The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Sunday, November 24, 2002
INVISIBLE CITIES: This just in: Researchers have found the lost eastern terminus of the Erie Canal. "Once flowing with water," the Albany Times-Union
reports, "the Albany hub -- locks, the collector's house and the acre-sized Little Basin holding area -- became obsolete in 1918 with the opening of the New York State Barge Canal and a lock system that ended about 12 miles north of Waterford. Years later, the Albany site was drained, filled and forgotten. The entire canal fell out of use with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1955." Scholars had long assumed that the eastern portion of the canal was destroyed completely, but now the terminus has turned up in a vacant lot near the Hudson.

From urban archeology to urban ecology: In Saturday's New York Times, there's a fascinating article about botanists' and zoologists' newfound interest in city environments. "Until recently," writes reporter Alexander Stille, "the only real environments thought worth studying were in 'pristine' nature, remote areas as far as possible from the footprint of human beings. Cities, by contrast, were seen as unnatural, nonenvironments, whose parks and gardens, ornamental plants and scraggly sidewalk trees and weeds were of as little interest to ecologists as house cats and lap dogs are to big game hunters." In the last 25 years, though, those assumptions were shaken by the discovery that "virtually all 'pristine' environments bore clear signs of human intervention: fires, the hunting of animals, the harvesting of plants, herbs, nuts or fruits." Meanwhile, cities contain much more biodiversity than previously assumed, undermining the conventional wisdom on everything from urban planning to invasive species.


posted by Jesse 12:43 PM
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