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Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability Paperback – November 2, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
The problem with green thinking is that there's a whole heck of a lot of self-delusion going on, and when it comes to urban planning, David Owen has done a lot of looking into it, pointing out that at the end of the day, a lot of "green" purchases and behaviors are attempts to rationalize consumption without actually reducing it. Along the way, he steps on the toes of the great pastoral myth of environmentalism by showing how anti-city bias in conservation thinking has often served to promote the very urban sprawl it's supposed to be fighting. And Owen is hardly a global warming denialist or ecology "skeptic" either -- in fact, the primary focus of the book is on managing carbon footprints and just how poorly that's done.
Owen's dirty little secret is something urban planners and ecological experts have been promoting for years with little heed from the general public -- that the density of cities like New York is key to creating a low-consumption environment, since distances between home, work, and other activities are relatively small and therefore cars are generally unnecessary. Owen looks at carbon footprint in per capita terms, showing how the average New Yorker uses something like one third of the total oil consumption of a rural Vermonter, and points out the absurdity of building a "green" corporate campus (his prime example being Sprint/Nextel's in Kansas) so far away from a city that virtually all employees have to drive to work.Read more ›
When I read the first chapter of Green Metropolis, I was worried that my fears about this book might be confirmed. After all, the blurb says that the author is going to reveal how New York City is more sustainable than Snowmass, Colorado or Burlington, Vermont. Hmm, I thought, there's not much to that. People in NYC don't drive cars, they live on top and side-by-side of each other (so they share heating costs), and they have great transit. Why should any readers find it surprising that NYC is so sustainable?
I was kind of impatient, I suppose. I remember sitting in a hotel near the campus of Sprint, on about 110th St and Metcalf in Kansas City, Missouri (a national epicenter of sprawl!) and telling my sister that its not enough to say NYC is the ideal for sustainability. You can't turn this into Greenwich Village, right? In other words, that kind of insight is lacking because it offers no value for what policy should do about the problem of sprawl.
Moreover, I thought, why is David Owen singing the praises of NYC, when he moved from there to rural Northwestern Connecticut?
Owen must have known that, because this book seems to understand that its not enough to laud NYC. What this book does it go step-by-step through many of planning's existing antidotes to sprawl and reveal their limitations. This is a book about challenging the assumptions that govern current sustainability policy.
The problem, he says, is that New York was built not by policy makers with the right vision, but by lucky timing. It was good timing because most of the city was laid out before the car.Read more ›
I thought his criticisms of Central Park and Park Avenue were completely off the mark, dead wrong. One of biggest issues that, to my mind, haunts the thesis of this book is how to make dense urban living palatable and even desirable for a range of classes of people. Central Park was conceived at the very same time that New York was beginning to "experiment" with the large apartment building. Buildings such as the Dakota (1880) were designed specifically to lure well heeled city dwellers away from single family homes (townhouses) and into denser multi-story buildings with luxury space and services. (sound familiar?) Over the next 50 years many more even larger apartment buildings were built on both sides of the Park which was one of the most important ingredients in creating a DESIRABLE dense neighborhood. Far from being a built "criticism" of the dense city (as Owen may perceive it) Central Park was an enabler of density. As wonderful as Jane Jacobs' Greenwich Village of the 40's was, most "upper east side" types probably didn't want to live there then, and they certainly didn't in 1908.
Similar points can be made about Park Avenue. I assume he is referring to that portion of Park Avenue above Grand Central Terminal. This urban boulevard was conceived as cure for the urban blight of the Harlem and New York Railroad tracks (it covered the tracks) as well as an armature for dense luxury apartment building development on both sides.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Like every other voice out there talking about how we are ruining the planet, Mr Owen does not address the true issue. Overpopulation. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Titan
i notice the author lives in an idyllic rural setting, i wonder if he'd trade that for the "green metropolis". Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ray G
At one time the author lived in NYC and that's what he talks about. Living in a city with a good mass transit, walkable conditions, and almost everything you need except a car. Read morePublished 16 months ago by mark yuschak
A great book that breaks down the common beliefs—myths, really—of Priuses and environmental trends. Can solar power really save us? Read morePublished 17 months ago by t0wnp1ann3r
Sometimes in the pursuit of sustainability we need to hold a mirror up to our efforts and recognize the ways in which inconsistencies and whims lead to outcomes that are not what... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Francis Vanek
That we're literally and figuratively "running out of gas," is not news. But David Owen's thorough coverage, use of data, and often surprising perspectives are news. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Jay Lubinsky
Gave as a gift. Assume everything was okay. No complaints. Wish I had the option of limiting future recommendations just to items I buy and ship to myself.Published 22 months ago by Gifts That Keep on Truckin'
After the first couple of chapters it's kind of like, "I get it... New York rules." but his writing style is quick and easy to read, as well as entertaining. Read morePublished on January 3, 2014 by Leeann
If you don't mind other people and you enjoy public life, read this book. If you love your car and your McMansion more than anything else, don't read this book. Read morePublished on September 20, 2013 by Karla Guererri