Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are theKeys to Sustainability

Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are theKeys to Sustainability

by David Owen


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Look out for David Owen's next book, Where the Water Goes.

A challenging, controversial, and highly readable look at our lives, our world, and our future.

Most Americans think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares, as wastelands of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams. Yet residents of compact urban centers, Owen shows, individually consume less oil, electricity, and water than other Americans. They live in smaller spaces, discard less trash, and, most important of all, spend far less time in automobiles. Residents of Manhattan—the most densely populated place in North America—rank first in public-transit use and last in percapita greenhouse-gas production, and they consume gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn’t matched since the mid-1920s, when the most widely owned car in the United States was the Ford Model T. They are also among the only people in the United States for whom walking is still an important means of daily transportation.

These achievements are not accidents. Spreading people thinly across the countryside may make them feel green, but it doesn’t reduce the damage they do to the environment. In fact, it increases the damage, while also making the problems they cause harder to see and to address. Owen contends that the environmental problem we face, at the current stage of our assault on the world’s nonrenewable resources, is not how to make teeming cities more like the pristine countryside. The problem is how to make other settled places more like Manhattan, whose residents presently come closer than any other Americans to meeting environmental goals that all of us, eventually, will have to come to terms with.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594484841
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/02/2010
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 754,114
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

David Owen is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author more than a dozen books. He lives in northwest Connecticut with his wife, the writer Ann Hodgman.

Table of Contents

1 More Like Manhattan 1

2 Liquid Civilization 49

3 There and Back 101

4 The Great Outdoors 163

5 Embodied Efficiency 203

6 The Shape of Things to Come 265

Notes 325

Index 347

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for Green Metropolis

“[Owen] makes a convincing case that Manhattan, Hong Kong and large, old European cities are inherently greener than less densely populated places… [Green Metropolis] challenges many cherished assumptions about easy-on-the-earth country living… Pugnacious and contrarian, the book has a lot of fun at the expense of sentimental pastoralists, high-minded environmentalists and rich people trying to buy their way into higher green consciousness with expensive “eco-­friendly” add-ons (photovoltaic panels on their suburban McMansions, say).” – New York Times
“Owen's style, here as in his 13 previous books, is cool, understated and witty; it does not appear to be in his nature to be alarmist. But this is a thoroughly alarming book, perhaps all the more so because Owen is so matter-of-fact: The facts alone are so discouraging that no rhetorical flourishes are necessary to underscore their urgency.” – Washington Post
Green Metropolis is important not for the answers it yields but the questions it raises – questions that should be part of the ongoing dialogue about the health of our planet.” – Christian Science Monitor
“In today’s context of climate change, energy, and a new green economy, David Owen makes an eloquent case that density is in fact the most efficient form of human settlement… Green Metropolis is an important contribution to our understanding of how we live.” – The Boston Globe
“”David Owen pumps some minty fresh air into the haze of green marketing. In his provocative new book, he turns conventional wisdom on its head and takes a clear-eyed look at what ‘green’ might truly mean in a nation of 300 million (and counting) in the 21st century.” – San Francisco Chronicle
“A marvelously clear-eyed analysis of the growing energy/environmental crisis.” – Hartford Courant
“Owen’s lucid, biting prose crackles with striking facts that yield paradigm-shifting insights. The result is a compelling analysis of the world’s environmental predicament that upends orthodox opinion and points the way to practical solutions.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Owen mounts a vigorous challenge… New York’s dense urbanity, he contends, offers a compelling blueprint for addressing our ecological crises, not with pie-in-the-sky technology, but with the underappreciated virtues of physical and social connectedness.” – In These Times
“With arresting and nonconformist views on agriculture, architecture, “videophilia,” and the healthy aspects of city life, Owen offers a fresh, lucid, irreverent, and realistic view of how we live and what environmental improvement we can actually achieve.” – Booklist
Green Metropolis presents powerful challenges for modern efforts aiming to decrease human impact on the environment…. Green Metropolis is in many ways eye opening…. A must read for anyone interested in understanding the changes that we must make collectively as we move into a future with constrained resources and a population forever looking to increase the overall quality of life.” –
“[A] wise, eco-urbanist manifesto… Owen is adept at debunking the increasingly accepted notions that urban parks, ethanol, and locavorism are ‘green.’ His portrayal of New York City as a kind of conservationist utopia amid vast rural wastefulness lands yet another blow on the myth of small-town values.” – The Village Voice
“[A] provocative manifesto that inverts many of our sacred assumptions about environmentalism… [Owen’s] book mounts a passionate, fact-studded case for ‘the environmental advantages of Manhattan-style urban density.’… Green Metropolis is fascinating and thought-provoking.” –
Green Metropolis… could not be timelier.” – Solutions Journal
“”Provocative.” – Chicago Reader
“Nobody makes the case for cities’ superior environmental performance better than David Owen… [A] well-researched book that vigorously defends cities from misguided environmental thought…. Green Metropolis is riveting and fiercely intelligent.” – New Urban News

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