Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On My Nightstand: Green Metropolis

If you're an environmentalist, Green Metropolis by David Owen is a must-read book since it will most likely throw your assumptions upside down about what the nation needs to do to reduce its reliance on oil and fossil fuels.

Most environmental groups take a decidedly anti-urban stance, and pursue strategies that are actually counterproductive by limiting densely populated areas to develop, which maximizes efficiencies and reduces reliance on personal vehicles. They pursue strategies like increased automobile efficiencies (which is sound, but causes unintended effects like lower tax revenues as efficiencies increase, revenues decline), ignoring that the reason that many are so dependent on cars is because they need to drive large distances to reach basic services; an issue that is largely absent in a densely populated area where goods, services, and residences are in such close proximity.

That's why New York City has the lowest gas usage in the nation per person. It's why New Yorkers use less energy per person than anywhere else in the nation. It's why the City should be a model to emulate; the population density allows for mass transit to move millions daily in ways that are simply impossible in places like Los Angeles, which allowed massive sprawl and McMansion dreams to push the population outwards and dooming those areas to constant congestion and the environmental woes.

New York City still faces environmental issues that can be tackled by improving building efficiencies, but because so few City dwellers rely on vehicles, a greater percentage of their energy usage comes from their apartment buildings.

It's also one of the reasons that we ended up moving to Radburn, New Jersey, where we live practically like City residents; we essentially commute the way millions do within the city - walking to mass transit and then walking to work. We have a small house by comparison to the modern homes that have nearly twice as much square footage, but we can still walk to do most of our shopping needs. Indeed, we use our cars almost exclusively on weekends only when visiting relatives and friends in and around the metro area.

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