Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman

The world is flat because of globalization--which is good, as ideas and practices can spread effectively. What is not so good is that our world population is exploding and countries like India and China are seeing an increase in wealth and subsequent buying power, which puts more strain on the world's resources and increases global warming.

Friedman begins the book with a discussion of how America has changed post 9/11. He uses the example of the US consulate built in 1882 in Istanbul. The consulate was built in the heart of the city: "it was an easy place for Turks to get a VISA, to peruse the library or to engage with an American diplomat."

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the building was closed and a nearly impenetrable consulate was built. This all but stopped visitors from visiting. Although the new building does protect against attacks, it isolates Americans and impacts on how we are viewed and how we see ourselves.

The United States of America, Mr. Freidman reminds us, is the biggest energy hog in the world, by far. But now other emerging countries like India & China are ramping up, also wanting to enjoy the consumer lifestyle as well. These events drive up energy prices worldwide and accelerate climate change. In the book Mr. Freidman quotes a politician he spoke with from a poor country who summed up our casual attention to the climate problems we have created- 'It's as if you (Americans)have a fine meal of hor'dovueres, entrees and desserts.

Then you invite us over for a little Coffee afterwards and now you want us to split the bill.' In the 2nd half of the book Mr. Freidman, articulates how we must reinvent ourselves, become world leaders in green energy policies, green manufacturing & green housing. People and companies are patting themselves on the back for being green now. This according to Mr. Freidman rings false. He asserts that we are having a 'green party' where it's all fun and enjoyable and everyone goes home happy(and no one has to clean up). No one has to give up anything.

What is needed however is a 'green revolution' where we fundamentally change how we govern ourselves, nationally and locally, how we consume energy, how we live. And that is going to take sacrifices by all of us. Mr. Friedman spoke with many energy experts around the world who all articulate new technology that could drastically reduce our use of fossils fuels(he refers to it as 'dirty fuels'). One expert says that the 'future is already here, it's just not in wide distribution.' We already have plenty of technology that can create fuel efficient vehicles, smart appliances and truly integrated power grids which we could employ to reduce our 'carbon footprint.' But who has the political will to put forward an energy plan that can move these innovations from promising experiments to widely adopted practices?

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