It might be counterintuitive to most Americans, but cities offer the most viable models of sustainability. That assertion runs counter to our cultural history. Since the Romantic period of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, we have vilified urban life and been enamored, like Henry David Thoreau, of living close to nature. The results of our hunger sprawl around us. Today, rather than finding ourselves freed to commune with the out-of-doors, we have become shackled to the automobile, a situation in which it takes an SUV to get from Walden Pond to the marketplace for a gallon of milk. So says David Owens in his seminal new book, Green Metropolis, to be read by anyone concerned with the true meaning of sustainability.
In chapter after chapter, Owens punctures our myths surrounding the green movement with laser-guided precision in the hopes of clearing the air. His method is provocative, setting us up with teasers such as the following: “Most of the products, technologies, and practices popularly touted as sustainable are not sustainable at all.” Then he tells us, dispassionately, why.