What I’m Looking Forward to Reading

In September, David Owen, a staff writer at The New Yorker, will publish Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability. Or at least that’s what the print says; the picture has a different subtitle. The book expands on this New Yorker article. Owen criticizes Michael Pollan and Amory Lovins, among others. Maybe this is an example of the insider/outsider advantage I’ve blogged about. Owen is not the New Yorker‘s environmental reporter; that would be Elizabeth Kolbert. So he can say anything, criticize anybody, without worrying about his ability to write more on the same subject. He can always go back to golf. Kolbert is not so free. In any case, Owen’s book sounds better — less predictable — than Kolbert’s book on a similar subject.
A TV show on the subject. Owen on bridge.

4 Replies to “What I’m Looking Forward to Reading”

  1. From the publisher’s weekly review, I find this sentence to be interesting:

    “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.”

    I guess there’s a lot of sex appeal behind solar panels. And big business is more than willing to get into this highly subsidized government industry.

    But the bottom line is that from a scientific perspective, solar panels don’t show much promise.

  2. Solar panels on houses don’t, but not so much because of the panels, but because it’s a small number of panels attached to a big inverter and rack of batteries. Serving as roofs over big parking lots and commercial warehouses, they would make more sense, protecting the roofs and cars underneath as well as producing power, and be big enough to take advantage of economies of scale.

    Solar thermal power (using long, flat, rotating mirrors reflecting onto a long heat-absorbing pipe) is now competitive, and you could park, shop, or work under it too.

  3. I think energy efficiency is a small part of what determines cost. I think what it costs to live in New York is a function of desirability, what salaries are paid to the people who live there, how much everything costs (now & in the past — such as building costs), and how much it costs to live nearby. Given the huge rural-to-urban migration all over the world, you have a subtle point: In some system of accounting, it must be costing less and less to live in cities. Perhaps because all sorts of problems associated with city life are slowly being solved. E.g., better sanitation, better transportation.

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