Rabbit Island                          Necker Island

Acres                                        91                                          74

Bald Eagles                                                                         0

Saunas                                      1*                                          0

Fresh Water            12.7% of world supply                   0%

Price per night                     $50                                 $53,000

Lake Trout                             Yes                                        No

Heron Rookery                     Yes                                         No

White Pines                            Yes                                        No

Northern Lights                    Yes                                        No

U.P. Charm                           Yah                                        No

Sisu”                                     Yes                                        No

Accommodation     Adirondack Shelter        10 Bedroom Balanese Villa

Source:  Necker Island, USGS.gov, airbnb.com, business insider.

* summer 2011


Half Moon Rising – Yonder Mountain String Band

Excerpts from the opening chapters of Delirious New York by Rem Koolhass, a book dissecting the architecture built upon the wilderness of manhattan over the last 388 years as well as the systemic influences guiding the performance.  The first few chapters illustrate Manhattan evolving from a native state to fully developed urban grid at a momentous pace (over the shortest period of time in the history of the world).  They show that Manhattan offers remarkable–if obvious–guiding principle related to human interaction with frontier and that the settlement of the forests of Manhattan is a benchmark act of civilization.  Yet it is not without mistake.  

From this perspective if New York City were rediscovered today by individuals benefiting from hindsight and contemporary knowledge of environmental science, biology, historical sequence and externality, would the ensuing project unfold differently?  America itself?  What would a do-over look like?  It is wonderful to think about.    

Excerpts from Delirious New York:

“Sixteen centuries of the Christian era rolled away, and no trace of civilization was left on the spot where now stands a city renowned for commerce, intelligence and wealth.  The wild children of nature, unmolested by the white man, roamed through its forests, and impelled their light canoes along its tranquil waters.  But the time was near at hand when these domains of the savage were to be invaded by strangers who would lay the humble foundations of a mighty state, and scatter everywhere in their path exterminating principles which, with constantly augmenting force, would never cease to act until the whole aboriginal race should be extirpated and their memory be almost blotted out from under heaven.  Civilization, originating in the east, had reached the western confines of the old world.  It was now to cross the barrier that had arrested its progress, and penetrate the forest of a continent that had just appeared to the astonished gaze of the millions of Christendom.

The quotation above–from 1848–describes Manhattan’s program with disregard for the facts, but precisely identifies its intentions.  Manhattan is a theater of progress.

The city becomes a mosaic of episodes, each with its own particular life span, that contest each other through the medium of the grid.

Apart from the Indians, who have always been there–Weckquaesgecks in the south, Reckgawawacks in the north, both part of the Mohican tribe–Manhattan is discovered in 1609 by Henry Hudson.  Four years later, Manhattan accommodates four houses (i.e. recognizable as such to western eyes) among the Indian Huts.  In 1623 30 families sail from Holland to Manhattan to plant a colony.  The city is destined to be a catalogue of models and precedents:  all the desirable elements that exist scattered through the Old World finally assembled in a single place.”

“Coney Island is discovered one day before Manhattan–a clitoral appendage at the mouth of New York’s natural harbor, a "strip of glistening sand, with the blue waves curling over its outer edge and the marsh creeks lazily lying at its back, tufted in summer by green sedge grass, frosted in winter by the pure white snow…”  The Canarsie Indians are the original inhabitants of the peninsula.

Coney Island assumed a long sequence of names, none of which stick until it becomes famous for the unexplained density of konijnen (Dutch for “rabbits”).  Coney is the logical choice for Manhattan’s resort:  the nearest zone of virgin nature that can counteract the enervations of urban civilization"

“In 1883 the Brooklyn Bridge removes the last obstacle that has kept the new masses on Manhattan:  on summer Sundays Coney Island’s beach becomes the most densely occupied place in the world.  This invasion finally invalidates whatever remains of the original formula for Coney Island’s performance as a resort, the provision of Nature to the citizens of the artificial.  

To survive as a resort–a place offering contrast–Coney Island is thus forced to mutate:  it must turn itself into a total opposite of Nature, it has no choice but to counteract the artificiality of the new metropolis with its own Super-Natural.  Instead of suspension of urban pressure, it offers intensification.  Even the most intimate aspects of human nature are subjected to experiment on.  If life in the metropolis creates loneliness and alienation, Coney Island counterattacks this with the Barrels of Love.  Two horizontal cylinders–mounted in line–revolve slowly in opposite directions.  At either end a small staircase leads up to an entrance.  One feeds men into the machine, the other women.  It is impossible to remain standing.  Men and women fall on top of each other.  The unrelenting rotation of the machine fabricates synthetic intimacy between people who would never otherwise have met.”

“Manhattan is a counter-Paris, and anti-London.  In 1807 men are commissioned to design the model that will regulate the "final and conclusive” occupancy of Manhattan.  Four years later they propose 12 avenues and 155 streets.  With that simple action they describe a city of 13 x 156 = 2,028 blocks, all remaining territory and all future activity on the island.  Manhattan is forever immunized against any (further) totalitarian intervention.  In the single block–the largest possible area that can fall under architectural control–it develops a maximum unit of urbanistic Ego.  Each architectural ideology has to be realized fully within the limitations of the block.

