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Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America Hardcover – September 8, 2008
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Thomas L. Friedman’s No. 1 bestseller The World Is Flat has helped millions of readers to see globalization in a new way. Now Friedman brings a fresh outlook to the crises of destabilizing climate change and rising competition for energy—both of which could poison our world if we do not act quickly and collectively. His argument speaks to all of us who are concerned about the state of America in the global future. Friedman proposes that an ambitious national strategy— which he calls “Geo-Greenism”—is not only what we need to save the planet from overheating; it is what we need to make America healthier, richer, more innovative, more productive, and more secure. As in The World Is Flat, he explains a new era—the Energy-Climate era—through an illuminating account of recent events. He shows how 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the flattening of the world by the Internet (which brought 3 billion new consumers onto the world stage) have combined to bring climate and energy issues to Main Street. But they have not gone very far down Main Street; the much-touted “green revolution” has hardly begun. With all that in mind, Friedman sets out the clean-technology breakthroughs we, and the world, will need; he shows that the ET (Energy Technology) revolution will be both transformative and disruptive; and he explains why America must lead this revolution—with the first Green President and a Green New Deal, spurred by the Greenest Generation. Hot, Flat, and Crowded is classic Thomas L. Friedman—fearless, incisive, forward-looking, and rich in surprising common sense about the world we live in today.
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Having set the scene, Friedman then launches into a solution which involves a greening of the world. And this should occur not just in the USA and other industrialised countries but must reach into China and the newly developing world. Again, hard to argue here. However, I feel that the means that he proposes this greening is somewhat wishy washy. Greening will require significant market reforms. The world will need a carbon tax at least; more likely, there will be a need to develop a full carbon trading system. But herein lies the problem. The US has already rejected "cap and trade". Not a great start. Here in Australia where this reviewer resides, there is a fierce debate at present as to the need for any intervention at all. The government seems to be losing popularity by the day as it pushes a market based agenda. This is a shame. Hard choices need to be made.
In spite of my reservations, I enjoyed Friedman's book. He is a fine journalist at the top of his craft. His influence is significant and he has a loyal fan base. I only wish that he could be more hard headed. We are facing a serious challenge at the global level. This will require severe medicine. Friedman could have produced a better book by recognising this fact with greater determination.
Early chapters cover the relationship between the price of oil and relative freedoms inside countries like Iran and Russia, and Friedman makes some remarkable points such as "$70-a-barrel oil followed by $10-a-barrel oil killed the Soviet Union." The author's petropolitical analysis is worthy of a Nobel in economics, and he then moves on to discuss ways the U.S. can move forward on a new Green path, and how our current, painless "green party" comes up well short of being a Green Revolution.
Biologist E.O. Wilson has been writing about biodiversity for decades, but Friedman's new synthesis will bring these perspectives to a much wider audience. Mention of a "Sixth Extinction" currently being felt around the planet brings to mind Richard Leakey's 1995 book by the same name. Friedman includes quotes from Jared Diamond ("Collapse" "The Third Chimpanzee") and a host of other experts to bolster his case, and he then revisits China to measure their Green progress. Freidman's point is that if we don't get on it soon, China will outgreen the U.S. with its authoritarian advantage. Beijing has eliminated the two-stroke motor scooter and replaced it with millions of electric scooters and bicycles, and each night citizens carry their batteries inside to charge. Plastic supermarket bags have been banned, yes in one day, potentially 1.3 billion people stopped using plastic bags at the supermarket checkout.
"Hot, Flat, and Crowded" is Mr. Friedman's most important work to date, the summation of all of his previous thinking that has led to a grand insight about an American renewal fueled by Green. "Code Green" should be a cabinet-level department in the new administration and extraordinary powers handed out to meet an extraordinary financial and climatological crisis, and opportunity.
It's too bad Friedman isn't a candidate, but it's unlikely he'd get elected; he's too knowledgeable and logical.