Book Review: Green Metropolis

Green Metropolis:
Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability

by David Owens, Riverhead Hardcover (2009)

Sprawl stinks. The more people spread out, the more they rely on cars, and the more gasoline they burn. Detached suburban houses generally take more energy to heat and power than apartments or rowhouses, and lawns consume staggering quantities of water, pesticides, fertilizer and space.
Of course, the reverse is true for urbanites. Philadelphians are green heroes, with per-capita greenhouse gas emissions about one-half the national average. (That said, it’s a painful truth that New York City residents produce emissions one-third the national average.)

In his book Green Metropolis, David Owens makes a strong case that our environmental movement’s general bias against cities obscures what the SEPTA-riding Grid reader already knows: We need to celebrate our urban centers as models of efficient, sustainable living. He also argues that anything that makes urban life more pleasant—from murals to cleaner El stops—is therefore an environmental amenity, while anything that facilitates dispersed living is a bad idea.

Owens himself lives in a quaint but wasteful Connecticut village. He offers some lame excuses, but don’t let his hypocrisy stand in the way of the message: If you want sustainability, ditch the long commute—and the pristine lawn—and join us in the city. —Bernard Brown