David Owen’s book Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability is a very important book.

Owen’s book kicks open the portals to information and understandings that citizens must embrace if they are to evolve a sustainable trajectory for civilization.

Not since 1961 when Jane Jacobs published The Death and Life of Great American Cities has there been a more important, powerful and accessible new source of information and understanding of sustainable, functional human settlement patterns. Given the enormous impact of Jacob’s work – a recent poll of planning and development professionals anointed Jacobs the number one Urban thinker of ALL TIME – Owen’s book is a MUST READ NOW. See End Note One

1. The web site recently conducted a pole on Urban thinkers. Jacobs came in number one among the 100 top vote getters. The Planetizen (The Planning and Development Network) list is fascinating. Chris Alexander is 3rd (well deserved), William H Whyte 9th (ditto), Richard Florida 29th (moving on up) and Henry Ford AntiUrban Henry Ford should tie with Frank Lloyd Wright, but then the bottom of this list is NOT a list of the ‘worst’ Urban thinkers in fact some of the ‘worst’ rank higher than Ford – for example, Bucky Fuller and Le Corbusier.

The more important question is: Where are Aristotle, Christaller, Doxiadis and many, many others that SHOULD be in the top 100? Well over half the most important Urban / human settlement pattern thinkers quoted in The Shape of the Future are not present even though the author worked for, met or read the work of over 80 percent of the 100 thinkers on the list. One reason, there is extensive representation of those who have recently and loudly embraced New Urbanism.

This review is presented in three Parts:

• Summary of Owen’s most important insights
• Four Tragic Flaws that obscure the importance of Owen’s perspectives
• Three milestones on the path to a sustainable civilization that Owen’s work can facilitate


There is no question of the importance and accessibility of Owen’s work. Phil Langdon a well read Urban advocate and author calls the book “riveting and fiercely intelligent.” At the same time, Jonathan Yardley WaPo’s emeritus literary omnivore says the book is “cool, understated and witty.” In summary, Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability is a monumental, yet accessible source of information for citizens. See End Note Two

2. In the course of just 324 pages Owen touches on most of the topics that EMR covers in nearly 3,400 in The Shape of the Future and TRILO-G. And while EMR is often critical of WaPo – credit where credit is due – EMR first saw a reference to this book the WaPo book review by Jonathan Yardley mentioned above and in End Note Seven. EMR is also critical of short, simple non-fiction books but that is another story explored in TRILO-G, PART FOURTEEN – RESOURCES – Chapter 51

Owens core thesis is this:

Human settlement patterns control the future course of civilization because per capita energy consumption and per capita goods consumption are directly related the pattern and density of land use at the Alpha Community and SubRegional scales.

As readers familiar with the work of SYNERGY might guess, Owen does NOT use those words but that is what he means. More on that later.

In six short chapters Owen lays out an overwhelmingly case for Fundamental Transformations to reflect reality:

Chapter One (“More like Manhattan”) presents the author’s core thesis.

Chapter Two (“Liquid Civilization”) makes the case that oil IS 20th century civilization. Oil has peaked and so the 21st century must embrace a new basis for society, hopefully, one that is sustainable. Without the overwrought hype of the Dark Greens and the Dooms Day Peak Oilers, Owen uses EROEI (Energy Returned On Energy Invested) to document that there are NO cheap substitutes for fossil-based hydro carbon energy (aka, Natural Capital). Further, there are not many expensive ones that are feasible replacements when it comes to human settlement pattern dispersal (aka, Mobility and Access). This is the same conclusion SYNERGY reached in “Timberfence Truth or Consequences.”

Chapter Three (“There and Back”) explores a number of examples of humans debilitating dependence on Autonomobiles. Owen focuses on the scale of fossil fuel consumption and the over dependence on Autonomobiles for Mobility and Access due to scatteration of Urban activities.

Chapter Four (“The Great Outdoors”) pokes holes in the many of the false assumptions and Myths that human’s cherish concerning access to, and use of, Openspace and Open Land. A major theme is human isolation from Open Space and Openland due to the Autonomobile.

Chapter Five (“Embodied Efficiency”) returns to the main theme. Owens corrects common misconceptions about ‘embedded energy’ in Urban environments and uses the concept of “Embodied Efficiency” to focus attention on locational and spacial relationships. He dismantles the fallacious assumption that Urban areas are the ‘cause’ of Mass OverConsumption of resources.

Most of the resources are ‘used’ IN Urban areas because the vast majority of human economic, social and physical activity ARE LOCATED THERE. However. the per capita consumption is LOWER in high intensity Urban areas than in alternative settlement pattern configurations used to carry out Urban activities.

Chapter Six (“The Shape of Things to Come”) provides vivid sketches of settlement pattern dysfunction in several Chinese Regions and in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Owen uses these places to document and illustrate why the current settlement pattern trajectory is unsustainable. (Who could NOT like a chapter titled “the shape of things to come?”)

What is most important and most impressive is that in a short book Owen – based on his personal experience, reinforced by research – NAILS TO THE WALL many of the Myths, misconceptions and incorrect conventional wisdom concerning human settlement patterns. See End Note Three.

3. EMR agrees with almost all of Owen’s observations but it is not clear that all of Owen’s statements can be proven as stated in the book. Owen’s thesis concerning per capita consumption was first published in The New Yorker in 2004. Much of his work has also appeared in this magazine. As a writer for The New Yorker his work SHOULD have been fact checked well. Only time will tell if some of the statements will have to be modified or more precisely defined, stated and documented. With a book as important as this, being able to support every statement is critical.

Like John McPhee, Malcolm Gladwell, and Bill McKibben, Owen is a long time The New Yorker employee. All four are great ‘story tellers.’ The limitations of story tellers is addressed in Chapter 2 of The Shape of the Future in the context of the writing of John McPhee. McPhee is a superb storyteller who has brilliantly illuminated topics BUT ONLY AFTER THERE IS A OVERARCHING CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK. This issue is again addressed in Chapters 36 and 51 of TRILO-G and further explored under the Fatal Flaw Number Two – Lack of a comprehensive Conceptual Framework – later in this review.

The misconceptions and Myths illuminated by Owen are relied on by citizens when they make decisions in the voting booth and in the marketplace. The cumulative impact of these badly informed decisions drive dysfunctional human settlement pattern. These are the actions that constitute THE ROOTS OF THE HELTER SKELTER CRISIS, PART ONE of TRILO-G and result in an unsustainable trajectory of contemporary civilization by every rational measure of societal performance and resource consumption.

Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability clearly documents that it is NOT JUST:

• ‘Freeways,’ ByPasses, ‘free’ parking, strip centers, Big Boxes, it is NOT JUST

• Subdivision monocultures, it is NOT JUST

• Greedy speculators, monopoly Enterprises, subservient (Enterprise owned) MainStream Media, OR EVEN

• Inept (much less corrupt) governance practitioners

that drive settlement pattern dysfunction.

IT IS ALSO NOT JUST endemic xenophobia, or the genetic proclivities underlying human obsessions with:

• Physical separation
• Short grass
• Status seeking driven by advertising
• Monetized (aka, “Cheap”) culture / society OR EVEN
• Foods laced with salt, sugar and fat

that generate dysfunctional human settlement patterns. See End Note Four

4. See The Shape of the Future and TRILO-G for a summary of all these drivers of dysfunction. For recent summaries of the genetic proclivities underlying dysfunctions driven by unhealthy food and ‘cheap society” see Shell, Ellen Ruppel, Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture and Kessler, David, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.

