NYC Greener Than Vermont? Sure, If Air Pollution and Epic Waste Is Green. | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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NYC Greener Than Vermont? Sure, If Air Pollution and Epic Waste Is Green. 

Published September 29, 2009 at 5:47 p.m.

If green is the new black and gay is the new green, then that must make New York City the new gay. Whatever.

Anyway, what I mean to say is that, according to an article in the inimitable, hard-hitting news org Time magazine, the Big Apple is greener than the Green Mountain State. But how is that possible? I mean, I'm no Bill McKibben or anything, but Vermont is the essence of green. We invented green. Green didn't exist before Vermont cooked it up in a secret underground lab.

The photo at the right is what environmentalists look like in New York City. Not really. It's a giant rat.

Time gets this little morsel of highly inflammatory information from someone named David Owen, who apparently wrote a book smearing Vermont and praising New York City for being environmental stewards on par with John flipping Muir. Owen's new book Green Metropolis: What the City Can Teach the Country About True Sustainability posits that New York City is the greenest city in America. Um, has he ever been to Queens? Just wondering.

In a September 24 Q&A with Time transcriber Claire Suddath, Owen calls out Vermont for not being anywhere close to green. By Owen's standards, we're not even chartreuse or aquamarine. We might as well be soot colored.

According to Owen, the environmental impact is higher per capita here in Vermont than it is in New York City. Owen scolds us for using more electricity, oil and water than they do in New York. Well, that's because it's about negative 300 degrees here and we need to not freeze to death. With their population density, they have all that human body heat to keep them warm. Also, we probably use more water because we like to shower, because we're not dirty sewer rats.

Owen also says that the average Vermonter burns 540 gallons of gasoline a year. The average New Yorker burns just 90. Big whup. That's because New Yorkers don't own cars because the parking costs are outrageous. It's not because they're inherently more environmental than we are. To own a car in New York costs about what it costs to send a kid to fracking NYU. When you're already paying $3000 a month for a bed-sit in a sixth-floor walk-up, owning a car is hardly tops on the priority list.

Owen's thesis seems a bit flimsy when you look at the issue of intent. Do New Yorkers make a conscious effort to live more sustainable lives and in doing so make a smaller carbon footprint? No. Well, maybe some do. But they all live in Brooklyn. It's by default that they're supposedly more green than us. How could they not be? They're all living on top of each other, eating each other's scraps, Dumpster diving out of necessity and shopping for clothes in the gutter. Minus the people who live in the Upper East Side. That's what their maids are doing.

If traffic didn't bring on a complete tsunami of anxiety and if you could actually get anywhere by car in less than two hours in Manhattan, New Yorkers would be ditching their bus passes for a Hummer in no time. And not one of those pussy hybrid Hummers, neither.

Also in the interview, Owen suggests that traffic jams are actually a good thing because they deter people from driving, thus making the world a better place. Traffic jams send people down to the subway where they get mugged, raped, stabbed with a shiv and thrown onto the tracks where rats then eat their eyeballs out and hooligans spray them with urine. Traffic jams might get people to use public transportation, but people — mainly people from New Jersey — still drive in the city. 

I'm not saying Owen doesn't know what he's talking about. He's a staff writer at the New Yorker, which means that he's way more important than I am, but I think he has his facts a little wonky. You can't be an environmentalist by default. It doesn't count. Those aren't the rules. You have to make a choice and then suffer through it, all the while patting yourself on the back for saving the planet. You don't see New Yorkers doing that now, do you?

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Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober

Lauren Ober was a Seven Days staff writer from 2009-2011.

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