Where the Wild Things Are in the City – Comments on Owen’s Green Metropolis

David Owen in Green Metropolis brought up several interesting topics regarding the current structure of society. One particular thing that kept me reading was the writing style that Owen used. A quick search online and I found that this particular writing style was not only unique to Green Metropolis but to all his other works. The cut-throat, matter-of-fact, statement after statement writing style is but a bit discouraging.

In the chapter, liquid civilization, Owen talked of the reliance on oil. This is particularly true. For another class on resources, I had researched a bit on peak oil and the conclusion that I had on that research paper is quite similar to that of Owen’s. I feel like maybe both of us are not experts in the fossil fuel industry and do not really know of a particular solution or solutions to the crisis, but both of us sense that urgency for a solution. As mentioned in class, the sprawl movement was driven by vehicles and at the same time vehicles also promote sprawl. The most memorable line in the chapter was when Owen quoted Henry Ford on his view of how vehicles will save people from the cities.

The lure of the suburbs is something that is built into every American’s dreams. That idea of owning a house with at least three rooms two bath, a backyard, and two car garages is so appealing that even Owen himself was unable to resist and moved out of the city. For someone who grew up outside the city, it is hard to imagine otherwise. My dreams are exactly in line with having a house in the suburbs, well at least that was before I found the city life. It has been two months since I move to Philly and even though Philly is not as compact and not as metropolis as New York City, I can already feel the difference. Yes, I do miss having a car and being able to go downstairs and just drive off to anywhere. Yes, I do miss that feeling of taking a nap in the backyard. But as a student and a relatively poor one, I must say that having none of that and trading it for a single room apartment in a tall rise building have saved me around $400 a month. (gas and vehicle maintenance alone).

But what about those fields of grass, the sound of running streams, that undisturbed nature? It is often hard to associate that with city living. I love outdoor activities, especially hiking, and being from San Diego I used to go on hikes every weekend before I moved to Philly. The one thing that I could not get used to was the amount of concrete and man-made materials that surround me. Initially I was super sad, but after a few weeks I began to find that even in a large city such as Philly, there is a huge number of parks and trails for me to explore.

In retrospect, I am one of those individuals that love to agree with the author on anything that I read. Maybe it is because it is easier or maybe it’s the language barrier but having already known of these perspectives prior to reading Owen’s book makes it even harder for me to disagree with him.


About t5huang

Masters in Environmental Science at UPenn Candidate
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