Owen carefully dismantles common Green Myths and puts a bright light on Green Greed as exemplified by overselling of replacement windows, photovoltaic arrays and, residential wind turbans. Green Greed also infests ads for florescent bulbs by Home Depot and Wal*Mart and the ads, web sites and Institutions supported by Green Washers – those who profit from citizens hoping to buy their way out of Green Guilt.

Going far beyond Green Greed, Green Washers and Green Guilt, Owen demonstrates that AS CURRENTLY DESIGNED AND IMPLEMENTED the drivers of settlement pattern dysfunction ALSO include:

• Hybrid, electric and other fuel efficient vehicles

• Off-grid / simple living, recycling, eating local and green gadgets

• Roadway improvements and congestion mitigation

• Creation and expansion of shared-vehicle systems (including Commuter rail, light rail, trolley, bus rapid transit (BRT) and radial extensions of heavy rail (METRO)

• Green buildings in dysfunctional locations (especially those with LEED certifications)

• New Urbanist projects in dysfunctional locations

• New sources of ‘clean’ energy such as ‘clean coal,’ ‘low carbon natural gas,’ hydrogen and ‘safe nuclear’

• Many conservation initiatives such as conservation easements, agricultural and forestall districts and green infrastructure.

• And other sacred cows of those who want to believe that there MUST be easy / techno paths to being green – especially Bright Green

Owen is not saying these drivers of dysfunctional are INHERENTLY bad but that AS CURRENTLY IMPLEMENTED, these ‘solutions’ CREATE AND SUPPORT actions that result in unsustainable, dysfunctional human settlement patterns. He documents why these activities are bad for ‘the environment’ and why they stand in the way of achieving a sustainable trajectory for civilization by offering the false hope that there is an alternative to Fundamental Transformation of human settlement patterns.

It is imperative that Owen’s book generate broad support by citizens concerned with the trajectory of civilization. This is because Owen and his work will NOT get support from the denizens of Easy Green, and the Green Wash / Green Greed strategies to overcome Green Guilt.

For example, Owen will not be popular with MainStream Environmental Institutions nor with the Green Washers who advertise in MainStream Media. For this reason citizens appreciation of – and support for – the thesis of Owens book is critical. See End Note Five

5. In an early review of Supercapitalism included in PART FOURTEEN – RESOURCES – Chapter 46 of TRILO-G, EMR predicted that Robert Reich’s book would not be a runaway best seller and that the author would not be popular with most economists and governance practitioners. That prediction has come to pass. The same fate is in store for Owen and Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability with those who have been plowing the fields that are explored in the book – unless citizens step forward to support the conclusions as they did with Jane Jacobs work.

Of course, his work will be ridiculed, belittled and dismissed by the advocates of Business-As-Usual, especially 12.5 Percenters and the ‘any-growth-is-good” crowd.


Stop yapping about not having time to read another book. Stop nit picking this or that point made in a review of the book. Do not bother to bop around the Internet looking for quotes that will turn out to be irrelevant. Just READ the BOOK.


Before jumping into Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability readers need to be aware that between 40 and 60 percent of the citizens who have expressed concern with the impact of dysfunctional human settlement patterns will NOT agree with Owen on first reading. The same thing happened with Jane Jacobs. EMR knows that, he was there. See End Note Six

6. EMR read The Death and Life of Great American Cities within weeks of its publication in 1961 based on a review in Time. Jacobs was known to – and respected by – some professionals including (one must would assume) the author of the Time review. Those who knew of Jacobs were familiar with her work at Architectural Forum, her community organizing in Greenwich Village and her victory over Robert Moses and / or her essay “Downtown is for People” in Exploding Metropolis (1957). However, to the vast majority of the planning and development professional ‘leadership,’ Jacobs was unknown. Professors teaching the architecture courses EMR was taking at the time had never heard of her and were not impressed with the book. Eight years later when EMR joined an architecture faculty most of the senior members still thought she was irrelevant in the “real” world. To their dismay, EMR used Death and Life as a text in the graduate and undergraduate courses.

Many readers will be turned off by one or more of the four tragic flaws that cloud the Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability. That does not mean Owen is not right. Most WILL come to agree with Owen (as they now do with Jacobs) but only after they take the time to understood the book – its strengths and its limitations.

The question is: Will citizens understand the importance of the message and take action in the voting booth and in the marketplace before it is too late?

It is popular to publish rapid fire second editions – The Earth is Flat followed by The Earth is Flat Updated and Expanded and Freakonomics followed by SuperFrekonomics, etc. – Green Metropolis cries out for a second edition soon.

To guide and inform that second edition, Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability deserves immediate in-depth discussion and debate. It will be counterproductive to launch Blogesque broadsides such as: “Owen does not understand X” or “This is just another attack on Y.” Comments will be most productive if they are in a format such as: “On page X, Owen says Y, I believe he is wrong (or more constructively, it would be more productive to state this point differently) because of Z.”

What are the Four Tragic Flaws?

1. Inconsistent use of commonly misunderstood words (Vocabulary)

2. Lack of an overarching Conceptual Framework which leads to a failure to quantify, much less precisely describe facts and relationships in terms that are recognizable and consistently defined

3. Failure to understand the power of a rational and fair allocation of location-variable costs – this in spite of the fact that Owen identifies many of those costs

4. Silence concerning alternative settlement patterns with which the majority of citizens – specifically, those who are not attracted to the Zentra of large New Urban Regions – feel comfortable. There are building configurations and settlement patterns that achieve MANY of the benefits Owen outlines WITHOUT scaring citizens with the “Manhattan” image. This is especially true for small urban enclaves in the Countryside. What is more, it is just as true for the 95 percent of the land within the Clear Edge around the Cores of New Urban Regions that are outside the Zentra.

It is important to examine and understand these Four Tragic Flaws:


The first Tragic Flaw is the failure to employ a consistent Vocabulary.

The negative impact of not evolving a consistent, robust Vocabulary with which to discuss human settlement pattern is a recurring theme in the work of SYNERGY. It is impossible to effectively communicate using Core Confusing Words. The use of an imprecise Vocabulary is explored in Chapter 2 and throughout The Shape of the Future. The issue is summarized in PART EIGHT, Chapter 26 – Gibberish and in PART THIRTEEN – GLOSSARY of TRILO-G.

Owen uses the Core Confusing words – ‘city,’ ‘exurban,’ ‘local,’ ‘sprawl,’‘suburb’ and ‘suburban’ – with regularity. His use of ‘city’ is the most confusing. A random page word count suggests the words ‘city’ and ‘cities’ are used 650 times in the 320 page book. It is clear that Owen means at least 5 different and mutually exclusive things when he uses the word ‘city.’

Compounding the confusion, Owen uses part of the official title of municipal Agencies even more times. The use of these municipal Agency names as a generic place designation, when interchanged with the use of the word ‘city’ compounds the confusion. Sometimes the place names refer to just a part of the municipality, sometimes to the entire Region in which the municipality exists – and everything in between.

‘City’ is used to describe Manhattan Island (New York County) which is only one of five counties (Boroughs) in New York City. Elsewhere, ‘New York’ and New York City are described in a way that does not apply to Staten Island that is another of the five counties within New York City. The list of inappropriate approbations is nearly endless. Suffice it to say, the majority of times the word ‘city’ is used, it does not mean the only valid use of the term – one word in the official title of a specific municipal Agency.

A great step forward would be for the second edition to not include the word ‘city’ unless it is capitalized and coupled with the name of that specific City.

