Permit me to announce that my new book has been published today! If you spend $45 on the hardcover or $19 on the paperback, you can now buy Green Cities: Urban Growth and the Environment from the Brookings Institution Press. While my current amazon book ranking is 1.5 million, I have a feeling that the distance between my book and Al Gore's new inconvenient classic will quickly shrink. I must warn you that my book does have fewer pictures than his.
WHY DID I WRITE THIS BOOK?
I could tell you the polite answer or the true answer. The polite answer is that ever since I finished my 1993 PHD thesis at the University of Chicago I have worked on a diverse set of topics related to urban and environmental issues. I always saw the links between these papers. I saw my research agenda but you'd have to be quite a Matt Kahn groupie and carefully read these exciting papers to see the links between these papers and to see my "big picture". My Green Cities book has allowed me to present my "big picture" research agenda in one place rather than downloading 50 different JSToR , NBER and Elsevier papers in different formats and fonts.
More than simply summarizing my past research, I try hard in my green cities book to show the reader what are some of the most exciting studies conducted by other environmental and urban economists on related topics. I would hope that my book leads to some debate and helps young people formulate interesting research questions of their own that build on what I lay out in this book. I'd be delighted if economists in developing countries read my book and address how the issues I discuss may or may not matter for their home nation. While the book is only 160 pages long, it tries to tackle some international issues but it is true that the bulk of the evidence and discussion is based on U.S cities (with the exception of Chapter 6).
The true reason I wrote this book is that for the last 8 years I have suffered from book envy. Published in 1998, my wife wrote a great book called the "Evolution of Retirement". She won the TIAA-CREFF prize for this book. It is well cited and it raised our family's permanent income. While I've always been quite proud of her for her accomplishment, in the back of my mind I've always wondered whether I could write a good book. I started writing an early version of this book in 1999 when I was still a faculty member at Columbia University but I was too young and too befuddled to write a strong book that interest both a general audience , students, and even professional academics.
I made real progress writing this book when I was at Stanford in 2003-2004. Peace and quiet and sunshine are productive inputs for writing!
COULD THIS BOOK SUCCEED?
I would hope that there are professors of environmental economics, urban economics, urban planning and environmental law that are looking for course supplements to make their readings more interesting.
I would hope that there are generalist readers who have an open mind about environmental trends and after the success of Lomborg's Skeptical Environmentalist are willing to read through an empirical study by a Chicago economist who cares about environmental issues but also believes in the importance of tradeoffs and the power of incentives.