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.
In the chapter 'Where Bird don't Fly,' Friedman begins with describing the post 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!
"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?
This book is split into two sections. First, the 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
His central 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.
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 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.