Owen does not need to follow the terminology in GLOSSARY, he just needs to use words in a way that is not confusing. Owen may be clear about what HE means when HE uses a term and HE may not confuse himself by his use of words but it is axiomatic that others are confused due to the neural linguistic framework triggered by Core Confusing Words, especially ‘city,’ ‘local, and misused place names. See End Note Seven

7. EMR recently had occasion to address the neural linguistic framework of the word ‘city’ in a communication with Kirstin Miller at Ecocities Builders. Here is a clarified version or that communication:

The problem is that the majority of citizens in the US of A do not hold in high regard what they think of when someone says “city.” What one envisions in response to a word or phrase is the neural linguistic framework.

This lack of high regard is due in part to the fact that, as classically defined, “ the city” was eclipsed 140 + / – years ago by the Industrial Center. ‘City’ as an Urban entity has not existed in the US of A since soon after the War Between the States. The Industrial Center was in turn eclipsed 50 years ago by the New Urban Region as documented in The Shape of the Future.

There are two cohorts that are critical to making the connection between human settlement pattern and a sustainable trajectory for civilization:

First , there are the scholars and scientists. Scholars and scientists inhabit disciplinary islands and do not yet understand that the science of human settlement patterns IS a Science. They are almost all very sure that they do not want some overarching consilience encroaching on their turf and threatening their disciplinary fiefdom .

More important are the governance practitioners (elected and appointed) who do not think there is a connection between ‘city’ and ‘solution’ because citizens (as documented by focus groups and opinion poles) NEVER mention human settlement patterns as an issue or “city” as a solution.

Let me start with a few numbers and what one can discover from discussions with citizens in two of our favorite large Urban agglomerations:

Case One: The City of Boston has about 610,000 citizens. The Boston CMSA has over 6,000,000 citizens and Boston New Urban Region (NUR) perhaps 8,000,000.

We have lived in the Boston NUR and visit from time to time. We would estimate that less than one in ten residents view themselves as living in a place they visualize when they hear the word “city.”

Half of those who actually do live in The City of Boston would like to move out if they could because they are at the bottom of the Ziggurat and believe the ads and other Business-As-Usual propaganda – someplace else is better. They are sure of that because they saw it on TV.

Many who live in the Boston NUR, but not in “the City of Boston,” already DID move out – if not in this generation, then their parents or grandparents moved out. Citizens have been moving out of what is now the City of Boston since the mid 1600s – with others moving in to replace them. Late 20th century resurgence of “the city” as a place to live and work is great but this movement is based on five percent of the Region’s population who are supported by another ten percent who like to visit the Zentra – now and then. Fifteen percent is NOT a majority.

Case Two: Federal District of Columbia has about 595,000 residents. The Washington-Baltimore CMSA has around 8,200,000 and Washington-Baltimore NUR over 10,000,000.

The Census Bureau’s “central city” for National Capital SubRegion is composed of the Federal District, the City of Alexandria and Arlington COUNTY. Do not try to tell most Arlingtonians they live in “the city.” “Urban area,” perhaps, but “city” NO.

We have lived in four very different Beta Communities in this NUR over the past 35 years. Few who live in ANY of those places – all of which have new and/or renewed Urban fabric – thinks ‘the city’ or anything related to ‘the city’ is a ‘good’ thing.

As you know we lived in your home NUR – San Francisco Bay – while going to law school. We have not been back very often since but are sure the same realities exist there as in Boston NUR or Washington -Baltimore NUR, as they do in NURs where we have worked professionally from New York NUR to Houston NUR.

Yes, there are ‘citiphiles’ but they are a small minority. Those concerned with evolving sustainable human settlement patterns must be to put together a working majority at the Regional, state or federal scales. After all, 85 percent of the citizen of the US of A live in – and would benefit from policies that support – New Urban Regions. Yes, there are municipal councilpersons who “get it.” There are even majorities of a specific municipal councils that are supportive of Urban functionality.

The critical need is for a majority of those who vote for the ‘leaders.’ A majority will be required to support Fundamental Transformations. One goal of the Fundamental Transformations will be institutionalizing the connections between settlement pattern and environmental solutions that you and Richard Register advocate.

The review of David Owen’s new book puts the issue in perspective:

The title is Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability (Yes, I know, “metropolis” does not generate an attractive neural linguistic framework.)

But note the Subtitle: “Why living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability.” We believe a majority in a Region can come to agree on that statement.

But the headline on the WaPo review reads: “Cities Will Save Us.”

Some may be attracted to the title of the review but how many in the Boston NUR or the Washington-Baltimore NUR would bother to read the review (much less the book) with a headline like that?

When a statistically valid cross section of citizens is assembled as a sounding board / focus group for an open minded person running for Regional, state or federal office, how many will say “I saw a great review of and read a great book about how ‘cities’ will save us?”

There is one other wrinkle here. Our copy of Owen’s book is on the way, but the very positive review noted above from WaPo says that Owen’s ‘solution’ is that citizens should live at Manhattan densities because that is where per capita consumption is lowest.

The per capita consumption MAY be low in Manhattan but most citizens will doubt that. Even if they are shown that it is true, the majority of Households will use every means possible to avoid being one of those who must live in “the city.”

In Crabgrass Frontier, Kenneth Jackson points out that citizens have been looking for ways to escape “the dust and noise of the city” since cities were first formed. (According the Jackson, the Egyptian ambassador to Babylon lived in the “sub”Urbs and claimed to have the best of both worlds, close to the action but away from the congestion of the ‘city.’)

Here is where the work of SYNERGY comes into play. It turns out that less than five percent of the land area in the US of A is needed for ALL the Urban fabric to support the projected population through 2050 at MINIMUM sustainable densities – 10 Persons per acre at the Alpha Community scale.

The Zentra of New York, Boston and Washington-Baltimore NURs are all much higher in intensity but the whole NUR are far lower. One does NOT need to live in a high-rise to benefit from functional Urban fabric.

Here again the curse of pervasive Geographic Illiteracy and the Myth of the Great American Dream raises its ugly head:

“You do not want me to live in a Single Household Detached Dwelling? OH! You want to force me to live in a closet in a high-rise like Manhattan do you? Well I will fight you every way I can. Citizens have a right to protect their freedom dictators like you …”

You open your discussion of the Ecocity World Summit on page two of the newsletter with: “When you hear over 50 percent of people now live in cities…”

I believe you mean 50 percent of the people now live “in large Urban agglomerations.”

The point that you are making in the next sentence is right: Almost as many DO live in smaller Urban agglomerations, not scattered across the Countryside. In most places on the planet farmers live in Villages. And this DOES mean that Urban human settlement pattern at all scales is critical to any discussion of solutions to obtaining a sustainable trajectory for civilization.

The important point is that those in the US of A who need to make the connection between the design and delivery of the built environment and the problems facing human society do not see “city” as any part of the answer beyond being a place a few others may like to live and work and which they MAY want to visit from time to time.

What you think of when you say “city” CAN be an answer but not what the majority think of when they hear the word “city.” Again, the problem is the neural linguistic connection of the vast majority.

I know, I know. After three pages you might still be saying: “I love ‘cities,’ everyone I talk to every day loves ‘cities’…” But recall that Boa Constrictors have rabid fan clubs, so do Pit Bulls. But no one is going use a Boa or a Pit Bull as the logo for a species diversity campaign.

The vast majority of citizens in the US of A do not live in ‘city.’ As suggested in End Note Seven, the vast majority DO NOT like the place they visualize when the hear the words ‘city’ or ‘cities.’ Even those who live in a part of an intensively developed SubRegion do not love ‘cities.’ What THEY love is their Alpha Neighborhood or Alpha Village.

The other Core Confusing Words used by Owen are almost as emotion filled and just as often misused and misunderstood.


The second Tragic Flaw is the failure of Owen to articulate or embrace an overarching Conceptual Framework of human settlement pattern. This leads to an inability to quantify – much less precisely describe – facts and relationships in terms that are recognizable, consistently defined components of human settlement.

