Self-Indulgence and the City


I would never consider anyone an environmentalist for the simple fact that they live in an urban area.  I wouldn’t call myself such for residing where I do, and I would never expect otherwise from anyone else.

But, David Owen, in his well-reseached book Green Metropolis, makes a convincing argument that “New York City is the greenest community in the United States.” We drive less, we live closer, we live in tighter spaces, we walk more, we use more public transportation, we use less electricity–so on and so forth. His claim soon seems so obvious. He writes:

Spreading people thinly across the countryside may make them feel greener, but it doesn’t reduce the damage they do to the environment. In fact it increases the damage, while also making the problems they cause harder to see and to address.

This argument that our rural lands–once thought wild, untouched, environmentally sound and desperately in need of preservation–hide behind a facade of naturalness the environmental havoc they actually reap, echos that which William Cronon foregrounded in a provocative but highly influential paper called “The Trouble With Wilderness.” When the paper was first published, Cronon suffered harsh criticism from environmentalists and ecologists stuck in the modernist mode of thinking of the environment with their distinct anti-urban bias and championing of the supposed sanctuary that is our virgin rural lands. Today, this argument seems to quickly be gaining support.

However, there is a fundamental flaw in Owen’s claim. Extracting New York City from the country that surrounds it is faulty logic, it’s an artificial thought experiment that might make a city-dweller feel good, but lacks meaning in the larger reality. It is a synchronic analysis for a condition that is obviously diachronic.

The island of Manhattan, like the English isles, would never exist were it not for the vast empire from which resources they extract. The environmental problem transcends city and state lines. Metropolises rely on rural land for their sustenance, quite literally, and require fuel to get it to them. It’s too self-indulgent to think these compact, condensed, walking/eco-friendly cities sprouted up from nowhere and took no environmental toll in their making, not to mention, their sustaining.

Posted in Climate, Pollution | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“You’re an excessively skilled blogger.”

A little while ago, Sophia Kelley from the New York EPA posted a conventionally ambivalent reflection on OWS, which had for a while been going on in Zuccotti Park a few  blocks from their office. It was the first time they had commented–a bit late considering Zuccoti was raided a week prior to the post going up.

That is all.  I really have nothing more to say about the post. I just wanted to share my favorite comment (totally not spam) from the site:

Courtesy of the EPA

Yes, we could all but hope to be such “excessively skilled” bloggers.

Posted in Climate, Pollution | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Photo of the Day

National Geographic’s ‘Photo of the Day’ is a beautiful aerial view of New York City.

Credit: National Geographic

The photograph, entitled “Aerial View, New York City” is by Navid Baraty.

From above, the city almost looks peaceful. Can you figure out what the Manhattan intersection in the photo is??

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pampered Pets

As if pooches in New York didn’t have it good enough already, they can now get the royal treatment in Manhattan at New York Dog Nanny, a new doggie day care in Murray Hill.

This new ‘pet spa’ goes all out when it comes to pampering pups. Their specialities: Reiki massages and “essential” oil treatments.

Credit: Pet Pro Services

Cynthia Okimoto, the owner of New York Dog Nanny, has been studying Reiki–a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation — for about five years, using a neighborhood cat as her first client.

“Reiki’s a very intention-based healing method,” Okimoto told after performing a treatment on her Yorkie, Todo. “I just kind of set an intention to kind of relax the dog and heal whatever ailments the owner has specified beforehand.”

In addition to the Reiki, Okimoto’s establishment also offers essential oil treatments. She explained that they’re “like acupuncture but with oils.”


These must be some very happy canines…

Okimoto with a pooch (

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Solution to Finals Week Stress?

Photo Credit: Zakysant from WikiMedia Commons

Are you stressed about finals? You should find a bench on a busy street and breathe in the fumes.

A study conducted at Tel Aviv University showed that carbon monoxide emissions from cars lead to less stress, according to Environment News Network.  They sent people out into crowded areas and tested reactions to noise, weather, pollution, and crowds. Those exposed to carbon monoxide were the most likely to relax and enjoy their time in the city.

Who would have thought that toxic fumes can leave you light-headed and worry free? Except, perhaps, the college students out there who long ago turned to similar forms of relaxation. But at least this is free and legal.

Posted in Pollution | Leave a comment

Fines for Throwing Out Batteries

Photo Credit: Lukas A, CZE from WikiMedia Commons

Don’t throw your rechargeable batteries away! Or at least don’t do it knowingly.

Batteries can be hazardous to the environment if they are thrown away with the rest of your trash, so a New York law that just went into effect makes it illegal to “knowingly dispose of rechargeable batteries as solid waste at any time in the state.” If you do, you could be fined $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second, and $200 for the third if all three happen within one year.

But don’t worry, if you really want to get rid of them, some stores that cell batteries will also be collecting them for recycling. Try the Best Buy or Radio Shack.


Posted in Pollution, Recycling | Leave a comment

How to Have a Green Holiday Season

The holidays are just around the corner.  It’s coming up on that time of year full of eating, gift giving, candel lighting, family seeing, and decorating.  This isn’t only the biggest holiday season of the year, its the time of the year when the electricity bills increase and a lot of waste is produced.

In order to help counter this never ending cycle, Green Christmas has put together some tips for making the holidays just as fun as usual and making them green

For those who like to decorate, Green Christmas offers ways in which to save and reduce the use of energy.  They suggest using LED lights, timed lights, not using household lights at the same time as holiday lights, and decorating with candles, which definitely reduce the use of electricity.

Green Christmas also offers up the idea of making your own holiday cards.  Normally holiday cards contribute to the cutting down of trees to make into various products such as cards.  Making your own cards allows you to use recycled materials to create the cards.  These are not only more from the heart, they are also a great way to reuse waste.  Check out some recycled card ideas at Keeper of the Home.

The website also suggests renting a Christmas tree.  Green Christmas argues that rented trees come from tree farms that plant a tree every time one is cut down.  The website argues against the purchasing of artificial Christmas trees because they say that too many resources are used to create the fake tree.

With these tips and many more, you can help to make your holidays a little greener.

Photo Credit:

Posted in Energy, Holidays, Recycling | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment