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The Practical Utopians
The People of the Parish
Luke Karamazov
Justice in Plain Sight
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The Long Journey of the Nez Perce
Winning Your Election the Wellstone Way
Pivotal Tuesdays
John James Audubon

The Five-Ton LifeThe Five-Ton Life

Carbon, America, and the Culture That May Save Us

Susan Subak

Narrated by Rosemary Benson

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Nebraska Press

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.

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.


“Susan Subak focuses on looking to the past for a way forward into the future. It is a very interesting way to approach climate change and I think it is unique.”

—Brett Favaro, author of The Carbon Code: How You Can Become a Climate Change Hero

“A wonderfully crafted book. While there are a zillion books produced on climate change, this book fills a crucial niche in terms of both content and style. Looking at cases of existing low carbon culture in the United States is very useful. It draws attention to various ways of living and conducting one’s life. It’s a great, very readable addition.”

—Johannes Stripple, editor of Governing the Climate: New Approaches to Rationality, Power, and Politics

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University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks