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Counterintuitive is the watchword in this strongly stated investigation into the environmentally beneficial aspects of big cities. Owen, who is anecdotally informative in books about such benign subjects as home repair and golf, is bracingly forthright in his assessment of the severity of the environmental breakdown we're facing and our woefully inadequate response. He mocks the misuse of the word sustainability, bluntly declares such small gestures as recycling irrelevant, and turns our assumptions about green space upside-down. We won't find any ecological solutions in the countryside, where people have to drive everywhere, but rather in Manhattan, where people don't own cars and use substantially less energy because they live in small spaces. Density equals less waste, and Owen has the numbers to prove it. He also has lancing things to say about the anti-urban attitude of most American environmentalists. With arresting and nonconformist views on agricultural, architecture, videophilia, and the healthy aspects of city life, Owens offers a fresh, lucid, irreverent, and realistic view of how we live and what environmental improvement we can actually achieve.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2009 Booklist
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New Yorker writer Owen lays out a simple plan to address our environmental crisis-live smaller, live closer, and drive less. He presents a convincing argument that the antiurbanism of American environmental thought is flawed [Stewart Brand makes the same point in his Whole Earth Discipline, see above-Ed.]. The built-in efficiencies of urban life create and preserve open spaces, whereas suburban sprawl contributes to energy inefficiency and further environmental degradation. Just as Thomas L. Friedman in Hot, Flat, and Crowded discussed the role of oil in American life and our need to redefine America's vision, Owen asserts that every discussion about the environment is, in the end, about oil and that reducing environmental destruction means redefining our view of prosperity. He effectively connects the dots among oil, cars, public transportation, ethanol, rising food prices, and the role of plastic in modern life. Verdict Owen's engaging, accessible book challenges the idea of green and urban living. Recommended for readers interested in urban planning or environmental issues. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/09.]-Robin K. Dillow, Oakton Community Coll., Des Plaines, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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While the conventional wisdom condemns it as an environmental nightmare, Manhattan is by far the greenest place in America, argues this stimulating eco-urbanist manifesto. According to Owen (Sheetrock and Shellac), staff writer at the New Yorker, New York City is a model of sustainability: its extreme density and compactness-and horrifically congested traffic-encourage a carfree lifestyle centered on walking and public transit; its massive apartment buildings use the heat escaping from one dwelling to warm the ones adjoining it; as a result, he notes, New Yorkers' per capita greenhouse gas emissions are less than a third of the average American's. The author attacks the "powerful anti-urban bias of American environmentalists" like Michael Pollan and Amory Lovins, whose rurally situated, auto-dependent Rocky Mountain Institute he paints as an ecological disaster area. The environmental movement's disdain for cities and fetishization of open space, backyard compost heaps, locavorism and high-tech gadgetry like solar panels and triple-paned windows is, he warns, a formula for wasteful sprawl and green-washed consumerism. Owen's lucid, biting prose crackles with striking facts that yield paradigm-shifting insights. The result is a compelling analysis of the world's environmental predicament that upends orthodox opinion and points the way to practical solutions. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved