Walter Russell Mead: Nature and Nature’s GodRoundup: Historians' Take
Walter Russell Mead is the Henry Kissinger senior fellow for US foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World. He also writes a blog for the American Interest.
While the lights went out across Manhattan tonight, and the city that calls itself the capital of the world was cut off from the mainland as flood waters thundered through its streets, many people around the world watched the spectacle and were reminded just how fragile the busy world we humans build around us really is.
Manhattan is one of those places where nature seems mostly held at bay. Except for the parks, oases of carefully preserved nature deliberately shaped by the hand of man, every inch of the city’s surface has been covered by something manmade. The valleys have been exalted, the mountains laid low and the rough places plain.
Those who live and do their business there pay very little attention to the natural world most of the time. It can be hard to get a taxi in the rain, and the occasional winter snowstorm forces a brief halt to the city’s routine, but the average New Yorker’s attention is on the social world, not the world of nature. What’s happening to your career, your bank account, your friendships and loved ones, the political scene and the financial markets: those are the concerns that occupy the minds of busy urbanites on their daily rounds.
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