SELF-RELIANT CITIES: Energy and the Transformation of Urban America. by David Morris

SELF-RELIANT CITIES: Energy and the Transformation of Urban America.

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By the founder and president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance: an engagingly optimistic but somewhat naive prospectus for the American city--based on a dubious analysis of its present condition. The modern city, Morris writes, was born from the discovery of coal and the invention of the steam engine; ever cheaper and more plentiful energy has been the guiding force of its evolution ever since. The result: highly centralized power grids and profligate waste of energy and resources. The city, in short, has become a parasite--a conclusion that even energy statistics (never mind other considerations) don't substantiate. (Per capita consumption of energy in many large cities, indeed, is far below that in rural, auto-dependent areas.) On Morris' terms, the escalating cost of energy now mandates creation of the ""self-reliant"" city--powered by small, neighborhood energy sources based on the sun, wind, biomass, mini-hydroelectric dams, and the like. But though he also points out, in his historical section, that cities are built and unbuilt by economics, not by visions, his self-reliant city is seen as a product of long-term planning, municipal ordinances, and regulations--in tandem with intelligent altruistic people working for the common good. It is, as always, an attractive outlook--but not a realistic alternative.

Pub Date: May 7th, 1982
Publisher: Sierra Club--dist. by Scribners