The Green Metropolis

I just finished reading The Green Metropolis, by David Owen, a New Yorker staff writer.  My verdict is probably one thumbs up.  I’ve been regularly disappointed with most books I’ve read that focus on sustainability and the green economy.  They all seem to contain a few interesting insights, but no one seems to be capturing the issue in a compelling way—or at least in a way that is compelling to me.   Owen’s basic premise might sound odd at the outset—Manhattan is the most sustainable place in the US.  Because New Yorkers live in a compact, densely populated space, they are less likely to use cars, use utilities more efficeintly, and generally have a smaller environmental footprint than their suburban and rural brethren.    Beyond his work validating his claims about New York, the other strong point of Owen’s book is his tough take on many of the truisms of the green movement.  His dissection of the effort to promote LEED-certified buildings is especially good.  In his view, the current certification process leads to “LEED-brain,” a process where a focus on green features overtakes any concern about a building’s overall environmental footprint.  A classic example would be a corporate campus with a green roof and other amenities that is located miles from public transit and only accessible by a long car commute.   For Owen, “living smaller, living closer, and driving less are the keys to sustainability.”  

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