At nearly twenty tons per person, American carbon dioxide emissions are among the highest in the world. Not every American fits this statistic, however. Across the country there are urban neighborhoods, suburbs, rural areas, and commercial institutions that have drastically lower carbon footprints. These exceptional places, as it turns out, are neither "poor" nor technologically advanced. Their low emissions are due to culture.
In The Five-Ton Life, Susan Subak uses previously untapped sources to discover and explore various low-carbon locations. In Washington DC, Chicago suburbs, lower Manhattan, and Amish settlements in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, she examines the built and social environment to discern the characteristics that contribute to lower greenhouse-gas emissions. The most decisive factors that decrease energy use are a commitment to small interiors and social cohesion, although each example exhibits its own dynamics and offers its own lessons for the rest of the country.
Bringing a fresh approach to the quandary of American household consumption, Subak's groundbreaking research provides many pathways toward a future that is inspiring and rooted in America's own traditions.
About the Author
Susan Subak has twenty years of experience as an environmental analyst studying the causes and consequences of climate change and as a contractor and researcher in the United States and Europe with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of East Anglia, and the Stockholm Environment Institute, among others. She is the author of Rescue and Flight: American Relief Workers Who Defied the Nazis (Nebraska, 2010).