Built on his article published in the New Yorker, David Owen’s Green Metropolis is sure to cause some commotion in the sustainable world. Based on the argument that cities are inherently more sustainable than suburban and rural areas, Owen develops his case and argues how New York City is actually the greenest, most environmentally responsible community in America. His book mounts a passionate, fact-studded case for “the environmental advantages of Manhattan-style urban density.”
There has been a lot of criticism whether this is just another book on “Why living in New York City is awesome”, however it’s worth to take a step back and put some thought into Owen’s case.
The premise is that cities with a high population density are better for the environment than suburbs. Even though the city generates more greenhouse gases, uses more energy, and produces more solid waste than any other region of comparable size, individually, New Yorkers pollute, drive, consume and throw away far less than other Americans. This is based on “the tightly circumscribed space in which they live creates efficiencies and reduces the possibilities for reckless consumption” and the number of cars on the road. Less drivers equals more damaging fossil fuels and reason to spread out destroying open space.
While all this may draw many to criticism, it is worth discussing a different point of view when it comes to thinking our impact on the planet. Sustainability has no final destination, as there is always room for improvement. It is more than just switching to hybrid cars, recycling and creating HOV and bicycle lanes. It’s an ever-changing, ever-growing challenge that our generation faces on a daily basis. “We all tend to think of ourselves as the last unsinning inhabitants of whatever place we live in. We don’t usually recognize ourselves as participants in its destruction.” How can we change this? That is our question.