Hot, flat, and crowded : why we need a green revolution and how it can renew America

by Thomas L. Friedman

Hardcover, 2008




New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2008.


New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman brings his unique point of view to the red hot topic of global climate change. Here he proposes a national plan for going green that will not only benefit the earth, but also make America's economy stronger and its borders more secure.

Media reviews

Where does a man who needs his own offshore drilling platform just to keep the east wing of his house heated get the balls to write a book chiding America for driving energy inefficient automobiles?

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Why do we race to use up the earth’s non-renewable resources? How can we prevent the destruction of our ecosystem? Those are key questions posed in Tom Friedman’s follow-up to The World is Flat, entitled Hot, Flat, and Crowded

User reviews

LibraryThing member Sandydog1
Institute a gas tax and stop sending money to petro-dictators. Support American energy innovation and investment. Set policy for the byzantine utility sector. Be like Denmark. Al Gore owes us an apology because he sugar-coated things. Do it for the kids. This is a must-read.
LibraryThing member peacemover
In "Hot, Flat and Crowded," NY Times columnist and author Tom Friedman provides a prescient window into where we are headed globally in the areas of environmental impact of industrialization, technology, and commerce.

In the chapter 'Where Bird don't Fly,' Friedman begins with describing the post
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9/11 Turkey consulate building which is perched on a hill and is inaccessible because of all the security. He urges that the U.S. needs proactive Global engagement and diplomacy in the coming age if we are to stay competitive.

Friedman notes that the environmental legacies of recent presidents has not been that good. We have fallen far behind other developed nations in environmental standards. The auto & oil industries have fought renewable energy and fuel standards; other nations way ahead of U.S. in green energy now.

He also points out how we seem to be losing our competitive edge in business. During Cold War, our rivalry with Soviet Union drove competition and innovation. We don't have that now- now multinational corporations drive competition and have largely been able to shape policy to their advantage and profit.

The world is increasingly crowded, he asserts, due to worsening overpopulation crisis. By 2053 global population expected to top 9 billion people from 6.7 billion today, and just 2.7 billion in 1953. The population of developing 2/3 world expected to increase from 5.4 billion today to 8 billion by 2053. If basic needs for food, shelter, education, employment not met, increased violence and conflict, even more cases of genocide could arise.

The world is increasingly flat, because of amazing advances in global communication, world trade, interactive media- leveled playing field for authors, artists, small businesses, etc through development of the internet.

200 million people in developing world were lifted out of poverty in 1980s & 90s- good news. These 200 million and hundreds of millions more consuming more and more like Americans and westerners, depleting resources, using more energy, and accelerating pollution and industrialization faster and faster- bad news.

The world is increasingly hot because global warming accelerating at fastest rate since industrial revolution began; CO2 emissions way up. He cites how the IPCC Climate panel warned that if substantive action is not taken by 2012, it may be too late to slow or reverse the effects of global warming on delicate ecosystems, and environment throughout the world (i.e. Amazon river basin & Yangtze).

Friedman then looks at what he describes as "petro-dictatorships" and the inevitable ties between oil money and violence and terrorism. He raises the concern of energy poverty- how, with the "flattening" of the world, and raising of standards of living, consumption is raised and an increasing demand for energy.

He concludes with a clarion call for innovation, and development of green, smart, renewable energy. He writes:

'The future doesn't have to be a Malthusian nightmare, if we innovate, think strategically and make a a rapid switch to renewable energy technology.'

The way forward must be to 'avoid the unmanageable, manage the unavoidable.' He raises a call to preserve and restore rapidly depleting ecosystems & biodiversity. He calls for development of an "energy web"- when IT meets ET (energy tech)- importance of developing 'smart grids.'
He writes that 'the Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones.' Friedman calls for 'an ecosystem for energy innovation.'

He suggests ways to influence free market to support clean energy tech (carbon tax, clean energy credits, cap-and-trade, renewable energy mandate, etc), and rewarding shareholders who encourage green innovation. 'Think big, start small, act now.' He calls for 'a million Noahs ' raising public awareness. Friedman then concludes by urging the U.S. also lead the way in helping China turn "red to green.'

