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Environment and Urban Studies

Environment and Urban Studies

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The Struggle to Shape and Control the Electric Power Industry

For more than a century, the interplay between private, investor-owned electric utilities and government regulators has shaped the electric power industry in the United States. Provision of an essential service to largely dependent consumers invited government oversight and ever more sophisticated market intervention. The industry has sought to manage, co-opt, and profit from government regulation. In The Power Brokers, Jeremiah Lambert maps this complex interaction from the late nineteenth century to the present day.

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.

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.

The Social and Material Life of Bottled Water

How did branded bottles of water insinuate themselves into our daily lives? Why did water become an economic good—no longer a common resource but a commercial product, in industry parlance a “fast moving consumer good,” or FMCG? Plastic Water examines the processes behind this transformation. It goes beyond the usual political and environmental critiques of bottled water to investigate its multiplicity, examining a bottle of water’s simultaneous existence as, among other things, a product, personal health resource, object of boycotts, and part of accumulating waste matter.

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.

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.

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