Green Metropolis: What the City Can Teach the Country About True Sustainability

David Owen, Author
David Owen, Author . Riverhead $25.95 (357p) ISBN 978-1-59448-882-5
Reviewed on: 06/01/2009
Release date: 09/01/2009

While the conventional wisdom condemns it as an environmental nightmare, Manhattan is by far the greenest place in America, argues this stimulating eco-urbanist manifesto. According to Owen (Sheetrock and Shellac ), staff writer at the New Yorker , New York City is a model of sustainability: its extreme density and compactness—and horrifically congested traffic—encourage a carfree lifestyle centered on walking and public transit; its massive apartment buildings use the heat escaping from one dwelling to warm the ones adjoining it; as a result, he notes, New Yorkers’ per capita greenhouse gas emissions are less than a third of the average American’s. The author attacks the “powerful anti-urban bias of American environmentalists” like Michael Pollan and Amory Lovins, whose rurally situated, auto-dependent Rocky Mountain Institute he paints as an ecological disaster area. The environmental movement’s disdain for cities and fetishization of open space, backyard compost heaps, locavorism and high-tech gadgetry like solar panels and triple-paned windows is, he warns, a formula for wasteful sprawl and green-washed consumerism. 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. (Sept.)

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