During a few days spent in New York, I had a chance to briefly visit the Safari 7 Base Camp, set up in Grand Central for Earth Week.
Safari 7 is pretty much exactly what I have been thinking about doing ever since I worked as an Urban Park Ranger a few years ago in Inwood Hill Park: a guided tour that highlights nature and ecology in the places we typically overlook those things. I'm glad that someone actually had the initiative to make it happen. From the project's description:
“The 7 line is a physical, urban transect through New York City's most diverse range of ecosystems. Affectionately called the International Express, the 7 line runs from Manhattan's dense core, under the East River, and through a dispersed mixture of residences and parklands before terminating in downtown Flushing. Safari 7 circulates an ongoing series of podcasts and maps that explore the complexity, biodiversity, conflicts, and potentials of New York City's ecosystems. Tours are available online and can be experienced independently, or in group expeditions and workshops organized by the Safari 7 team.”
The "Base Camp" at Grand Central included an array of gorgeous banners that highlighted things like the aquatic wildlife of the East River, the ecosystems of decomposition at work in the city's huge “cemetery belt,” and the dual role of urban chickens, as food sources and as illegal fighters. The centerpiece of the project is a series of podcasts, short enough to listen to between stops, that describe various ecological phenomena at work at each stop along the line.
Thus, as you ride under the East River, you can listen to a podcast about the tiny island formed from that tunnel's excavation, and learn about the cormorants that nest there. Or hear about the ecology of courtyard gardens in Queens, while you try to get a glimpse of one from the elevated portion of the line.
Over the next few weeks, I plan to write more about those individual podcasts and some of the issues they discuss in more detail. Much of the subject matter isn't unique to Queens - no matter what city or backwoods internet-enabled cabin you live in, there's something for you to learn about your own human habitat. Visit safari7.org to download your own safari audio tour.