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WWL: In Defense of Density
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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In this episode:

Why New York City is the greenest community in America


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49:05 minutes (23.56 MB)
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Skyscrapers, pollution, traffic jams, dense (and growing population): That’s Manhattan. But could it possibly be the greenest city in America?

That’s the claim of David Owen’s new book Green Metropolis. Owen used to live in Manhattan, before moving to Northwestern Connecticut, a move he’s called an ecological disaster. Though his family now has easier access to leafy green spaces, clean air, and local produce---it’s a version of American life that isn’t quite sustainable. He says you can drive a Prius to your suburban home decked out with solar panels—and you still don’t have an environmental leg up on a New Yorker. He says it’s a climate predicament we can’t buy our way out of.

Join the conversation – is your urban existence as “green” as it could be? Leave your questions and comments below.

Today's program originally aired on October 13, 2009.



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Listener Email from Eben

THank you for pointing out a distinction between the perceived green-ness of living suburbia with a Prius and long commute, say, and living with truly less carbon utilization in the efficient proximity and lower personal sprawl in Manhattan. Having lived much in my life in Phoenix, a short time in Queens, and recent years in sub-rural Connecticut I can certainly agree that there are myriad examples of maximum-impact suburban lifestyles that are poor lessons on sustainability. But one necessary lesson to achieve long-term sustainability is to live closer to the sources of our consumption, where ever it is that we live. Buying local and in season, along with seeing the slaughter and participating in the harvest are, components of the wisdom of consumption that few New Yorkers (or suburbanites for that matter) will ever know. The foam-packed experience of food consumption perpetuates a disconnect between source and user that is a major contributor to our cavalier overconsumption of Earth's resources.


David Owen lives in Washington, CT, not, Washington DC.

Listener email from Mary

Once again I am tempted to call. However I would have pointed out the underlying hypocrisy of this particular program. Ok David Owen has written a book filled with eye opening facts about "Green Metropolis" - yet oops he lives in Washington DC - and you (and the last call caller) evidently live in Colebrook.

The closing chatter: "gee the autumn colors are so beautiful from my windshield why move closer to the city" was really a perfect summary of the stunning lack of sincerity surrounding the author's premise. Why should the people (planners and municipal officials) care anyway. Their friends have "been there and done that "years of living in the city" experience and can now afford to move out into the hinterlands to raise chickens. Soon they will learn how to milk cows, like Marie Antoinette.

Thus "sustainability" has become simply marketing spin for writers and reporters looking for the next new thing, rather than clear personal and civic planning and policy choices. Had you invited a second guest who could actually walk to the studio from the beautiful surrounding neighborhoods, the West End and Asylum Hill - or even the eastern edge of West Hartford "Where We Live" might have been less disingenuous.

Perhaps suburban residents who live in the hinterlands can only hear/value/accept the words of the The New Yorker author from Litchfield.

Yet why does the staff of a public radio station separate that discussion from the voices of people have already made the decision to move to walkable neighborhoods? Frankly the program on suburban frogs and water quality research was more substantial.

Listener email from David

I live about half the time in Manhattan and the other half in Litchfield County (Warren).  I take the train 80 miles from the city to Wingdale, N.Y., then drive to my house.  I average 3500 miles per year of driving by bringing up supplies with me from the city, using my bicycle when in Litchfield, telecommuting from Litchfield, and combining trips when we go out.  One doesn't have to drive daily in rural areas.

Listener email from Keith

I grew up in New York City and some time ago I moved to Bedford, NY, a very ex-urban location.
I definitely use my car a lot more now and that was a difficult adjustment.  One thing that I do to compensate is to telecommute.  I only go into my office in Manhattan one day a week.
Telecommuting is about the most fuel-efficient way to work there is.

Listener email from Nancy

Walking on a lovely autumn day sounds appealing. However, this is New England and we may get a prolonged period of frigid or heat and humidity that would make it impossible for an older person to walk anywhere.
When I lived in NYC I remember the stench of bus exhaust that was worse even than Connecticut's dirty air.