The absolute necessity of having a comprehensive Conceptual Framework in order to understand human settlement pattern is addressed in Chapter 2 of The Shape of the Future – and throughout that book. In TRILO-G the importance of a comprehensive Conceptual Framework is articulated in PART EIGHT – FIRST STEP ON THE ROAD TO SUSTAINABILITY – Chapter 27 – Building Blocks, and is graphically illustrated in a PowerPoint presentation “New Urban Region Conceptual Framework” and in ‘Stark Contrast,” both found in PART FOURTEEN – Chapter 49. See End Note Eight

8. There is as much detail about the importance of a comprehensive Conceptual Framework in the work of SYNERGY as there is concerning Vocabulary addressed in End Note Seven. In the interest of keeping this analysis ‘short,’ the details are not included in this document. For further information see the material referenced above, in particular the PowerPoint “New Urban Region Conceptual Framework.”

Whatever Conceptual Framework is employed in discussing human settlement patterns, it is essential to identify and quantify the organic components of human settlement patterns. Trying to convey the facts about the per capita consumption in “Manhattan” without an understanding and quantification of the components of “Manhattan” and the organic structure of which “Manhattan” is a part is a fantasy exercise.

“Manhattan” is not a uniform monoculture of similar sized and similarly occupied and used buildings. The varied buildings found on Manhattan are not located on lots and blocks of the same dimension and they are not all an equal distance for a subway platform. Check it out with Google Earth; Manhattan is NOT uniform. Downtown, Midtown, Tribeca, Greenwich, Upper East Side, Lower East Side (then and now) South Village (only now) are all different.

The key message that Owen is trying to get across is that certain characteristics of SOME Urbanized areas are imperative to replicate if sustainable human settlement patterns are to be achieved to support an Urban, technologically based civilization.

No one, not even Owen expects – or wants – to build replicas of “Manhattan” in order to achieve the same levels of per capita consumption. “What are the key characteristics?” “What is the Critical Mass necessary to create these characteristics?” and “At what component scale is uniformity and / or diversity important?” These are absolutely critical questions that cannot be addressed without a specific Conceptual Framework AND quantification. See End Note Nine

9. Manhattan (New York County) is about 14,600 acres. That is about the size of Columbia, Md or the part of The Woodlands that falls in Montgomery County, TX. Manhattan has about 1,634,795 residents and thus a density of about 111 persons per acre. That is ten times the density of the original plan for Columbia, MD and most of the proposed Alpha Communities (Planned New Communities) started in the US of and Western Europe between 1955 and 1995 – or in China since 2000.

The powerful, simple two dimensional graphics Owen introduces are a place to start in discussing density and diversity, but ONLY place to start. Failure to understand that there are identifiable components of human settlement pattern in every Urbanized area – and that there are Natural Laws of human settlement pattern – results in the problems pointed out in books reviewed in TRILO-G – PART TEN – THE PATH TO SUSTAINABILITY – Chapter 36 – Fireside Reading: The Authors of most of these books are looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

What is ‘possible’ for individual citizens is, due to the cumulative impact in an Urban society, ‘impossible’ for all citizens. Owen, like McKibben and the others cited in Chapter 36, act as if they have no idea that every sustainable New Urban Regions must be made up of identifiable components, especially Balanced, Alpha Communities.

The reason that it ‘appears’ that “Manhattan” intensity and density is required to lower per capita consumption is that Owen has not isolated and identified the factors that would result in similar levels of consumption with more amenable settlement patterns. See End Note Ten

10. The Rosslyn / Ballston Corridor in Arlington County, VA is a better “model” than Manhattan for the reasons spelled out in End Note Seven and further examined in the following sections. Residents can live car free in the RB Corridor without being overpowered by the scale of Manhattan.

The New Urban Regions where 85 percent of the citizens of the US of A now live and work must be made up primarily of Alpha Communities that are primarily composed of Walkable Villages with a shared vehicle station at Core of every Village.

It is NOT JUST tall buildings and NOT JUST clones of Manhattan that will set the template for these Alpha Villages and Alpha Communities. The key issue is evolving “car-free” places to live and work. See TRILO-G – PART THREE – THE PROBLEM WITH CARS. The current reality of resource consumption – made more clear than ever by Green Metropolis: Why living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability – is that the age of the Autonomobile is over. See “Timberfence Truth or Consequences.”


The third Tragic Flaw is the failure of Owen to understand the power of – or articulate a process to – achieve a rational (aka, equitable, proper and fair) allocation of location-variable costs. Throughout the book Owen identifies direct and indirect cost of dysfunctional location – the scatterization of Urban activities. In many cases he notes the existence of those costs but does not quantify them. In other places he assumes that subsidies exist but does not provide supporting references.

In addition, Owen does not indicate that he understands the profound impact that a fair and equitable (proper / intelligent) allocation of location-variable costs would have on citizen decisions. See End Note Eleven

11. Without the Vocabulary and Conceptual Framework it is hard to quantify these costs. It is in the best interest of Business-As-Usual and Governance-As-Usual to obscure and hide these costs.


The last of the four Tragic Flaws is a product of the first three. Owen is silent about alternative settlement patterns with which the majority of citizens – specifically, those who are not attracted to life in the Zentra of large New Urban Regions – would feel comfortable. As stated in End Note Seven, the VAST majority of citizens are NOT comfortable with ‘city’ or with “Manhattan” as an ideal place to live or work although a somewhat larger number consider it a nice place to play – now and then.

Even Owen is not comfortable with Manhattan in real time. If he was, he and his wife would not have moved to Northwestern Connecticut as soon as he had the resources – economic status and professional security that allowed he and his wife to rely on Telework – and excuses – children and a near-by golf course.

As suggested in the prior section, there are building forms and settlement patterns that would achieve most of the benefits Owen outlines WITHOUT scaring citizens with reference to ‘city’ and the “Manhattan” image.

Owen’s affinity for Manhattan’s per capita consumption is similar to Jane Jacobs’ affinity for the social cohesiveness of Greenwich Village in The Death and Life. However, many more can identify with Jacobs’ Alpha Village image than can with Owen’s abstract Manhattan image. If they received a personal invitation from someone who they knew and trusted, many might well visit Greenwich Village – as Jim Bacon did recently.

In addition, most Greenwich Village residents do not have the ability to articulate what they like and / or they are so high on the economic Ziggurat that they are in fact ‘different’ from those who do not find themselves attracted to ‘the city’ as suggested in End Note Seven.

Also the density of Greenwich Village is not the one thought of as “Manhattan.” The 10 to 20 story buildings in Owen’s 2D diagrams are not the mode of the most attractive parts of Manhattans many Communities and Villages. While 85 percent of the US of A’s population lives in New urban Regions only five percent of the land inside the Clear Edge approaches these patterns and densities.

How does one cause citizens to feel happy and safe? NOT by suggesting that they need to squeeze themselves into a high-rise building.

Quantification is important. There are alternatives to ‘tall buildings’ that still achieve the intensity needed to foster diversity and generate enough trips to support shared-vehicle systems. It has been have demonstrated that there could be just as many square feet of built space as there are now on Manhattan Island IF all the currently developed lots were occupied by five story Ziggurats rather than the current mix of very tall and short, inefficient buildings.

There are some advantages to tall buildings but not monocultures of tall buildings. Further, Central Paris is nearly as dense as Manhattan Island but does not have the same high percentage of jobs. The exploration of ‘density’ must be pursued much further but Owen opens the door.

The discussion to this point in this section has focused on the configuration of the Urban fabric in the Zentra of New Urban Regions.

