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The Housing Bomb

Why Our Addiction to Houses Is Destroying the Environment and Threatening Our Society

M. Nils Peterson, Tarla Rai Peterson, and Jianguo Liu

Publication Year: 2013

Have we built our way to ruin? Is your desire for that beach house or cabin in the woods part of the environmental crisis? Do you really need a bigger home? Why don’t multiple generations still live under one roof? In The Housing Bomb, leading environmental researchers M. Nils Peterson, Tarla Rai Peterson, and Jianguo Liu sound the alarm, explaining how and why our growing addiction to houses has taken the humble American dream and twisted it into an environmental and societal nightmare. Without realizing how much a contemporary home already contributes to environmental destruction, most of us want bigger and bigger houses and dream of the day when we own not just one dwelling but at least the two our neighbor does. We push our children to "get out on their own" long before they need to, creating a second household where previously one existed. We pave and build, demolishing habitat needed by threatened and endangered species, adding to the mounting burden of global climate change, and sucking away resources much better applied to pressing societal needs. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” is seldom evoked in the housing world, where economists predict financial disasters when "new housing starts" are reduced and the idea of renovating inner city residences is regarded as merely a good cause. Presenting irrefutable evidence, this book cries for America and the world to intervene by making simple changes in our household energy and water usage and by supporting municipal, state, national, and international policies to counter this devastation and overuse of resources. It offers a way out of the mess we are creating and envisions a future where we all live comfortable, nondestructive lives. The “housing bomb” is ticking, and our choice is clear—change our approach or feel the blast.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Series: Johns Hopkins Biographies of Disease


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-viii

Many people contributed to this book, but we are most indebted to our family members, especially Shannon Peterson, who read endless drafts. Other family members who inspired us, gave us time to write, and provided valuable feedback include Gwen Peterson, Markus Peterson, Scott Peterson, Wayne...

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pp. 1-14

The world is facing a housing bomb that will make the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis look trivial. Public attention focused on this housing bomb has been limited, with much greater emphasis having been placed on the environmental impacts of human population. Although the population problem...

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1. Household Dynamics and Their Contribution to the Housing Bomb

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pp. 15-34

Unsustainable patterns in human relationships with the Earth fill the literature propagated by virtually every environmental science discipline and every environmental organization. Changing these patterns requires altering household dynamics (making temporal changes in household numbers,...

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2. How Home Ownership Both Emancipates and Enslaves Us

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pp. 35-54

In the twenty-first century, owning a single-family home has come to represent much more than the security and safety afforded by basic shelter. In many cases, it is seen as the visible demonstration that its owner has achieved some semblance of the good life presumably sought by all human beings....

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3. “Housaholism” in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

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pp. 55-81

Susan is one of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s (GYE) many residents who fell in love with the land in part by living on it. The remainder of Susan’s confession of house addiction reflects the household dilemma many environmentalists face in the GYE. Her 20-acre ranchette made her among the worst...

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4. Household Dynamics and Giant Panda Conservation

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pp. 82-94

Human impacts on the environment are common, even in many of the world’s approximately 134,000 protected areas (accounting for roughly 13% of Earth’s land surface).1 Although protected areas are the cornerstone of biological conservation and are often perceived as the safest preserves for nature,...

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5. Defusing the Housing Bomb with Your House

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pp. 95-120

Households are the nexus for energy use, natural-resource consumption, and waste production around the world, despite being incredibly diverse in size, shape, and function. This chapter focuses on how to make U.S. households more sustainable. Challenges to sustainable housing that can be experienced...

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6. Individual and Local Strategies for Defusing the Housing Bomb

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pp. 121-142

This chapter explores how policies operating at household, neighborhood, and city scales may help to defuse the housing bomb by curtailing sprawl (and its associated geographic segregation of people from work and from each other) and promoting viable and healthy transportation alternatives to motor...

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7. Large-Scale Strategies for Defusing the Housing Bomb

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pp. 143-167

State governments, other regional governments, nations, and even the international community have a critical role to play when it comes to defusing the housing bomb. Many issues associated with where housing goes on the landscape (e.g., health, or social justice) traditionally fall outside the purview...

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pp. 168-178

Given that prices for homes registered their largest drop in history on the December 30, 2008, Case-Shiller home price index report, our warning about a housing bomb should not be surprising. In the spirit of Paul Ehrlich’s bold predictions in The Population Bomb, we predict that the social, the economic,...


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pp. 179-205


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pp. 207-212

E-ISBN-13: 9781421410661
E-ISBN-10: 1421410664
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421410654
Print-ISBN-10: 1421410656

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 1 b&w photo, 17 line drawings
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Johns Hopkins Biographies of Disease
Series Editor Byline: Charles E. Rosenberg, Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 862208879
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Housing Bomb

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Housing -- Environmental aspects -- United States.
  • Housing development -- Environmenal aspects -- United States.
  • Human ecology -- United States.
  • Urban ecology (Sociology) -- United States.
  • Ecological houses -- United States.
  • Sustainable urban development -- United States.
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