This is an excellent, ground-breaking book that is very well articulated and thorough in scope and vision. I highly recommend it!
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LibraryThing member piersanti
A little boring, and a whole lot predictable.
LibraryThing member pescatello
I just finished Tom Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded. It's a good book that talks about climate change and a crisis in America. He argues that the world's problem is that it's getting hot, flat and crowded and that convergence is driving a lot of really bad trends. America also faces a crisis. A
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emotional, phyisical and international crisis. One quote in the book mentions:

"It's like jumping off an 80-story building. For 97 stories you feel as if you're flying. That's where the world is now."

He then goes on to describe that America should solve it's crisis by getting entrepreneurial about green living and green technology and if America solves its problem, it will move on to solve the world's problems too.

It also discusses global warming and oil and their interdependence. There is no pulling punches in this section. Global warming is here due to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and while people dispute some of the implications of this, it is a fact that we're putting more and more carbon into the atmosphere. There's also an interesting section about oil and how the oil rich countries become increasingly more anti-american and anti-democratic as the price of oil increases.

It's worth a read. Anyone else read it? If so, what are your thoughts?
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LibraryThing member rfisher2861
A must read for our new administration. Full of ideas for eliminatiing our dependence on foreign oil.
LibraryThing member nmarrone
Thomas Friedman is a futurist who has presented the energy problem so that you can understand the scope of the problem and what can be done about it. Solving our energy crisis will not be done by following "101 easy things you can do to go green."

This book is split into two sections. First, the
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problems that have arisen based on humans' overuse of nature's resources. Second, the proposed solution. The energy crisis will require a large investment in time and money and a sacrifice by those who have money now. However, once the energy revolution takes place it will make all of us more prosperous and the world a better place.

In short, I couldn't put the book down and it has inspired me with fresh ideas for my own life.
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LibraryThing member Clif
Hot, Flat and Crowded can be translated as climate change, globalization, and population growth. This book is a followup to the author's best-selling The World Is Flat, a book about globalization of business. This book examines how globalization can continue in a way that doesn't doom the world due
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to climate change or population growth. It quickly explains that the problem with population isn't so much that there's too many people. But rather it is that in a flat world everyone aspires to gain access to an American level of consumption. The world simply doesn't have enough consumables to go around for the benefits of a flat world to spread to all of the world's population.

One of the good things about Friedman's book is that he doesn't dwell, as say, Gore's movie did, on describing the problem. But rather he spends most of the book describing possible solutions. The overall effect of the book is that of being a cheerleader for the green movement. He sees a day when the whole world will be served by electricity from renewable sources. With low cost energy from renewable sources the whole world can have access to the benefits of a flattened world. His vision for the future world is one that allows humans to live comfortably and at the same time allows the environment and biodiversity found in nature to be protected.

The book is long, and with so many words he's almost able to convince the reader that his vision for for the world's future is possible. I never cease to be amazed at Friedman's verbosity. The book is long and filled with numerous quotations from interviews with professors, experts, business leaders and activist from around the world. It reads much like a long newspaper feature article. He inserts his own terms into the narrative, such as "Energy-Climate Era." He keeps in touch with reality and trys to be practical in his suggestions for directions to take with future energy policies. Thus I think it's a book that business leaders can find to be acceptable reading. As least I hope so. After all, this is probably the most important issue of our time.
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LibraryThing member BookListener
Mr. Friedman makes some excellent points about the combined effects of climate change, globalization, and population growth. I found his explanation of climate change as "climate wierding" to better explain the problems associated with global warming than Al Gore's sometimes overblown threats.
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However, this book reads as if it were written on the fly. It would be much better if it were better edited and shorter. I would have given a shorter version all five stars.
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LibraryThing member booklog
The author is a journalist and claims extended experience and knowledge. However, his concern about the fate of the world depends largely on his (apparently) unquestioning acceptance of the global-warming-imminent-catastrophe paradigm.
LibraryThing member tracyfox
It's no surprise that Hot, Flat and Crowded has generated so much press. Thomas Friedman, who in his 2005 best-seller made a strong case for globalization without even mentioning the environment, has definitely seen the light and added his voice to call for immediate U.S. action on climate change.
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The book uses his trademark format—traveling the world, hobnobbing with muckety-mucks and movers and shakers, and jotting down brilliant flashes of insight on whatever cocktail napkin is at hand. Seriously, the author does an excellent job of dissecting the implications of climate change for the U.S. and world economies as well as for biodiversity and the overall health of the biosphere. He tackles tough issues like population control and the material wants of growing economies in the developing world head on. His chapter on petropolitics makes a well-reasoned arguement that the transfer of immense wealth to oil-producing nations has shifted the geopolitical balance and ultimately diminished freedom around the world. His discussion of energy poverty—the pressing need for sustainable, nonpolluting power in Africa—highlights dimensions of the problem often overlooked in the mainstream media. All-in-all, the first half of the book does a masterful job of making the climate change problem relevant to Americans outside the environmental movement.

