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Book Review – Green Urbanism: Learning From European Cities

By Aaron Field


Timothy Beatley’s Green Urbanism: Learning From European Cities provides a cornucopia of examples from the ancient continent. These examples center on the methods Europeans implement to improve quality of life issues while their cities continue to expand. Professor Beatley’s subjects include traffic control, suburban sprawl, innovative public transport, and a host of other highly germane issues. Although exclusively European in its details, Green Urbanism adds substantially to the American argument for Smart Growth.

While the reader will learn much more about Freiburg or London than Dallas or Topeka, Professor Beatley does tie into the American scene. Every one of his eleven substantive chapters concludes with a “Lessons for American Cities” section. So when talking about German pedestrian zones, Beatley also discusses West Palm Beach. Given the green tint of the book, it is not surprising that Portland often appears amidst the American examples. But the American reader will find much that is genuinely interesting and worthy of study in these sections. In fact the “Lessons” sections could be read separately from the 426 densely packed pages of text.

Green Urbanism has only one weakness. Professor Beatley is an American studying Europe. Even though his prose, and his position at the University of Virginia, demonstrate ample intelligence, he probably overstates the impact of the programs he describes. But the strengths of Green Urbanism are great. Professor Beatley provides an outstanding number of case studies in good detail. Often he goes into the financial and practical details which make the programs tick. And he is not afraid to note the weaknesses of programs when appropriate. Anyone involved in the practical functioning of an American city will find plenty to challenge our conventional wisdom and, maybe, point the way to a better future.

Copies of Green Urbanism are available for $30 from Island Press at (800) 828-1302 or ordered from the website at www.islandpress.org .

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