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Why living smaller, living closer, and driving less are the keys to SUSTAINABILITY

More like Manhattan
The Utopian community was Manhattan. Most Americans including most New Yorkers think of New York city as an ecological nightmare, a wasteland of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams, but in comparison with the rest of America it's a model of environmental responsibility. In fact by most significant measures, New York is the Greenest Community in the United States.

The most devastating damage that humans have done to the environment has arisen from the burning of fossil fuels, a category in which New Yorkers are practically prehistoric by comparison with other Americans including people who live in rural areas or in such putatively eco friendly cities as Portland, Oregon, and Boulder, Colorado.
82% of employed Manhattan residents travel to work by public transit, by bicycle, or on foot. That's ten times the rate for Americans in general.
" If New Yorkers lived at the typical American sprawl density of three households per residential acre, they would require many times as much land. They'd be driving cars, and they'd have huge lawns and be using pesticides and fertilizers on their lawns, so that runoff would go into streams."
The key to the New Yorker's relative environmental beginning is its extreme compactness.
New Yorkers individually drive, pollute, consume, and throw away much less than do the average residents of the surrounding suburbs, exurbs, small towns, and farms, because the tightly circumscribed space in which they live creates efficiencies for reckless consumption.The compactness of development, the fertile mix of commercial and residential uses, and the availability of public transportation make automobile ownership all but unnecessary in most of the city. New York city is by no means the world's only or best example of the environment benefits of concentrating human populations and mixing uses. Many large cities in Europe - where the main population centers arose long before the auto mobiles, and therefore evolved to be served by less environmentally disastrous means of getting around - are less wasteful than New York and the most energy efficient and least automobile dependent cities in the world include a number of Asian ones, among them Hong king and Singapore. But New York is a useful example because it is familiar both to Americans, and to people in the developing world and because it proves that affluent people are capable of living comfortably while consuming energy and inflicting environmental damage at levels well below current US averages. It offers important lessons about how to permanently reduce energy use, water consumption, carbon output, and many other environmental ills. "Of course sustainable living is easier in Vermont township, where local produce is plentiful and every backyard is equipped with compost bin." But this is exactly wrong. "Sustainable living" is actually much harder in small far-flung places than it is in dense cities. A dense urban area's greenest features - its low per-capita energy use, its high acceptance of public transit and walking, its small carbon footprint per resident- are not explicable anomalies. In terms of sustainability, dense cities have far more to teach us than solar-powered mountainside cabins or quaint old New England towns.