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Environment and Urban Studies

Environment and Urban Studies

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Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century

This book provides a long-overdue vision for a new automobile era. The cars we drive today follow the same underlying design principles as the Model Ts of a hundred years ago and the tail-finned sedans of fifty years ago. In the twenty-first century, cars are still made for twentieth-century purposes. They are inefficient for providing personal mobility within cities—where most of the world’s people now live.

A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability

McDonald’s promises to use only beef, coffee, fish, chicken, and cooking oil obtained from sustainable sources. Coca-Cola promises to achieve water neutrality. Unilever seeks to achieve 100 percent sustainable agricultural sourcing by 2020. Walmart has pledged to become carbon neutral. Big-brand companies seem to be making commitments that go beyond the usual “greenwashing” efforts undertaken largely for public-relations purposes.

Economists argue that such market-based policy instruments as environmental taxes and emission trading systems are the best way to target the negative effects of pollution. Yet there is no agreement about whether the use of these instruments is sufficient, whether they are deployed efficiently, and which factors influence their effectiveness. Nor is it clear if such policies have had any significant effect on the urgent matter of climate change mitigation.

What We Have Taken from Nature

The biosphere—the Earth’s thin layer of life—dates from nearly four billion years ago, when the first simple organisms appeared. Many species have exerted enormous influence on the biosphere’s character and productivity, but none has transformed the Earth in so many ways and on such a scale as Homo sapiens. In Harvesting the Biosphere, Vaclav Smil offers an interdisciplinary and quantitative account of human claims on the biosphere’s stores of living matter, from prehistory to the present day.

Policies toward China and India

The European Union has long portrayed itself as an international leader on climate change. In this book, the first systematic assessment of Europe’s claim to climate leadership, Diarmuid Torney analyzes the EU’s engagement with China and India on climate policies from 1990 to the present.

Evaluation and Prospects

Emissions trading schemes figure prominently among policy instruments used to tackle the problem of climate change, and the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), begun in 2005, is the largest cap-and-trade market so far established. In the EU ETS, firms regulated by the scheme are provided with emissions allowances (each a one-time right to emit one ton of greenhouse gases) and can sell their unused allowances to firms that have higher rates of emissions.

Not so long ago, people North and South had little reason to believe that wealth from oil, gas, and coal brought anything but great prosperity. But the presumption of net benefits from fossil fuels is eroding as widening circles of people rich and poor experience the downside.

Policies for a Sustainable World

Today, there are thousands of synthetic chemicals used to make our clothing, cosmetics, household products, electronic devices, even our children’s toys. Many of these chemicals help us live longer and more comfortable lives, but some of these highly useful chemicals are also persistent, toxic, and dangerous to our health and the environment. For fifty years, the conventional approach to hazardous chemicals has focused on regulation, barriers, and protection.

A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses

In this book, Vaclav Smil argues that power density is a key determinant of the nature and dynamics of energy systems. Any understanding of complex energy systems must rely on quantitative measures of many fundamental variables. Power density—the rate of energy flux per unit of area—is an important but largely overlooked measure. Smil provides the first systematic, quantitative appraisal of power density, offering detailed reviews of the power densities of renewable energy flows, fossil fuels, thermal electricity generation, and all common energy uses.

Environmental Philosophy after the End of Nature

Environmentalism, in theory and practice, is concerned with protecting nature. But if we have now reached “the end of nature,” as Bill McKibben and other environmental thinkers have declared, what is there left to protect? In Thinking like a Mall, Steven Vogel argues that environmental thinking would be better off if it dropped the concept of “nature” altogether and spoke instead of the “environment”—that is, the world that actually surrounds us, which is always a built world, the only one that we inhabit.

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