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Book Review: The Conundrum by David Owen

Driving a Prius is wrong, and other inconvenient truths

The Conundrum:
How Scientific Innovation,
Increased Efficiency, and
Good Intentions Can Make
Our Energy and Climate Problems Worse

By David Owen
Riverhead Books; 261 pp; $14


Nothing singes the psyche of an eco-conscious do-gooder quite like being rebuked by another eco-conscious do-gooder. In The Conundrum, which catalogs the hypocrisies and paradoxes of living green, the scolder is David Owen. His progressive bona fides are robust. In the 1970s, Owen moved with his new wife to Manhattan, a place he has described as a “utopian environmentalist community” because without a clothes dryer, a car, or even a lawn, their ecological footprint was minuscule. He writes frequently about the environment for the New Yorker, once arguing in its pages that an upside to the global economic crisis was that it decreased emissions. That he also writes for Golf Digest is confusing if not disqualifying.