The second half of the book is more problematic. Friedman begins his assessment of solutions by belittling the notion that individuals can make lifestyle changes that to help alleviate global warming. Admittedly ten ways to save the earth (and money to boot) won't immediately reverse current climate trends, but I think they are every bit as important as many of the solutions Friedman envisions—particularly the idea of a smart energy grid with automated appliances in a country that can't even manage the digital TV conversion on an overly generous time line. Friedman contends that the only way to move the economy away from carbon-based fuels is to set a floor on oil and gas prices—he suggests keeping gas at a minimum of $4.50 a gallon and, for example, when prices fall to $2.00 a gallon using the extra $2.50 a gallon to fund alternative fuels. He also advocates energy efficiency through LEED building standards, plug-in electric hybrid vehicles and the creation of Noah's ark-like biodiversity reserves to stem equatorial deforestation. While all of these solutions are laudable long-term goals, they will take years to achieve and are financially unobtainable for most Americans (and Chinese and Indians). Few have the resources to buy all new appliances, replace their cars with plug-in hybrids and build new LEED-certified homes. I suspect even fewer in the developing world will be willing to leave Beijing or Mumbai and eek out a living by farming on the edge of a bioreserve. It is my hope that Thomas Friedman, having heard the altar call and burst forth evangelizing, will continue to tap the minds of the world's best and brightest and find solutions that allow everyone, not just the ultra-rich and rural poor, to participate in the solution.
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LibraryThing member parthbakshi
I believe success of the "the world is flat" has definitely impaled my judgement of the quality of the books that metaphor-mixing friedman writes.I do not know how to classify his new book "Hot flat and crowded",it speaks about how green technology will be the future and how it can reduce the
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dependence on the worlds oil rich countries in the middle east and russia,which i always believed in ,however the author doesnt need to be so hard on the methods or techniques that are being used to generate energy,they are being used because there were no other alternatives ,friedman you better remember that we are developing nation and we do not disown our share of responsibility for being in the party for the rise of global warming,but it does not absolve america of the charges of being the major contributor either and expecting developing nations to take a larger responsibility in cutting down carbon emissions ,which are similar to that of the developed nation wouldn't be a fair game.The book speaks how renewable sources of energy are the future and how america should be investing in .The author has brought nothing new on the table and had a artistic licence to quote paragraphs or chapters from his earlier book "The world is flat" which shows that he is running short on creative juices needed for this book.He does have notable mention of how scandavian nations are satisfying major needs of their energy through renewable sources of energy and such ideas which are scattered across the book ,which i felt could have been written in more inspiring way rather than in a haphazard manner .If someone tries hard the book can be written sitting at home using only the good ol' internet to do research a better version of the book can be written .The author also speaks about how america has become isolated after the ramp up in security infrastructure to protect its interest across the world ,which have been well written in many other books and there was no need to write about it in this book which could have been more inspiring about we could tackle global warming and our energy needs in future . This book is definitely lacking in inspiring juices as compared to "The world is flat" and is definitely a let down .I wouldn't recommend this book to anybody
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LibraryThing member Bridget770
Talk about a man on a high horse. Tom Friedman clearly feels passionately about the "green" revolution or party, as he calls it. He makes valid points using interesting data and not-very-well known studies and research. I actually listened to this book on a car trip, and I do not recommend it as a
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book on CD; the topic is too detailed and requires to much attention for that format.
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LibraryThing member stan925
Very interesting book but it could easily have been written in under 200 pages. too much repetition repetition repetition. Although I agree with all his points he takes a long time to get to the point. Still worth reading though.
LibraryThing member InCahoots
I think Thomas Friedman has a wonderful way of taking a large, complex system (examples: economics, politics, ecology) and painting a clear, understandable picture. I generally like his perspective. But please, Mr. Friedman, do you have to repeat every point 95 different ways? Your readers are not
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LibraryThing member Nodosaurus
I was disappointed overall, Thomas Friedman is too long-winded. I felt like he made his point, but had to keep driving it home for too many pages.

