Nature and New York:

A Conference on Why Nature Matters to New Yorkers

CIRCE-NNYN Conference-December 2, 2005




Conference Organizer Professor                     CUNY Executive Vice-Chancellor

John Waldman of Queens College                  Selma Botman offers greetings from

Biology Department explores the                    the University Chancellor's office.

conference theme.




Queens College President James                     Mr. Ted Kheel describes his vision

Muyskens greets the attendees.                       for stewardship of the urban environment.




Phillip Lopate expounds on New York City's 'Vanished Waterfront'




Robert Sullivan tells of 'Wilderness Adventures at the Edge of the City'




Speakers (l to r) Tony Hiss,  Robert Sullivan, Mark Kurlansky, William Kornblum and Anne Matthews respond to questions.



A synopsis of the conference:


On Friday, December 2nd, Nature and New York: A Conference on Why Nature Matters to New Yorkers was held at Queens College to inaugurate CIRCE, The CUNY Institute for Research on the City Environment.  CIRCE, housed at Queens College, was initiated in 2005 with major support from Theodore Kheel and his Nurture Nature Foundation.  The conference was convened by John Waldman, Professor of Biology at Queens College, both as a means to introduce the new institute and to explore the rationale for its existence. 


More than 200 attendees heard Theodore Kheel describe his vision for stewardship of the urban environment, in addition to welcomes by CUNY Executive Vice Chancellor Selma Botman, Queens College President James Muyskens, and Acting CIRCE Director Dean Thomas Strekas.  These were followed with talks by seven prominent natural and urban history writers.  The sequence included David Rosane (forthcoming Nature of New York), Tony Hiss (The Experience of Place), Mark Kurlansky (forthcoming The Big Oyster: New York on the Half Shell), CUNY's William Kornblum (At Sea in the City), Anne Matthews (Wild Nights: Nature Returns to the City), Phillip Lopate (Waterfront), and Robert Sullivan (The Meadowlands).  These speakers then joined a panel discussion which included Queens College professors Frederick Buell and George Hendrey and doctoral candidate Devin Zuber; afterwards the panel engaged in a lively question and answer session with the audience.


Why does nature matter to New Yorkers?  A broad spectrum of standpoints emerged at the conference, including the myriad and shifting ways that New Yorkers experience and view nature, the historical role of nature in shaping New York's development, what factors contribute to the regional identity of New York, the environmental tradeoffs made by urbanization, and even nature's dark side.  Dr. Waldman intends to reach a far broader audience by editing a book of contributed chapters from the speakers at this meeting. This was the first of an expected annual conference series held by CIRCE.