A time before the city — and the nagging potential for destruction — is almost harder to imagine than a time after it. There have been attempts to resurrect in words the meadows of Harlem or waterways of Canal Street, linking them to a future long after the city is gone (I’m thinking here of books like Eric Sanderson’s beautiful Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City). But Sandy was more convincing than any book. The surge revealed the potential for pre-history’s return — flooding those parts of the city made by man, the filled up places like Battery Park City or the pestilential swamp surrounding the Gowanus Canal.
LARB’s latest dispatch from the Anthropocene: Environmental reporter David Biello reflects on our Armageddon fantasies in the wake of Super Storm Sandy, from his home near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, NY. Authors mentioned in this essay: Walt Whitman, Eric Sanderson, Don DeLillo, Colson Whitehead and God.