His analogies strike me as weak and often pointless. In one chapter he referred to an effort as the equivalent of 1,000,000 Noahs in order to stress its
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difficulty. Then repeatedly refered to 'leaking arks'. The analogy had no other significance.

His understanding of human nature seems weak, too. He only devotes a few pages to explaining to the green resistance why global warming is real. He seems to trivialize their position without providing any new proof of climate change.

He further goes to explain how the new technology to deal with our environemntal problems will be inevitably good for the companies, and how we will eventually pay lumber companies not to cut wood, and how concrete is bad for the environment without ever discussing what we're oging to replace as new building materials.

He does have a lot of good information and ideas, though. But it seemed overly difficult to read this book to get to them. And I don't feel he has provided any real insight as to how to address them. But he is avidly pronouncing that we cannot continue business as normal.

I don't think he will reach the ears he needs to reach. Only the already-green public is likely to pick up this book.
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LibraryThing member drneutron
The world is in trouble. There's some debate about how much trouble, what time frame we have before the point of no return, and what we ought to do about it. Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded tackles all of these questions with an inspiring and practical vision of America as the world leader in what
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is shaping up to be the next big thing.

Friedman's analysis deals with systems of systems - how massively interconnected systems affect each other and how we can understand and control them. As a system engineer, I really got into that part of the discussion. He makes it pretty clear that solving the energy/climate/ecology problem isn't just about those particular issues. Instead these problems ripple into so many other things. As a small example, the US Army is moving to solar arrays to power forward field posts instead of diesel generators, thus eliminating the cost (in dollars and in human lives) of hauling diesel fuel through dangerous territory. But this "greening" of the Army also has the effect of pushing civilian technology forward and provides the market base for reducing the cost of the technology to reasonable levels. Even if readers are skeptical of ecological and climate change arguments, it's hard to find fault with Friedman's discussions of energy supply and the growth of the middle class. But fortunately, as he points out so well, solving one problem often gives you other solutions for free.

Highly recommended, but fair warning - you may find yourself running around the house turning off lights and changing bulbs to compact fluorescents!
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LibraryThing member mojomomma
Friedman connects all the dots again, and once again I'm left feeling hopeless and depressed about the state of our world. This book is enough to make you compulsive about shutting off lights and driving to work--even though he mentions that probably won't help, sigh.
LibraryThing member ebnelson
One of the most important books I've read. In terms of understanding the plight of the global poor and oppressed, whether they're in sub-Saharan Africa or women in the Arab world, this is one of the most important books I've read to detailing the specific challenges of their plight in the 21st
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LibraryThing member dtn620
It took me a long time to read this book. A damn long time. But it was worth slogging through. Friedman outlines why we are in trouble which to many, including myself seems quite obvious. However, Friedman does an excellent job outlining how the problem can be fixed and money can be made by doing
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so. Making money is the only thing that matters in corporate America and it is/should be the prime motivator for the changes we need.

Unlike many other environmental books HF&C doesn't preach that you, an individual is going to be able to save the world through living the "green" life. Though doing so will help. Friedman focuses his energy on large scale changes that can make large scale changes and tells us that it isn't going to be an easy thing to do. There is still hope, but only if we act swiftly and forcefully.