By 1850, the possibility that New York’s exploding population could engulf the remaining space in the Grid like a freak wave seems real.  Urgent plans were made to reserve sites that are still available for parks, but “while we are discussing the subject the advancing population of the city is sweeping over them and covering them from our reach”.  In 1853 danger is averted and land is acquired and surveyed for a park in a designated area between Fifth and Eighth avenues and 59th and 110th streets.  Central Park is not only the major recreation facility of Manhattan but also the record of its progress:  a taxidermic preservation of nature that exhibits forever the drama of culture outdistancing nature.  Like the Grid, it is a colossal leap of faith; the contrast it describes–between the build and the unbuild–hardly exists at the time of its creation.“

"The time will come when New York will be built up, when all the grading and filling will be done, and the picturesquely-varied, rocky formation of the island will have been converted into formations of rows and rows of monotonous straight streets, and piles of erect buildings.  There will be no suggestion left of its present varied surface, with the exception of a few acres contained in the park.  Then the priceless value of the present picturesque outlines of the ground will be distinctly perceived, and its adaptability for its purpose more fully recognized.”   

“The concept of a park is the architectural equivalent of an empty canvas.  Theoretically it can be shaped and controlled by a single individual and is thereby invested with a thematic potential.”

What then is the highest potential of Rabbit Island? 

(The above photo was taken in New Orleans in 2006 in the neighborhood washed away by Hurricane Katrina.  It was part of a series called the “Central Park Theory”.  The remainder of the series can be found here).

Texture fit for a wooded island.

The 36 Hour Dinner Party

Michael Pollan seems to be eternally hosting interesting food experiments during which he and his friends consciously cut themselves away from industrial food production for a short period and have a philosophically meaningful feast. In this article, linked above, the idea of the wood-fired hearth and the meal as 36 hour ritual resound nicely. His dinners are wonderful, idealistic, well-intended and enlightened, even if they hint at subtle hypocrisy.  

After reading of them I do always wonder why he doesn’t push himself to the point of surpassing his little whole-food hypocrisies to reach a more definite sustainability for the benefit of his readers/students?  The conclusions I’ve drawn is that he is a) either unwilling to withstand the hardship and consequence of living a sustainable life outside of industrial externalities, b) a successful journalist achieving simple means to and end within his profession, or c) that he simply cannot find wilderness/land that is large enough or accessible enough on which to attempt it.  The first is obviously a choice of lifestyle and aversion to being dirty and uncomfortable (relatively) for the sake of a green thesis, which may or may not be true. The second is unlikely given my sense of his intentions. The latter, however, is a more profound practical limitation that he or anyone faces while attempting to eat free of industry byproduct–the requisite land for such an experience may simply be gone. The opportunity to practice as he writes may not exist anymore within the American historical experience of private property, capitalistic forces, and, ultimately, subdivision. Accessible parcels of land intact on the scale of an ecosystem have disappeared. They are, for all practical purposes, a relic of the past. Perhaps his food rules are impossible! Or perhaps the rules are possible, but only with the caveat that to fulfill them one must turn a blind eye to the industrial implementations and refined fuels neccesary to obtain them. There are yet externalities that do not appear to be accounted for within his explorations, akin, perhaps, to a person raising organic chickens in their backyard while yet driving them across town to the vet twice a week. 

Environments that are large enough and with land, clean water and wildlife enough to feed even a small group of people sustainably have been sold off over generations into smaller and smaller parcels, each one benefiting someone’s individual American Dream, yet at the very same time each one playing a small part in killing Michael Pollan’s modern ideal of sustainable food, and perhaps to some degree the future of the American dream itself, ironically. Specialization of supply chain has become a necessity in the modern landscape. It has been a classic death by a thousand cuts in America (and elsewhere) over the last 250 years–just scroll across the country from the perspective of a google satellite. Michael dreams of a past in which food and environment are still linked without a mechanical intermediary, which no longer exists, and this is exactly why his ideas are so compelling to all of us. We all feel that something is missing on some visceral level. At this point in American history, however, before his simple food rules can take shape without caveat our environment needs to in some places necessarily revert to it’s simpler, richer, historical baseline, otherwise we are left with islands of near-historical experience which sadly can only be manufactured artificially within the reality of the modern national subdivision. I’m not keeping my hopes up that reversion will happen, as reason has frequently been shown to be maligned by power and politics, but, Michael Pollan, if you’re listening, I propose that you come to Rabbit Island and help create your most sustainable meal ever.  A meal that relies to the least degree upon mechanical forces or the products of subdivision and specialization. It is as good of a place as any to further this idea, your own idea–an island with edible animals, schools of fish, room to farm and surrounding freshwater that is untarnished. Michael, this is your invitation! Don’t be a stranger! Of course we’d likely shy away from goats, pigs and bay area foraged fruits and lean towards lake trout and rabbits, but I have a feeling you won’t mind.

(The Rabbit Island idea, of course, bounds with it’s own hypocrisy in the modern American context (one generally flies to get there from New York, for one thing), but it intrinsically has maintained it’s fundamental function which Pollan celebrates–sustainable process–which is something.  It’s nature is yet intact and it has not been subdivided. If only this principle could return to the wider landscape we would have a fairer chance at genuinely eating well. Picture the new possibilities resulting from Detroit’s decline, if re-organized well. Picture the principle of eminent domain applied inversely, for the sake of food rules, etc.).    

The value of wilderness per the Wall Street Journal

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