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The Very Hungry City: Urban Energy Efficiency and the Economic Fate of Cities Hardcover – January 10, 2012

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The Very Hungry City: Urban Energy Efficiency and the Economic Fate of Cities + Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony, Second Edition + Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, Revised Edition
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (January 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300162316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300162318
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,359,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Austin Troy delivers a fascinating—and chilling—look at our cities' dangerous dependence on an unpredictable world energy market. He shows why we need to break our addiction to cheap energy, and offers practical solutions on how to do it."—Arianna Huffington, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post
(Arianna Huffington 2011-03-07)

"Engagingly written and meticulously researched, The Very Hungry City is a must-read for those who are interested in how energy is currently used in our communities and how those communities can use less while actually improving the quality of life."—Peter Shumlin, Governor of Vermont

(Peter Shumlin 2011-01-26)

“I felt I had learned a lot about the reasons that energy utilization patterns in urban America are as wasteful and intense as they are.  I've not seen another book like this.”—Lawrence E. Susskind, Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(Lawrence E. Susskind 2011-03-02)

"The Very Hungry City is a readable analysis about why it makes sense to plan for our future now and that 'Smart Growth' does not mean 'no growth'.  At a time when energy and environmental issues are being hotly debated in Congress, the author uses economics to make the case for sustainable development and, hopefully, will inform policymakers now, when it counts."—Christine Todd Whitman, former Governor of New Jersey and Administrator of the EPA
(Christine Todd Whitman 2011-03-21)

"How we build our cities and how we live in them is the key to addressing the central environmental challenges of our time.  With compelling examples drawn from around the globe, Austin Troy’s Very Hungry City shows by doing urban places right, we can not only curb our prodigious appetites—but at the same time enjoy a better quality of life."—Joseph Cortright, author of City Vitals (Joseph Cortright 2011-09-12)

"Well organized and documented and reasonable in its assessments, the book is an informative introduction to energy issues in the US."—R.A. Beauregard, Choice
(R.A. Beauregard Choice)

Won Honorable Mention in the 2012 New York Book Festival General Non-Fiction category, sponsored by the New York Book Festival
(General Non-Fiction Honorable Mention New York Book Festival 2012-06-12)

"Just like its namesake, this book is a highly enjoyable and easy read that is perfectly pitched at its target audience and, despite his admission in the introduction, Troy certainly does not write like an academic struggling to communicate his work to a wider readership. Indeed, were it not for his central thesis, the book could be read as an interesting urban travelogue for those of us for whom the journey is just as important as the destination . . . Aside from its warmth and quality of writing, the great strengths of this book are the different ways in which Troy covers the main subject areas." —Keith Baker
(Keith Baker 2013-04-01)

“This…important book examines the energy flows…metabolism in a popular word…associated with contemporary cities and suburbs in the United States and Elsewhere.  How energy is used in tempering building interiors and in transportation provides the framework for examining both environmental and economic effects.”—Baltimore Ecosystem Study Director’s Web Log
(Baltimore Ecosystem)

About the Author

Austin Troy is associate professor in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont, and principal and cofounder of Spatial Informatics Group, LLC. He lives in Shelburne, VT.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Serge J. Van Steenkiste on March 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Austin Troy explores the economic competitiveness of cities in the light of what he calls their urban energy metabolism, i.e., the different rates at which cities consume energy. The drivers of this urban energy metabolism are for example climate, access to water, the quality of buildings, industrial use, and transportation/urban development. Too many American cities are car-dependent, sprawling agglomerations. Think for example about Atlanta, Dallas, and Los Angeles. In European and Asian cities, ownership of a car is far more a liability than an asset.

Mr. Troy rightly warns his audience against complacency. Energy prices are not guaranteed to remain low forever. The author calls for both improving energy efficiency and developing new clean energy generation capacity. Mr. Troy usually explores the pros and cons of the different energy sources with objectivity in what he calls "interlude." However, the author is clearly too pessimistic about nuclear power, by far the leading U.S. electricity source which does not emit greenhouse gases. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently approved the Westinghouse Advanced Passive 1000 nuclear power plant design and the construction and operating license for the two-reactor Plant Vogtle expansion in Georgia. Nonetheless, Mr. Troy rightly lambastes the incoherent U.S. policy for the management, reprocessing, and/or disposal of spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors.

Mr. Troy looks at a wide variety of cities such as Bangkok, Copenhagen, Denver, Houston, London, New York, São Paulo, and Stockholm, to identify the best practices for improving a city's energy metabolism. The author comes to the conclusion that regionalism is at the heart of a coherent urban policy in the U.S.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Urban Reader on February 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Very Hungry City is an excellent account of the inter-relationship between urban areas and energy, and it explains the key issues that determine the energy usage of a city--its form, modes of transportation, infrastructure, climate, etc. In doing so, Very Hungry City provides an interesting (and entertaining) analysis of the potential effectiveness of many of the tools that are currently used (or proposed) to reduce urban energy consumption and to improve quality of life in cities. The author's analysis is clear and his conclusions are straightforward and thoughtful. The conclusions of Very Hungry City portray an energy picture that is more complicated and nuanced than typically found in the mainstream media. This characteristic of Very Hungry City sets it apart from much of the information (including other books) on environmental issues and makes it a valuable read for those interested in environmental issues and for the government officials and policymakers currently deciding how best to invest the tremendous amount of resources directed towards climate change, air pollution, urban congestion, etc.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
How did New York become the greenest city in the US, by key measures? Why has LA always been car-centered, and is there any hope for LA transit? Troy uses the concept of urban metabolism to explore the past, present, and future of communities in the US, with examples from the Americas and Europe. How do we use energy, and how can we live better with less? What urban design principles make people happier and safer, and make cities healthier and wealthier?
This first edition is well structured, with interesting "interludes" on energy sources between chapters. Writing is usually engaging, sometimes list-y. Content is often compelling, sometimes questionable. Overall a worthwhile read, informative and thought provoking.
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By lstahl on May 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book arrived in good condition. It wasn't in perfect condition, but I wasn't expecting to receive it that way, so I'm very happy with my purchase. Also, the book itself (it's content) is great. I've enjoyed reading about how U.S. cities came to be organized the way that they are and the European (and U.S.) examples that have been offered thus far of what future cities in the U.S. could look like have been inspiring and also legitimately insightful. I'd recommend that anyone interested in learning how today's cities, particularly in relation to their transportation and fuel / energy use, evolved to what they are today and what they could potentially (and hopefully) become read this book.
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