Departmental Papers (Sociology)

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Book Chapter

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Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas

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Climate change is an uneasy topic. Good news is welcome. For those lucky enough to live well in Manhattan, it's comforting to imagine that at least as far as carbon is concerned, the borough's density is right and good. Sure, the streets of midtown are clogged with cars. But walking, subways, and tall buildings with their cozy apartments and offices—all are exemplars of energy efficiency. Low-carbon virtuous, by default. This is the story told by the New Yorker writer David Owen in his classic essay "Green Manhattan." It's the story that's been repeated a thousand more times by Michael Bloomberg.

But the story is incomplete. And the implications are global. Manhattan isn't a snow globe, and neither is New York City. It just pretends to be one in its annual carbon-accounting reports, the city's official tallies of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming and of those gases' attribution to local activities. The unfortunate norm, which New York follows, is to use a method that ignores the emissions caused by growing and raising the city's food, ignores the carbon emitted to power the factories that assemble New Yorker's smart phones and weave their clothes, and ignores the fumes spewed by planes that ferry New Yorkers around the world.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Originally published in Nonstop Metropolis: A New York Atlas edited by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, published by and reprinted here by permission of University of California Press. ©2016 UC Press.



Date Posted: 14 June 2017