One way to broaden the discussion is to turn ones attention to the small Urban enclaves that are inside Clear Edges in Countryside – that is outside the Clear Edge around the Core of the New Urban Region. What settlement pattern makes sense for small Urban places that are the prototype ‘small town’ image that those fleeing ‘Urban congestion’ were seeking?

Viewed from the perspective of ‘what makes sense for Urban enclaves in the Countryside,’ one can see the importance of sustainable building configurations on the 95 percent of the land

WITHIN the Clear Edges around the Cores of New Urban Regions which is OUTSIDE the Zentra.

This vast low density Urban area has far more in common with Urban enclaves in the Countryside than with the settlement patterns in the Zentra of large New Urban Regions. See PowerPoint “New Urban Region Conceptual Framework” in PART FOURTEEN – RESOURCES Chapter 49 – Resources Cited in TRILO-G.

This is an area that Owen has not explored and which is beyond the scope of this review but is, obviously, very important.


While the four Tragic Flaws detract form the impact of the first edition of Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability there are also some curious and regrettable omissions.

No one can disagree with Owen’s general observations about the negative impact of ‘free’ parking, it is curious, however, that he does not focus on the equally counterproductive free (or pay) parking surrounding shared-vehicle system station platforms.

In addition, Owen does not acknowledge the work of Donald Shoup (number 15 on the Planetizen list of Urban thinkers) who is ‘the authority’ on the evils of free parking and the ways to solve the problems caused by free parking. See End Note Twelve

12. SYNERGY has campaigned against free (and paid) parking around commuter rail stations since 1976 and around heavy and light rail stations since 1980. See “Time to Fundamentally Rethink METRO” and “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Lies.”

In another interesting omission, Owen comes to the conclusion that ‘congestion is the solution’ to getting citizens out of Autonomobiles but does not credit Tony Downes with identifying this reality three decades ago. Tony also identified “Triple Convergence” that results from congestion relief projects which Owen describes but does not credit a source.

Anyone who has been exploring the issue of human settlement pattern could list other similar omissions.

However, it is important to make it clear that in spite of the Tragic Flaws and other concerns, Owen has hit a home run for those who have been arguing for rational consideration of human settlement patterns.

Owen has gotten many things absolutely right. His experience of living in Manhattan and then living in and serving as a municipal governance practitioner – chair of zoning board – in a small township in Northwestern Connecticut has given him a unique perspective.

What he has not yet done is to figured out the middle ground between Manhattan Island (New York County, New York) and Lower City, Connecticut – or wherever it is that Owen lives along the R = 90 mile Radius from the Centroid of the New York New Urban Region.

While Owen has not identified a Third Way he has NAILED TO THE WALL the hypocrisy of the vast majority of those who show up at public hearings on land use controls, including those who claim to love traditional towns and then support Euclidian zoning.


Owen’s most important contribution to a sustainable trajectory for civilization will come form creative application of the insights contained in Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability. Owen’s perspectives can facilitate citizen understanding in at least three important areas. To date these critical understandings in these areas have been obscured by citizen’s failure to grasp the overarching importance of variations in the pattern and density of human settlement pattern.

Each of the following three milestones would mark critically important stage on the path to a sustainable trajectory of civilization.


First and foremost there must be a broad understanding of Planet Earth’s resource constrained MegaMega Economy (aka, UberEconomy). In Hazel Henderston’s terminology this is The Whole Cake – The Total Productive System of Industrial Society – not just the icing that is the monetized economy. See Chapter 6 Box 1, The Shape of the Future. In SYNERGY’s Vocabulary this ‘cake’ might be called simply “Urban civilization.”

NO ONE – Not citizens, not Agencies, not Enterprises, not Institutions – can afford the current trajectory of goods and services consumption and the entropy caused by exhaustion of the resources required to produce the goods and services.

The total Agency (public) debt is stupendous and growing exponentially

The total private debt (individuals, Households, Enterprises and Institutions) is staggering

The exact grand total of this debt may be in question but no one who has removed the Rose tinted Business-As-Usual goggles and mask can dispute these two realities.

What citizens must come to understand is that world-wide, collectively citizens and their Organizations (Agencies, Enterprises and Institutions) have burned through Natural Capital (especially, but not only, stored energy / oil) in an attempt to maintain the ILLUSION that humans can HAVE IT ALL.

There is a Myth that somehow finite resources can be magically transformed to infinite resources through technology and / or ‘simple living.’

This illusion is tragic at the scale of individuals and Households.

This illusion is catastrophic at the scale of communities from Alpha Dooryards to Alpha Community and from New Urban Region to Planet.

The illusion of everlasting growth in consumption has been kept alive during The Great Recession by constant reference to the illusion that somehow the economy with ‘soon’ return to ‘Growth-AS-Usual.’ There is no feed stock to sustain that growth. See End Note Thirteen.

13. See material circulated by members of Congress supporting the Securing America’s Future Economy (SAFE) Commission. This material documents the scale and impact of Agency debt AND the illusion that it is possible to return Business-As-Usual “growth.’ The Fed’s low interest rate strategy – pumping money into the economy to kick-start ‘growth’ is causing joy on Wall Street and creating a new bubble. The stock market has been going up for months due to the promise of more Agency subsidies and the allusion that cheap money will generate jobs.

The fact is that there are not enough resources to create a volume of goods and services to sustain the levels of consumption that citizens and their organizations still believe they ‘deserve.’

There appear to be two choices:

• Democratically determined and implemented Fundamental Transformations of settlement patterns, governance structures and economic systems to equitably and intelligently SHARE Community, Region and Planet Earth resources based on reality, OR

• Draconian / Totalitarian transformations of governance structure and economic systems that restrict and limit Community, Region and Planet Earth resources to select groups at the top of select Ziggurats based on deceit and force.

If a way to drastically reduce consumption and SHARE resources is not found, then the second path – Draconian / Totalitarian deceit and force – will leave most humans without resources or citizen status. That is not a sustainable condition on a ‘small,’ ‘flat’ planet where disadvantaged groups have access to global communications and weapons of mass destruction.

Silly bromides such as ‘starve the beast,’ ‘deregulation’ and ‘cut taxes to spur growth’ only widen the Wealth Gap. This has been demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt since the mid-70s. See Supercapitalism. These band-aids temporarily help SOME at the top of SOME Ziggurats but are at best well meaning diversions on the path to COLLAPSE.

To drive unsustainable consumption, humans continue to be lied to by Enterprise advertising:

“You can have it all!”

To garner support for this or that Agency or Institution, humans continue to be lied to by those who suggest that:

• This economic system or that economic system, OR

• This religious belief or that religious belief, OR

• This political Clan or that political Clan

Will insure that you can HAVE IT ALL – at the expense of THEM.

On a ‘small,’ ‘flat’ Planet there are no longer any THEMs.

Human actions in the marketplace and in the voting booth that are based on these lies will lead to COLLAPSE just has similar lies have done in the past.

The following are threshold perceptions to establish a sustainable trajectory in each of the three spheres of human activity and a sketch of the role that Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability has the potential to play.

In The Economic Sphere:

In the Economic Sphere the paramount strategy must be to discontinue unsustainable levels of consumption, especially those that are subsidized by burning Natural Capital to ‘grow’ the economy.

A ‘bigger’ economy meets some Enterprise needs, a‘better’ economy meets all citizens needs. See End Note Fourteen

14. See TRILO-G PART NINE – Chapter 29 – Prospering on a Finite Planet: The Economic Sphere – Global Resource Reality and Chapters 6 and 7of The Shape of the Future.

A BETTER economy requires ending Mass OverConsumption. The US of A has five percent of the Earth’s human population but consumes 20 percent of the Planet’s resources each year.

