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New Republic, The "Lifestyle" Taboo by Bradford Plumer: A Comment

September 29, 2009
by Lawrence Gulotta

The “Lifestyle” Taboo by Bradford Plumer: A comment

I wish Mr. Plumer had been allowed more space, or more time to write this article. The world is undergoing a paradigm shift in its approach to energy consumption, energy saving technology, green buildings, greener automobiles, and so on. Mr. Plumer is worried about “taboos.” Lifestyle change is not a taboo subject by any stretch of the imagination. Take for example the extraordinary explosion in bicycle transportation in just two cities, Portland, Ore. and New York City. Both cities are also endowed with excellent mass transit systems. Ten years ago, bicycles were for kids. I was surprised when in a hotly contested city council primary race in Brooklyn this September the question, “Do you own a car?” surfaced as a test of Liberal mettle.

The depiction of urban Italy is risible. The FIAT 500 is not the most common automobile on the roads. Italian street traffic is highly diversified. The Vespa motor scooter, now finding its way to Urban America, is an Italian inspired lifestyle choice–considered very stylish in NY today. Bicycles have always been a common mode of transportation in Europe. All the consumer appliances mentioned by Mr. Plumer are obtainable, in many cases they are manufactured, in Italy. The difference between the American and the Italian is that the Italian understands that they are expensive to operate and therefore choose the economical and in some cases the natural way out. They call it ‘sunny” Italy for a reason.

US and local building codes are being modified to promote a low carbon sustainability. An extraordinary step forward in office building low carbon sustainable construction is “One Bryant Park,” built by the Durst Organization, @ W 42nd St and Avenues of the Americas, incorporating the most advanced systems, commonly found in new European skyscrapers.

Why are we worrying about taboos? Americans are a technologically revolutionary people (you know, “Hip”). Economic determinism will drive the lifestyle changes.

Incidentally, the photograph of the red, white and green “johnny pump” is to be found in NYC, not Italy. I suggest Mr. Plumer travels to Europe and engages in real research and please don’t forget to bring your camera.

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