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Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City

March 15, 2012 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

image of plane taking off against a smoggy skyline

2012 Burdick-Vary Symposium

(Part of the Burdick-Vary Lecture Series: International Perspectives on the Environmental Humanities and Social Sciences)

Andrew Ross

Professor Of Social And Cultural Analysis, Director of American Studies, New York University


Thoughtful people look to cities for evidence that progress is being made in the fight to avert climate change. The “sustainable cities” movement is thriving all across the world, and mayors compete for the title of “greenest city in America.”

In this lecture, drawing on his own research in the metro Phoenix area, Andrew Ross shows that the key solutions are more social than technical in nature. Marketing a green lifestyle to affluent residents will create showpiece sustainable enclaves, but will not alter the patterns of “eco-apartheid” that afflicts most large U.S. cities. Ross’s book, Bird On Fire, based on extensive interviews in the region, looks at some of Phoenix’s biggest challenges–water management, urban growth, immigration policy, pollution, energy supply, and downtown revitalization–in light of his arguments for policies that promote environmental justice.


Andrew Ross is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU. He is the author of twelve books, including Nice Work if You Can Get It: Life and Labor in Precarious Times, Fast Boat to China–Lessons from Shanghai, Low Pay, High Profile: The Global Push for Fair Labor, No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and its Hidden Costs, and The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Property Value in Disney’s New Town. He has also edited six collections, including No Sweat: Fashion, Free Trade, and the Rights of Garment Workers, Anti-Americanism, and The University Against Itself: The NYU Strike and the Future of the Academic Workplace. His most recent book is Bird On Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City. Professor Ross is a contributor to the Nation, the Village Voice, and Artforum.


March 15, 2012
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Pyle Center, Room 106 (AT&T Lounge)
702 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706 United States