In spite of this consumption level – or because of it – the application of objective criteria documents that the US of A ranks at or near THE BOTTOM of ‘industrialized’ democracies with respect to education, health and longevity, prosperity and wealth distribution as well as happiness.

There is no significant difference in genes, diet, technology, geography, religious preferences, economic system, governance structure or any other parameter between the US of A and comparable nation-states that would account for these differences,

EXCEPT for the direct and indirect impacts of dysfunctional human settlement pattern.

Beyond damage to economic, social and natural systems inflicted by Mass OverConsumption, advertising and entertainment drives both industrialized (First World) and industrializing (Second World and Third World) citizens to believe they DESERVE and could achieve comparable levels of consumption.

There is not conceivable way that the multi-billion-population ‘developing economies’ can achieve US of A levels of consumption. See End Note Fifteen

15. Does ending Mass OverConsumption mean the end of advertising which is a major driver of creating ‘need’ and ‘want’? That is an especially important question in the US of A where five percent of the world’s population consume 20 percent of the Planet’s resources and also sets ‘the standard’ for consumption.

Massive “import replacement” and community self-reliance at all scales from Household and Alpha Dooryard to MegaRegion is an important threshold strategy.

The first step is equitable SHARING economic resources is to fairly allocate location-variable costs. That is because of the rising cost of energy and other resources required to overcome spacial dysfunction impact all other human activities.

Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability opens the window of methods to achieve these objectives.

In the Social Sphere:

Improvement in the Social Sphere will involve massive SHARING of space (aka, functional human settlement patterns) as well as SHARING vehicles, tools and resources.

Citizens must reestablishment of the Balance between individual rights and community responsibilities upon which participatory democracy is based. This will require identifying economic incentives that do not create social dysfunction as the last 35 years demonstrates. See Supercapitalism.

Simple living is NOT simple in a technologically driven, Urban society. Again Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability opens the window on this reality.

In the Physical Sphere:

Evolving Balanced, functional human settlement patterns is even more critical in the Physical Sphere. Creating car free (aka, Large, Private vehicle or Autonomobile free) and lawn free Urban fabric as well as Urban and NonUrban environments that are free from the unintended consequences of technology fixes that impair air, water, soil and food resources are necessary for a sustainable future.

In all three Spheres:

It is imperative to understand that:

On a planet made ‘small’ and ‘flat’ by 6.7 billion humans with instantaneous communications that stoke appetites for consumption, the critical parameter of a sustainable trajectory for society is NOT how smart individuals are but rather how intelligent citizens and their Organizations are as communities (small ‘c’) at ALL scales.

“Intelligent communities at ALL scales” means that intelligent communities (small ‘c’) include not just Households, not just extended ‘families’, not just Alpha Dooryards, Clusters, Neighborhoods and Villages but ESPECIALLY Alpha Communities, SubRegions, Regions and MegaRegions. In other words: There must be intelligent communities at ALL scales of human settlement.

See TRILO-G – PART FIVE – A NEW METRIC OF CITIZEN WELL BEING. More details will be found in “Sketch of the Future,” forthcoming.


There is a second critical milestone on the path to sustainable trajectory for civilization which the perspectives presented in Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability can make understandable:

There is ALREADY FAR TOO MUCH LAND devoted to Urban uses, especially in the US of A.

This point is demonstrated repeatedly in The Shape of the Future. The density ranges which Owen champions may be higher than are optimum for many human activities but this discussion opens the door to understanding spacial reality.

In the US of A there are about 2.4-billion acres of land. Excluding Alaska there are about 2.1-billion acres of land. There are 307-million + / – citizens at the present time. At a density of Manhattan (the New York County portion of New York City) – 111 persons per acre – the total population of the US of A would occupy about 0.13 percent of the land. That leaves 99.87 percent of the land for NonUrban land uses. That is better than Ivory Soap!

NO ONE seriously believes it would be wise to have ‘everyone’ in the US of A live at Manhattan densities but after reading Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability almost anyone can see that there are advantages to densities that are far higher than ‘the American Dream.’ The market for Urban fabric has confirmed this reality since technology made first made alternative Urban densities an option 140 years ago.

Since the mid 80s, SYNERGY has used the figure 10 persons per acre within Clear Edges as a minimum density for Urban land at the Alpha Community scale. See End Note Sixteen

16. This parameter is based on the densities of relatively Balanced Planned New Communities that were actually constructed in the US of A and Europe since World War II. In Planned New Communities there is an attempt to at least ‘more-fairly’ allocate some location-variable costs and thus these ‘intentional’ settlement patterns are a useful benchmark. It turns out that Planned New Communities in other parts of the world – including new ‘eco-friendly’ ones in Asia – also approximate this Guideline.

Using the area and population numbers above this would mean that the total Urban land uses (inside Clear Edges) would be about 1.5 percent of the total land area. That leaves 97.5 percent of the land for NonUrban land uses.

In order to accommodate unique topography, provide for Urban Openspace and for Open Land, the parameter for New Urban Region spacial allocations via Regional Metrics used by SYNERGY have assumed 5 percent of the land would be Urban land inside the Clear Edge around the Cores of New Urban Regions. See End Note Seventeen

17. For in depth exploration of these perspectives see PowerPoint “New Urban Region Conceptual Framework” and “Stark Contrast” found in TRILO-G – PART FIFTEEN – RESOURCES Chapter 49. The National Capital SubRegion there is perhaps twice a much land now classified by the Census Bureau as “urbanized” as is needed and millions of acres within Radius = 100 Miles of the Centroid is rendered dysfunctional by scattered Urban land uses. The vast over allocation of land to Urban land uses first became clear to EMR by comparing images taken from Diamond Head in 1961 with images taken from the same location in 1989. An illustrated lecture on the topic was summarized in a draft section of The Shape of the Future. This draft included an exploration of information gathered in Kauai, Oahu, Honolulu and Waikiki in 1989. Assisted by perspectives included in Owen’s work, this material can now be revised and will be published.

Based on the realities of resource constraint – the end of cheap energy and the end of the age of the Autonomobile addressed in “Timberfence Truth or Consequences” – it will be imperative to increase the base FUTURE minimum sustainable density of Urban fabric within Clear Edges to 20 persons per acre + / – which would lower the net Urban area to .074 percent from the 1.5 percent noted above.

What every the number one selects it will be below the 5 percent figure used in SYNERGY’s Regional Metrics.

The important understanding here is that Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability spells out the rationale for FAR higher densities than is usually assumed. Why is this so important?

A major driver of dysfunctional settlement patterns is the Myth that increases in population in any Region mean that more and more land needs to be consumed to accommodate housing, jobs and services. Land owners became land speculators due to this unfounded illusion.

In essence all land owners – even those in the most remote sections of Urban Support Regions, but especially those within a hundred miles of the Centroid of a New Urban Region – believe they are sitting on Urban development gold. This is the basis for the wailing of those who decry the loss of ‘property rights’ from land use controls.

Myths rooted in Geographic Illiteracy has salted millions of acres of land with pyrite.

Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability provides a place to start in constructing a basis to assay the true extent of land needed for Urban uses.

Rational quantification of the demand for Urban land is absolutely essential for establishing settlement pattern strategies.

Over the past century there has been a ‘market’ for Urban land uses in scattered locations for the reasons spelled out in TRILO-G PART ONE – THE ROOTS OF THE HELTER SKELTER CRISIS.

The assumption that there is a ‘property right’ based on the illusion of the need to accommodate Urban land uses has a corrosive impact on governance and social stability.

