Green Metropolis

  • by David Owen
  • Narrated by Patrick Lawlor
  • 9 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In this remarkable challenge to conventional thinking about the environment, David Owen argues that the greenest community in the United States is not Portland, Oregon, or Snowmass, Colorado, but New York City.Most Americans think of crowded cities as ecological nightmares - as wastelands of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams. Yet residents of compact urban centers, David Owen shows, individually consume less oil, electricity, and water than other Americans. They live in smaller spaces, discard less trash, and, most important of all, spend far less time in automobiles. Residents of Manhattan - the most densely populated place in North America - rank first in public-transit use and last in per-capita greenhouse gas production, and they consume gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn't matched since the mid-1920s, when the most widely owned car in the United States was the Model T. They are also among the only people in the United States for whom walking is still an important means of daily transportation.These achievements are not accidents. Spreading people thinly across the countryside may make them feel green, but it doesn't reduce the damage they do to the environment. In fact, it increases the damage, while also making the problems they cause harder to see and to address. Owen contends that the environmental problem we face, at the current stage of our assault on the world's nonrenewable resources, is not how to make teeming cities more like the pristine countryside. The problem is how to make other settled places more like Manhattan, whose residents presently come closer than any other Americans to meeting environmental goals that all of us, eventually, will have to come to terms with.

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Audible Editor Reviews

This is David Owen's book-length version of his important and influential 2004 New Yorker article "Green Manhattan." Owen is an excellent prose stylist. His punchy sentences work well in an audiobook. Owen can be quite funny, although this investigation tends more to righteous declaration. Patrick Lawlor's clear, even narration is easy to take. Lawlor conveys both Owen's humor and dissatisfaction without too much drama. Lawlor's slightly nasal tone complements the author's Midwestern roots and conveys his general displeasure with the world beyond Manhattan.

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What the Critics Say

"Owen's lucid, biting prose crackles with striking facts that yield paradigm-shifting insights." (Publishers Weekly)
"Owen's style...is cool, understated and witty; it does not appear to be in his nature to be alarmist. But this is a thoroughly alarming book." (The Washington Post)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A stupid and dangerously short sighted view

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

This is the fox news version of modern environmentalism. The author takes confirmation bias to a professional level. If the author had not so confused what is with ought, this book could have been valuable addition to ending the religious zeal of modern environmentalism. Yet it reminds me a lot of those crazy guys in black turbans that you often find embarrassing people on New York Street corners with bombastic racial insults.

The author misses the fundamental problems of man and nature with is dis-harmony. Nature is capable of absorbing most things that man can generate if it is given a chance. However, this author sees man's adaptation systems as peers with nature. Elaborate water, sewer, and energy systems can mimic the functions of nature at only the most superficial levels While the irreducible unknowns of intense human activities on the natural water cycle, biodiversity, and geological structures are numerous and in many cases potentially tragic for the planet.

I would only recommend this book as a way to understand the enemy.


Has Green Metropolis turned you off from other books in this genre?

Only from this author


What does Patrick Lawlor bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His presentation is smug and condescending.


You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Not many other than it could have been longer.


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- Gare&Sophia "Private intellectual, writer, and retired academic. Currently R&D director for Gravitational Systems Engineering, Inc."

Great take on common themes

Would you listen to Green Metropolis again? Why?

Definitely. I enjoyed how he broke down each of the topics he discussed, giving the history and the facts while keeping it light and accessible.


Which character – as performed by Patrick Lawlor – was your favorite?

Patrick Lawlor is fantastic, I wish he would look at my wish list and just record everything I want to read. I was on the fence about this book until I saw that it was performed by Patrick Lawlor. He just brings the story to life and makes the writing that much more engaging.


Any additional comments?

A lot of books with similar subject matter- using the same studies as evidence, the same historical references, etc- are out there. It has the opportunity to be dry, but it doesn't take it. David Owen reminds us how marketing has seeped into every aspect of the "green" movement to distort facts and reality, and then leaves it all on the table and says "Do what you want with this." It's refreshing, not only to have an author so willing to play the devil's advocate on such tender issues as environmental protection and sustainability- but to be neither boastful nor condescending in the presenting of facts. I really enjoyed this book.

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- QuartzandPyrite

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-03-2009
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio