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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: Green Metropolis

David Owen. Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009. 357pp.

Owen's thesis is deceptively simple: New York City, especially Manhattan, is the best available model of a sustainable human life.  Because they fail to recognize this, Owen argues, environmentalists and green-minded consumers have been marching off in the wrong direction, bringing us all that much more quickly to the edge of environmental disaster. 

There are advantages to this kind of simplicity.  From this perspective, Owen offers a number of compelling and sharp-edged critiques of popular delusions about sustainability and environmental responsibility, including the anti-urban, back-to-the-land proclivities of modern environmentalism (18-21), the false hopes of solar power (239-245) and hydrogen (260-262) as sources of alternative energy, the local-food movement (300-305), hybrid cars (99), argon-filled windows (247-255), recycling (296-297), and the frenetic green consumerism embodied in such phenomena as "LEED brain" (230).