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‘The Housing Bomb’: How bigger and better can destroy an environment


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If the authors of a recently published book have their way, “keeping up with the Joneses” may have more to do with who has the cheapest utility bills than who’s got the biggest house.

“The Housing Bomb: Why Our Addiction to Houses is Destroying the Environment and Threatening Our Society” is the work of three research scientists concerned with the well-meaning but often misguided exploitation of natural resources. It centers around two case studies that are a world apart: the Yellowstone National Park community and Southwestern China’s Wolong Nature Reserve, home to the giant panda.

The authors are Tarla Peterson, Boone and Crockett Chair of Wildlife and Conservation Policy at Texas A&M University; Dr. Nils Peterson, a Texas A&M graduate now at North Carolina State University; and Jianguo Liu, director of the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability at Michigan State University.

The book stemmed from Nils Peterson’s dissertation on land-use decision making around Yellowstone National Park. He found the people most concerned with the ecosystems there were also the ones who built their houses in the most fragile locations, big houses with few people living in them.

The Yellowstone research was balanced with an environmental study conducted by Liu focusing on giant panda conservation areas in China, which are touted as a model for coupled human and natural systems.