Eric Sanderson delivered this fantastic presentation at the TED international conference and it was posted a few days ago. The Manhatta Project he has been working on uses historic and ecological research to recreate what Manhattan would have looked like when Hudson first sailed into the bay. An online map allows users to explore the island down to the individual blocks and compare the natural ecology with its current urban function.
In the last two minutes of the presentation, Sanderson takes the message in a different direction than you may expect. The implication is not that the pristine natural state is superior to human civilization, but that they mirror each other. They are both "interconnected, based on diversity, and having resilience." He imagines a world where a more compact city, traversed by bicycles and pedestrians, would be interspersed with the natural world.
"This is the future we need, a future that has the same diversity, abundance, and dynamism of Manhattan but learns from the sustainability of the past, the original ecology of nature with all of its parts."I'm hesitant to say that global cities like New York are the only kind of place we need, but certainly his overall idea of blending the natural ecology of a place with human needs would be pretty universally relevant.