Hitting Undo

Our past attempts to control nature are coming back to bite us—in the form of nasty invasive species. Can we reverse-engineer the damage?

February 09, 2015

“Like many modern wonders, Chicago’s canal solved the problem it was engineered to solve—the city’s sewage crisis—but it did so by sending the consequences downstream, to the Mississippi Valley and, in unanticipated ways, to all of us. In hindsight, it looks less like a triumph of the heroic age of civil engineering than like a prologue to the chastening age we live in now, the epoch geologists have proposed calling the Anthropocene, the age of the sixth extinction. One cause of this extinction: the trade routes and flight paths and navigable waterways with which we stitched continents and basins together. Thanks to us, species that evolved in isolation now collide, at times with devastating effects on ecosystems.”

From “Reverse Engineering,” Donovan Hohn's New York Times Magazine essay on removing manmade structures from American waterways to restore their natural characteristics


onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.