Green City Dwellers versus Gas Guzzling Suburbs

Green Metropolis—Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability, is a title on steroids for David Owen’s counter-intuitive proposition that city dwellers are more environmentally benign than those living in suburbia and exurbia.

Congested cities more environmentally benign than the bucolic countryside?

Blasphemy, I hear my country-living,Walden Pondloving siblings as they choke on their evening glass of merlot. No way.

But step back from another Earth Day celebrated driving hours into the country or the mall to consider what John Holtzclaw, retired chairman of the Sierra Club’s transportation committee had to say about New York. “Anyplace that has such tall buildings and heavy traffic is obviously an environmental disaster—except that it isn’t.” Why would he blaspheme one of the cornerstones of many an environmentalist? How can cities be good for the planet?

As the author reiterates chapter after chapter, “…residents of compact urban centers…individually consume less oil, electricity, and water than other Americans” for a very simple reason. They are forced to. “Residents of Manhattan—the most densely populated place in North America—rank first in public-transit use and last in per capital greenhouse-gas productions, and they consumer gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn’t matched since the mid-1920s...they are also among the few people in the United States for whom walking is still an important form of daily transportation.”

Not an inconsequential action in a time when the dirty word of the era is obesity and the lack of ongoing exercise by couch-potato Americans.

As an ex-city dweller writing in a house in the boonies, Owen’s makes the point that “A dense urban area’s greenest features-its low per-capital energy use, its high acceptance of public transit and walking, its small carbon footprint per resident—are not inexplicable anomalies…(but) the direct consequences of the very urban characteristics that are the most likely to appall a sensitive friend of the earth.”

In a nutshell the books premise for Chicagoans is to make driving in the city a pain in the generous American backside, and to increase public funding of mass transit to make the CTA more user-friendly.

So dear Mayor Daley, as one who has pushed for a green Chicago—consider this book a road map of why density is good for the health of children and other living things.

 

 

Green Metropolis—

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

By David Owen

356 pp

$25.95

2009

Riverhead Books

 

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Don’t Kill My Dog

 

You know who you are. You’re the driver who just skitters through the red light like you were color blind. “It just started to turn red” you think. What’s the problem?

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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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