This is David Owen's book-length version of his important and influential 2004 New Yorker article "Green Manhattan." Owen is an excellent prose stylist. His punchy sentences work well in an audiobook. Owen can be quite funny, although this investigation tends more to righteous declaration. Patrick Lawlor's clear, even narration is easy to take. Lawlor conveys both Owen's humor and dissatisfaction without too much drama. Lawlor's slightly nasal tone complements the author's Midwestern roots and conveys his general displeasure with the world beyond Manhattan.
Most Americans think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares - as wastelands of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams. Yet residents of compact urban centers, David Owen shows, individually consume less oil, electricity, and water than other Americans. They live in smaller spaces, discard less trash, and, most important of all, spend far less time in automobiles. Residents of Manhattan - the most densely populated place in North America - rank first in public-transit use and last in per-capita greenhouse gas production, and they consume gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn't matched since the mid-1920s, when the most widely owned car in the United States was the Model T. They are also among the only people in the United States for whom walking is still an important means of daily transportation.
These achievements are not accidents. Spreading people thinly across the countryside may make them feel green, but it doesn't reduce the damage they do to the environment. In fact, it increases the damage, while also making the problems they cause harder to see and to address. Owen contends that the environmental problem we face, at the current stage of our assault on the world's nonrenewable resources, is not how to make teeming cities more like the pristine countryside. The problem is how to make other settled places more like Manhattan, whose residents presently come closer than any other Americans to meeting environmental goals that all of us, eventually, will have to come to terms with.
©2009 David Owen; (P)2009 Tantor Media
"Owen's lucid, biting prose crackles with striking facts that yield paradigm-shifting insights." (Publishers Weekly)
"Owen's style...is cool, understated and witty; it does not appear to be in his nature to be alarmist. But this is a thoroughly alarming book." (The Washington Post)
Private intellectual, writer, and retired academic. Currently R&D director for Gravitational Systems Engineering, Inc.
This is the fox news version of modern environmentalism. The author takes confirmation bias to a professional level. If the author had not so confused what is with ought, this book could have been valuable addition to ending the religious zeal of modern environmentalism. Yet it reminds me a lot of those crazy guys in black turbans that you often find embarrassing people on New York Street corners with bombastic racial insults.
The author misses the fundamental problems of man and nature with is dis-harmony. Nature is capable of absorbing most things that man can generate if it is given a chance. However, this author sees man's adaptation systems as peers with nature. Elaborate water, sewer, and energy systems can mimic the functions of nature at only the most superficial levels While the irreducible unknowns of intense human activities on the natural water cycle, biodiversity, and geological structures are numerous and in many cases potentially tragic for the planet.
I would only recommend this book as a way to understand the enemy.
Only from this author
His presentation is smug and condescending.
Not many other than it could have been longer.
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