Evolution: Darwin’s city

David Sloan Wilson is using the lens of evolution to understand life in the struggling city of Binghamton, New York. Next, he wants to improve it.

Emma Marris

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David Sloan Wilson is holding a white ceramic dog dish and making the rounds at the Lost Dog Café in Binghamton, New York. "Just like in church!" the biologist jokes, as he collects crumpled dollar bills on this snowy March afternoon. It is Yappy Hour, a fund-raiser for a project to turn an abandoned dirt-bike track into a dog park. The plan is a contender in Wilson’s ‘Design Your Own Park Competition’, a venture that he says is "richly informed" by evolutionary theory — and one of the many community projects that he is running, co-running or up to his neck in. As with most of Wilson’s endeavours these days, the motivation is twofold: to improve the quality of life in Binghamton and to study the city as an evolutionary landscape.

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