The High Line Without Us

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Enlargefhl without usImage by Kenn Brown, monolithic.com

In many post-apocalyptic (and often sub-par) films, the "end of the world" usually refers to the destruction of civilized life on planet Earth. As human life flickers out, the film ends and the credits roll. However, as Alan Weisman illustrates in his book The World Without Us, what popular film sees fit to refer to as the "end of the world" would actually be a renaissance of sorts for planet Earth. Using New York City as a guide, Weisman outlines much of what would likely occur in a world without us, using the High Line as an illustration. After the unnamed apocalyptic event,
"The early pioneer plants won't even have to wait for the pavement to fall apart. Starting from the mulch collecting in gutters, a layer of soil will start forming atop New York's sterile hard shell, and seedlings will sprout. With far less organic material available to it-just windblown dust and urban soot-precisely that has happened in an abandoned elevated iron bed of the New York Central Railroad on Manhattan's West Side. Since trains stopped running there in 1980, the inevitable ailanthus trees have been joined by a thickening ground cover of onion grass and fuzzy lamb's ear, accented by strands of goldenrod. In some places, the track emerges from the second stories of warehouses it once serviced into lanes of wild crocuses, irises, evening primrose, asters, and Queen Anne's lace. So many New Yorkers, glancing down from windows in Chelsea's art district, were moved by the sight of this untended, flowering green ribbon, prophetically and swiftly laying claim to a dead slice of their city, that it was dubbed the High Line and officially designated a park."

Of course, the landscape of the High Line as a park will not technically be "without us" (though it would certainly help with maintenence costs!) However, this kind of self-seeded, found landscape was the exact inspiration for planting designer Piet Oudolf's selection and arrangement of plant species. More on that here.

Check out Weisman's website here, and be sure to check out the endlessly fun Google Earth tours.