Nora Chuff

MLA I

Reciprocal Ruination: Nature and New York City

Advised by Alex Wall

When in the mid-21st century New York City erected a massive circular “sea wall,” it was a final, drastic attempt to protect the famous city from the destructive forces of the rising seas and the increasingly volatile weather events; a desperate, material reaction to a cosmic power shift. Though the wall recalled defensive fortified cities common throughout human history, this was erected to protect New Yorkers not from rival groups, but instead from Nature, of whom they have made an enemy. 

Construction of the wall physically manifested the perceived opposition between “nature” and “culture.” While inside and outside were now segregated by firm borders, the roles of aggressor and victim nevertheless maintained their steady process of reversal. This cosmic reckoning culminated with the destruction of the wall in 3100 CE. In its fragmentary, ruined, and overgrown state, the wall ultimately achieved a tragic but harmonious integration of the formerly oppositional forces; it exemplified a brief period of equilibrium amid the violent transition between two world orders.

An overhead view of a map showing waterway inset within a cross-section of a tree trunk showing bark and cambium layers.   The top half of background shows  green foliage and small tree trunks and the lower half is bright blue.