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Superbia: 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods Paperback – November 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


Superbia! is a book of practical ideas for creating more socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable neighborhoods. It is about remaking suburban and urban neighborhoods to serve people better and to reduce human impact on the environment.

The authors first trace the history of the suburbs, showing how they fail to meet many peoples' needs. They then describe how existing neighborhoods can be transformed, offering cohousing and new urbanist communities as examples. The reader is then guided through the transformation of a fictitious neighborhood that adopts the authors' 31 steps. Ideas for the blossoming of the suburb are described in order of difficulty, from easy to boldest, including:

  • the creation of a neighborhood newsletter to foster a sense of neighborhood identity and cooperation
  • regular community dinners, discussion groups, and babysitting co-ops
  • the removal of backyard fences to create park-like spaces for community play areas, or gardens
  • retrofitting homes for energy efficiency, and installing community energy systems.

Examples from all over North America and beyond provide real-life proof that citizen planners can create Superbia! And the most comprehensive resource listing imaginable puts all the tools needed at your fingertips.

Well-illustrated and reader-friendly, Superbia! is written primarily for the millions who live in urban areas or existing suburbs. It will also be of major interest to environmentalists, planners, and all who want to create a more humane and nurturing lifestyle.

Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series

About the Author

Dan Chiras is an internationally acclaimed author who has published over 24 books, including The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy. He is a certified wind site assessor and has installed several residential wind systems. Dan lives in a passive solar home in Evergreen, Colorado.

Dave Wann is a speaker, author and filmmaker on the subject of sustainable lifestyles, policies and designs. He lives in a cohousing community in Golden, Colorado which he helped design.

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Product Details

  • Series: Wise Living (Book 14)
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (November 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865714908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865714908
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #889,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Susan L. Keen on February 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
Superbia! is a strikingly simple book, proposing that neighbors can create
friendlier and healthier neighborhoods by getting to know each other and
working together. The beginning Steps it suggests are easy - things like
having neighborhood potlucks and baby-sitting coops - but the advanced steps
will take some real teamwork. You and your neighbors won't set up a
neighborhood energy system or buy a house for use as a common building until
a high level of trust is established. By the time the advanced steps are
taken on, the neighborhood will be like an extended family, with all its
benefits -- as well as liabilities.
But Chiras and Wann argue that the benefits far outweigh the liabilities.
For example, they don't propose a loss of privacy, but rather an increase in
options and flexibility. What do we do when the car won't start, we go on
vacation and the plants need watering, or we just need someone to talk to?
Call a neighbor.
This book is well-researched, documenting how neighborhoods took the shape
they did, with wide streets, huge lawns, and barricade-like garage doors.
The 50 million suburban homes in the U.S. (and all their associated
infrastructure) are then seen in the book as ingredients for cooking up a
better neighborhood. As the authors suggest, why can't we create common
areas for the kids and a community garden by donating parcels of our
backyards and creating a pathway where alleys used to be? Why can't we
establish a neighborhood recycling system, a carpooling and even car-sharing
system? Why shouldn't part of our yards also become low-maintenance, "edible
landscapes" that provide cherries and grapes rather than just grass
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Susan Bilo on May 10, 2004
Format: Paperback
Superbia! 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods is a "self-help" book for urban and suburban neighborhoods. The suburbs are often car-dependent, land-hungry, strictly residential neighborhoods that are often isolated from schools, workplaces and civic centers. They often lack convenient links to parks and mass transportation and are typically not developed in ways conducive to meeting people.
But, these challenges provide numerous opportunities for positive change! People can reinvent their neighborhoods based on economic, environmental, and social values. Superbia! provides a checklist of Easy, Bolder, and Boldest Steps that can lead to safer, friendlier, livelier, healthier, more productive, diverse and vibrant neighborhoods. Neighbors can chose the steps they think will create a stronger sense of place and connection to people, nature, and culture.
Easy Steps include sponsoring community dinners, establishing a community newsletter, and creating car and van pools for work commutes. Some neighbors have started book and investment clubs. For example, the Hillcrest Neighborhood Association in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sponsors a book club where neighbors "get together with fellow book enthusiasts to converse, discuss, and debate current bestsellers and classics," according to the group's website. Superbia! describes how there are hundreds of potential links between people within neighborhoods - links that can reduce time, human energy, and money spent by individuals on tight schedules as well as tight budgets. Easy Steps help people know one another better helping them discover links that lead to Bolder Steps.
Planting a community garden or orchard is a Bolder Step. A composting project can serve the community garden and individual yards.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Rhodes on March 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
To inject life, fun and spontanaeity into North American suburbs will not be easy. Many neighbourhoods were built after WW II, when land and resources such as electricity and gasoline were plentiful and cheap; developers, government and the public were not very conscious of there being limits to, or issues with, creating vast car-centric suburbs. Now, many of us live in an energy-inefficient home on a long, straight street that forms one line in a grid that is populated by far more motor vehicles than pedestrians. Here, we easily grow fat and sedentary, often not knowing who lives one or two doors away.
In Superbia!, the authors prescribe 31 steps to transform neighborhoods into places where there is a true sense of community, and where hard resources (e.g. cars, washing machines) can ultimately be shared by groups of families, and consumable resources (electricity, gasoline) are used in more environmentally responsible ways.
The encouraging news is that neighborhoods in the USA, Europe and elsewhere have implemented these 31 steps. It often took a lot of persuasion of local politicians and bureaucrats to, for example, tear up existing streets to make them narrower, for the purpose of calming traffic. While the authors, to their credit, indicate that some of the 31 steps are plainly challenging to implement, and ential people changing their mental models, the authors at times neglect to address the role and response of some key stakeholders as neighborhoods transform themselves.
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