Property rights advocates claim that land use controls that limit density in some areas are “stealing” from land owners. The illusion of rights (aka, value) derived from dysfunctional scatteration can be corrected by understanding the reality of Urban settlement pattern costs and benefits. Scattered, low density Urban land uses have lower value to users and to communities (small ‘c’) than the same land uses in more functional configurations. One need go no further than the shelter market to prove this point.

Instead of communities (small ‘c’) ‘stealing’ value from individual land owners, the individual land owners are ‘stealing’ the potential of obtaining a sustainable trajectory from communities AT ALL SCALES. See End Note Eighteen

18. Failure to understand the importance of alternative human settlement patterns impacts not just owners of land who hope to make a windfall by taking advantage of the Myths explored in THE ROOTS OF THE HELTER SKELTER CRISIS. Governance practitioners and citizens in general are besotted by this Myth. A frustrated County planner who knew his staff report supporting another McMansion / Hobby Farm proposal was environmentally indefensible hollered over his shoulder has he escaped into his cubicle: “What else can ‘they’ DO with their land?” The ecological answer was ‘nothing.’ That is also the economic and social answer.

An understanding of the perspectives outlined in Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability can help citizens and their governance practitioners ways to rationally allocate cost and benefits of Urban settlement patterns. See End Note Nineteen

19. For example, sustainable agriculture will require a higher percentage of the population and a larger amount of land devoted to food and fiber production than has been the case with unsustainable industrial agriculture. Under these conditions, there will be more uses for land that is recycled out of Urban land uses.


A third critical milestone on the path to sustainable trajectory for civilization which the perspectives presented in Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability can make understandable is straight forward:

Address the Four Tragic Flaws outlined in Part Two.

A detailed review of this process is beyond the scope of the current analysis. The following are notes which may be useful to those who sketch out the process:

On Vocabulary:

What if the managers of just three web sites:


were to agreed to use a common, robust Vocabulary and avoid words such as ‘local,’ ‘city,’ etc. except where the meaning was clear and unambiguous?

What if word spread from one to another of the Institutions heralded by Paul Hawkin in Blessed Unrest that with a common Vocabulary, and a comprehensive Conceptual Framework MOST of their individual laudable goals could be more easily achieved?

The need for a robust and unambiguous Vocabulary and a comprehensive Conceptual Framework for discussion of human settlement patterns is documented by the discussion in Part Two.


Enough for now. Read Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability and come up with your own analysis and feedback.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less Are the Keys to Sustainability

    Nonsense. London requires an area 125 times the size of London to support it.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    "Human settlement patterns control the future course of civilization because per capita energy consumption and per capita goods consumption are directly related the pattern and density of land use at the Alpha Community and SubRegional scales. "

    Nice try, but this is simply unproven.


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    "Cities with high population densities use substantially less land, energy and water per
    person than low-density cities or suburban areas with large and widely spaced individual houses."

    "..the present
    paper focuses on changing unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, primarily due
    to over-consumption by those with significant disposable income."



    There you have it, urban planning at its finest: do away with rich people and live in high density slums.


  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Single-family home ownership remains (at least in the US) as a goal for many people. How can higher-density urbanism attract that same desirability? What aspects of higher-density urbanism are in most need of re-evaluation?

    As we think about ways to make higher-density urbanism more attractive, how can we reduce its financial cost? Many of the American cities already home to higher-density residential urbanism are also among the most expensive. To what degree is that a function of too little supply and too much demand, and therefore mitigated by increased higher-density urbanism in periphery locations?


  5. Anonymous Avatar

    "Higher energy prices may require accomodation in urban and spatial trends (although not those cited by optimistic urbanists) but those changes are already underway and require no further government intervention."

    John Byrne "Energy and Cities"


  6. Anonymous Avatar

    "Electricity in New York, notes an upcoming study by the New York-based Center for an Urban Future, costs twice the national average. California cities also suffer much higher prices — almost 50 percent higher than their counterparts in the Midwest. So even if you use considerably less energy, you might end up paying more. Being a big, dense city clearly has advantages, but they too often are squandered by aging infrastructure, lack of new plants and high business costs."

    "Nor is it certain suburban areas will do so much worse in tough energy times. Studies of commuting patterns in Chicago and Los Angeles show that many suburbs thirty miles or more from their downtowns — places like Naperville, Ill., and Thousand Oaks or Irvine in California — have shorter commutes than most inner-ring urbanites. This is a result of the movement of jobs to "nodes" on the periphery over the past 30 years."

    Joel Kotkin


  7. Anonymous Avatar

    CO2 = CO2/energy source * Energy source/GDP * GDP/Capita * Population.

    This says CO2 produced depends on the CO2 produced by the energy source(s) we use. It depends on how much energy we use to make our living (GDP), and how well we live (GDP per capita). And how many people we decide to support.

    You can replace CO2 with any pollutant you choose and the result of th is equation still holds.
    After you decide how much pollutant you want to produce (left side of the equation) then divide that by the area the population lives on to get the concentration of pollution you have to live with.

    We can have, and live with, less pollution by living on more space, using less energy, producing less stuff, living less well, and by having fewer children.


  8. Anonymous Avatar

    The equation abov is pretty stark, but it captures the truth of the problems we face, and no amount of urban landsacaping can change that equation.


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    The problem here is this, take the situation of London along with its support area of 125X.

    Consider ALL of the energy used in the entire upport area, because THAT is what determines sustainability.

    Now make London twice as dense. Would the entire system (London plus support area) use less energy? Would the entire system (London plus support area) be larger or smaller? Considering the energy and expense to make London twice as dense, would the system be better off both energetically and financially?

    Finally, would all the people in London feel that they were better off, personally?

    If you cannot pass that test, then you may as well go back to the drwing board.


  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Owens core thesis is this:

    "Human settlement patterns control the future course of civilization because per capita energy consumption and per capita goods consumption are directly related the pattern and density of land use at the Alpha Community and SubRegional scales."

    Aren't you putting words in Owen's mouth? I'll bet he never mentioned alpha communities or subregional scales.

    Cuold be why he used 324 pages to your 3200.


  11. Gill Robb Avatar

    Every time I consider moving back to the city, I have flash backs of Carlton Heston in Planet of the Apes.

    Just a bunch of Baboons.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Like I said, if you cannot pass that test,then the urban planners need to go back to the drawing board.

    Many of the American cities already home to higher-density residential urbanism are also among the most expensive.

    If they are more expensive, it is very likely because they use more resources, which have to be paid for.

    "Urban areas require productive ecosystems outside of their borders to produce the food, water and renewable resources consumed by their residents. They also depend upon ecological systems to absorb wastes and to provide life support services, such as climate stability and protection from ultraviolet radiation (Bartone 1991; Brown & Jackson 1987; Folke et al. 1997; Lowe 1991; Wackernagel et al. 1993).

    As cities grow, so too does their consumption of energy and resources and their production of wastes and pollution. This can quickly overtax the capacity of ecosystems in the surrounding countryside, forcing the city to exert pressure on more distant ecosystems for desperately needed resources and ecological services (Brown & Jackson 1991; Folke et al. 1997; Holden 1995). In this way, cities import or appropriate carrying capacity from other regions.

    Not only does the appropriation of carrying capacity from other regions go against the tenets of sustainable development, but it can be highly risky for city inhabitants. It creates dependence on foreign resources and ecosystem functions over which city inhabitants have little control or influence. It creates the illusion of resource abundance by sheltering cities (or isolated urban areas) from the ecological damage they inflict outside their boundaries. And, it creates inequity by exploiting the resources and ecosystem functions of other, often less fortunate, populations (Bartone 1991; Brown & Jackson 1991; Folke et al. 1997; Lowe 1991)."


  13. Anonymous Avatar

    "The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that aren't true."

