem of producing enough safe drinking water for an ever-expanding population
- Prominent civic institutions, including universities, museums, and zoos
Niles Eldredge is Curator Emeritus at the American Museum of Natural History and codeveloper with Stephen Jay Gould of the theory of punctuated equilibria in evolutionary biology. Among his many books are Life in the Balance and Dominion (UC Press).
Sidney Horenstein is a geologist and Environmental Educator Emeritus with the American Museum of Natural History and the natural history consultant to The Bronx County Historical Society. He has written extensively about New York City geology.