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LibraryThing member wagner.sarah35
Thomas Friedman does a good job of synthesizing the elements of contemporary society into trends and themes and he makes a convincing case for the direction he would like to see the United States move towards. While this book is very readable overall, at times (particularly towards the beginning of
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the book) Friedman's frequent and repetitive analogies and metaphors, combined with multiple short stories explaining the same point, sort of made it feel like Friedman was hitting a hammer on his readers' heads to get the point across. And since most people likely wouldn't even pick up and read this book if they didn't already somewhat agree with the opinions expressed in this book, that kind of writing just insults the reader.
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LibraryThing member mdtwilighter
Friedman gives us a beautiful view into a future in which we no longer have to destroy our earth to live out our normal daily lives. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go before we can get to this utopian life. Friedman explains the problems facing us today in terms that anyone can understand and
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supports his arguments with other expert opinions. If your not an environmentalist already, this book will make you one.
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LibraryThing member hopetillman
Excellent, a must read for 2008
LibraryThing member teddygold
Friedman has no trouble understanding and recognizing the problem: Our country is in dire need of a green makeover. Friedman takes an extremely alarmist approach. Recognizing the meat of his argument within the first 30 pages lends itself to extreme boredom. Over and over, Friedman says what other
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countries are doing better, and how we need to take our heads out of the environmental "toilet" and begin to understand the size of the task at hand. The argument turns from groundbreaking stale within the first few sections of his book. Friedman takes a sizable amount text explaining the problem; he feels as if no one understands the crisis the way he does. But he takes that energy into a land of stating problem, after problem, after problem. Not only is it towards the end of the novel that Friedman finally adds something of value...a solution! The intellectuals interested in the book are well aware of the magnitude of the problem that Friedman brings light to. They are eager for answers. No reader wants another "Al Gore", it seems as though society has become in turn addicted to hearing the problem, and saying it in sort of a self-deprecating manner. Friedman talks of the degradation of our environment, but in doing so he evokes a degrading feeling towards the potency of his claim. We get it, Friedman. The environment is in bad shape. Now will someone please offer a solution? Possibly one that includes something on a larger scale than changing lightbulbs to be "green". It is time for action to be taken, and the nation is poised. But the antidote is being concealed by alarmists, and in turn activists.
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LibraryThing member gopfolk
Contradictory but imaginative
After reading this book there is no doubt about the political leanings of the author and what he believes the role of our government is and what it is not.
The future that he draws is amazingly wonderful and one that I’m sure all people would love to participate in
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but the reality on how we get there and what needs to happen is where the author loses me and half the country.
If he believes that subsidies are wrong, then all subsidies are wrong. You cannot say that corn subsidies (which I abhor) are bad but subsidies to the wind or solar companies are good. The purpose of the federal government is not to pick winners and losers but to help level the field so that each has a chance to compete. The author puts tax deductions in the same vein as these subsidies and brandishes them as horrible failures that keep us up to our knees in oil. The reality is that most of these (there are a few examples – dry wells for instance) deductions are available to other companies and individuals as well, but he just likes to pick on the oil industry.
I loved the concept of EI (Energy Internet) and look forward to one of those “black boxes” in my home. But the most amazing idea in here is similar to what many of us on the right have preached before – allowing corporations to use some of the public items that are stagnant at certain time periods. The example they used was the bakery using the school kitchens during the evening hours (and overnight) for their baking in return for a fee which nearly off sets all of the energy costs that that particular school uses.
I have a hard time recommending this book but I have to say that the basic concepts are right on target it is just the market versus the government concept that I feel the author misses the boat on.
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LibraryThing member astrologerjenny
This is a book well worth reading and passing around. I didn’t agree with everything Friedman said, but I cheered his main points. He dissects the energy problem, especially in the US and China, and concludes that it isn’t just a major problem but also an exciting opportunity.

His central
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message is that green energy is more economical when you add up the hidden costs of dirty fuels, and that it spurs the kind of innovation that keeps a society vital. He believes that we can live in a healthy and sustainable way without sacrificing our creature comforts. And I agree that individual sacrifices won’t save this planet; it will take a larger public policy. This book details a number of ways in which public policies intersect with ecological imperatives, how they often fail and how they can succeed.
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