    Mark Twain

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    "Owen is not saying these drivers of dysfunctional are INHERENTLY bad but that AS CURRENTLY IMPLEMENTED, these ‘solutions’ CREATE AND SUPPORT actions that result in unsustainable, dysfunctional human settlement patterns."

    Again, this isn't what Owen said but is EMR putting words in his mouth.

    That said, I agree with owen that these activities are not necessarily green nor will they lead to a sustainable future.

    These activities, while good ideas by themselves, cannot be viewed as complete answers or applied indiscriminately.

    TC = PC + EC + GC.

    If these activities do enot lower total costs then they are not green.


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Before E M Risse posted the first draft review of “Green Metropolis” (Light at the End of the Tunnel on Nov 6th) a trusted friend at the University suggested I read the book.

    I have now completed the book and find Mr. Risse’s complete review right on target.

    What is startling (and amusing , if not so tragic) is that Owen addresses every one of the misconceptions that “RH” tries to suggest are facts.

    Not every one of RHs posts are wrong, but RH does not understand enough about the topic to know which ones actually support what Owen and Risse are saying – especially if they stopped using ill-defined words.

    We suggest RH read the book rather than making a fool of himself.

    Our family has been in the ‘land and development business’ for 50 years. Based on what we now know, we are getting out.


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    We thought readers of this blog would like to know that at a Republican victory party recently, we had the opportunity to discuss at length the Ray Hyde (Anon RH) posts with someone who claims they are paying for RH’s work.

    They feel they are getting their moneys worth because, as she said, “these issues are so complex and Risse’s perspective so counterintuitive and contrary to conventional wisdom that it is an easy target.”

    Further, she noted that Ray Hyde has an unerring ability to mix in some common sense and thus make complete nonsense sound like something a good old boy would really believe.

    She was hoping that Risse’s responses to the RH posts would take up all or Prof. Risse’s time. That has not worked out. Not only has he completed the draft of his new book but she heard from acquaintances who are active in environmental groups that she and her husband fund that it will be published in January.

    My new friend feels somewhat guilty because she knows Risse is right but as she said: “The bottom line is the bottom line, I have investors and stockholders to look out for.”

    She further noted that Risse set himself up for continuing attacks by refusing to respond to RH on moral grounds due to RH’s unethical attacks on a resident of Fauquier County who passed away several years ago.

    Since Risse does not suffer fools gladly and is not a hale-fellow-well-met, he is not a target that garners sympathy. In fact many hope he is dead wrong or, like this lady, hope to put off the day of reckoning as long as possible.

    PS. My new friend has never met Ray Hyde and is not even sure the money is going to him. But as long as RH keeps commenting and distracting focus from long term solutions, she will keep putting $100 bills in unmarked envelopes and leaving them at the designated location.

    After talking to her, we are hoping to sell our 20 acre horse farm soon…

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    Some people can't resist arguing with me, even when I agree with them.

    I agree that per capita energy consumption and per capita goods consumption practiced merican style on a global scale is not sustainable.

    I just don't agree that putting all that consumption in a smaller area makes it any more sustainable. We already have a worldwide pattern of increasing urbanism, and I don't see the world getting any better off because of it.

    Given enough money, there is nothing to prevent urban consumption from becoming even greater than suburban consumption. Just take a look at Bernie Madoffs pad, for one example of conspicuous consumption.

    London requires and area 125 times its size to support it. Berlin requires an area larger than all of eastern Germany to support it. Tokyo requires an area larger than all of Japan to support it. Helsinki gets by on a smaller footprint, but it depends on Satellite cities with very samll footprints and very large support areas, so it basically rents footprint space from its supporting satellites.

    The arguments supporting the idea of green metropolis' violate everything I was ever taught about systems analysis, environmental economics, cost analysis, and sometimes even basic physics. But, whenever I point out the obvious shortcomings in the arguments, then I'm either an idiot or a hired expert mercenary, out to destroy the environmental movement.

    All I want is an environmental movement that is ethical, honest, and makes some semblance of sense.

    Green Metropolis has managed to turn an oxymoron into a mantra. Code phrases like this, along with "vibrant urban center", "pedestrian friendly environment", "green jobs", "short term profits", and "corporate greed" are profligrate in the literature that panders to those who cannot think for themselves.

    What I want is an environmental movement that is FAR, FAR better than the one we have now, and one that is able to rise above its own rhetoric. I want an environmental movement that embraces profit as the engine that allows us to pay for the environment we wish to have. I want an environmental movement that doesn't assume it has the high moral ground, and treats everyone as equals.

    I'd like to see EMR address the question from

    Single-family home ownership remains (at least in the US) as a goal for many people. How can higher-density urbanism attract that same desirability? What aspects of higher-density urbanism are in most need of re-evaluation?


  18. Anonymous Avatar

    "We suggest RH read the book rather than making a fool of himself. "

    I'd say it is foolish to assume that those two activities are mutually exclusive.

    Look, all I have done is present some information, generally with sources to back it up.

    How is that making a fool of myself? Attacking the messenger is foolish.


    I'll say it again, I do not get paid for my posts by anyone.

    But if anyone does want to sponsor me, I would gladly accept, because I can use the help.

    What is startling (and amusing , if not so tragic) is that DNG assumes that just because Owen addresses every one of the misconceptions that “RH” (and many others) suggest are facts, that they are not.

    It doesn't matter who is "right" or "wrong" here. There is no point in insisting that Owen and Risse are right an RH is wrong: we are going to create certain policies and we will either be better off or not.

    I'm pretty certain that the point in time where we learn the inevitable truth is outside of our personal event horizons, but that ruth doesn't depend on who is right and who is wrong.

    Arguing right and wrong is not the same as searching for the truth. Republicans and Democrats are waging an epic battle over right and wrong, instead of trying to improve health insurance and health care.

    As far as sustainability is concerned, first you have to decide how many people you wish to sustain, and at what level of wealth, then you can worry about sustainability. But the idea that we can INCREASE our sustainability by just moving millions more into urban areas simply makes no sense.


  19. Anonymous Avatar

    " a Republican victory party recently, we had the opportunity to discuss at length the Ray Hyde (Anon RH) posts with someone who claims they are paying for RH’s work."

    Never, ever, believe anything you hear at a Republican victory party.

    Believe me, there is not a self respecting Republican anywhere who would fund my activities, if he understood my goals.

    Besides, that particular gentlewomman must be a blithering idiot: why would she pay me to attack an easy target? Why would she claim to be paying me to attack an easy target when he isn't? Why would she be sending money to someone else to support me if she has never met me and isn't sure I'm getting it?

    A 20 acre horse farm will support approximately two horses, four if you are really good at it. At 11months gestation you have to get big bucks per horse to make a living that way.

    Better plan on keeping your day job in the building trades.


  20. Anonymous Avatar

    "…RH does not understand enough about the topic to know which ones actually support what Owen and Risse are saying "

    I support what Owen and Risse are saying. It is only that I draw different conclusions as to the result. And I have entirely different ideas as to how to get there.

    Risse thinks people should pay their own full locational costs.

    So do I.

    Risse thinks he should decide what those costs should be, and I think the market should decide.

    Risse thinks those in the suburbs are getting huge subsidies.

    So do I, but the flip side is that those who happen to own property in areas designated for development will get huge subsidies, at the expense of those in the suburbs.

    Risse thinks you can save land and open space by making it worthless: I think the way you save open space is make it profitable. The way you make it profitable is to be willing to pay as much to save it as you claim it is worth.

    If you think it is worth so much that you are willing to trample on the desires of millions and "force them" to live on the most expensive real estate on the planet in order to save the open space, then there is something seriously wrong with your value system or else the open space is worth what you claim..

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