When Thomas Friedman was at Book Passage last fall to talk about Hot, Flat and Crowded, he agreed to return in the spring to discuss how environmental issues were being dealt with in the new administration.
He contends that the green revolution will be the biggest innovation project in American history. Friedman is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the N.Y. Times and the author of The World is Flat.
Thomas L. Friedman
Thomas L. Friedman is an internationally renowned author, reporter, and columnist. His foreign affairs column in The New York Times, which appears twice a week, reports on US domestic politics and foreign policy, Middle East conflict, international economics, the environment, biodiversity, and energy. He is the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes and the author of six best-selling books: From Beirut to Jerusalem; The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization; Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World After September 11; The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century; and Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need A Green Revolution – And How It Can Renew America. His most recent book, That Used to Be Us: How American Fell Behind in the World We Invented and How We Can Come Back, is co-written with Michael Mandelbaum.
Award-winning journalist Thomas Friedman says former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had it easy compared to the current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who faces many complex challenges in her mission to build peace between nations.
(born Aug. 4, 1961, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.) 44th president of the U.S. (2009 ). Obama graduated from Columbia University (1983) and Harvard Law School (1991), where he was the first African American to serve as president of the Harvard Law Review. He moved to Chicago, where he served as a community organizer and lectured in constitutional law at the University of Chicago before he was elected (1996) to the Illinois Senate as a member of the Democratic Party. In 2004 he was elected to the U.S. Senate and quickly became a major national political figure. In 2008 Obama won an upset victory over former U.S. first ladyHillary Clinton to become the Democratic presidential nominee. He easily defeated Republican candidate John McCain and became the first African American president. In 2009 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.
hyacine - I understand and respect your ideas and I could add several pages of additional gripes with the current system(s) to your list.
However your views are occasionally illogical and often self contradictory. They have to be, because you aren't providing solutions Virtually every system of government has been tried and every single one has found the difficulty of herding illogical, self satisfied, proudly ignorant and greedy humans. Don't underestimate the determination of humans to work around fences designed to keep them from falling off cliffs. Profit driven political ideas (or economics if you prefer that word) has it's place, good points and bad. Emphasizing the good points when it has it's place and minimizing the bad points is an ongoing struggle. Knowing when profit has no place in politics and knowing what to replace it with is yet another ongoing struggle.
Get involved... No political system survives disinterest on the part of the people making decisions (-you- in a democratic system) There are some wonderful books and college classes to sit through on political ideas, past and current to help. That said, Mr. Friedmam is a very knowledgeable person to get some ideas from, but even he would agree he's not the last word on any of those ideas, if only because it would be a years long discussion, not a hour, he's just a very knowledgeable source hitting on one small topic.
Farber2 - For one, globalization will keep the disenfranchised people of the world from tearing the democratic way of life, freedoms and liberty, down in anger and frustration. Oh wait, too late.
the problem is that you can't trust people. corruption is just too facsinating to people. and I don't trust this friedman guy. he was touting globalization, and we see now that globalization has a down side, and we got it right off the bat.
Let us be clear that there are many essentials that the market will not take care of in the "best ways" - since the concern is always profit.
We should have single payer health care.
It would mean massive savings in the amounts that Americans as a whole spend on health care, it would mean that the sickest of us would not be denied care or underinsured (and so end up bankrupt when we attempt to pay for our care shortfall) and greater efficiencies in the system. But the insurance and pharmaceutical industries who profit from the current broken, inefficient (these inefficiencies benefit them), unfair system will fight to make sure that we never have such a system.
We should already have millions of homes and buildings powered by solar panels and heated by geothermal coils. We don't because the oil, coal and nuclear industries have lobbied to get special considerations for their technologies and have greater marketing power than alternatives do. They've also ensured that on the granular level (housing codes, for example) that their technologies will be the ones to perpetuate.
Water is essential to life and should be a right. But then we can look across at the Andean countries and see that corporations like Bechtel have bought water rights there and now sell water to those who can afford it at a premium, while making sure that there are laws (harshly enforced) that prevent people from collecting their own water from rainfall. Let's hope that doesn't come here - but with everything, even the most essential substances, counted a commodity under our current economic system, who knows.
Essentials as a traded commodity as also the reason why, with their sale for ethanol, the price of grains shot up way beyond the reach of many of the world's poorer people.
The government should have assumed a controlling share in the banks that were recently bailed out in exchange for the rescue money. After all, those banks have been the cause of the homelessness of millions of Americans (and even now they are largely unwilling to negotiate better terms with homeowners - many of whom never defaulted but whose homes are being foreclosed upon due to perceived risk).
This is the form of capitalism we have, where everything is a commodity and the focus is always cash profit that is then channeled into influencing government and manipulating consumers in the interest of more profit.
To Adam's point - I completely disagree that the form of capitalism we currently have 1) reflects merit and 2) by "does the best" considers the right criteria in deciding what constitutes "the best."
A lot of the products and systems we currently have are there not because they represent the best solutions but because they were backed by an individual or corporation with deep pockets who could hire lobbyists, PR and advertising firms to have their concept prevail - regardless of whether their solution was the best for the environment or consumers/citizens.
Also, since our current system only focuses on profit and specifically that of shareholders and on stock valuations, it's been perfectly fine to destroy rainforests to graze cattle to produce more fast food burgers (that eventually sicken those who eat them) as long as there is money to be made. It's been perfectly fine to underpay workers or skimp on safety concerns in your factories or use the dirtiest fuel possible to power them, as long as a buck is saved and the dollars keep rolling in.
The short-term view is often all that matters under our current system anyway - focus being on what will affect the current stock price.
The "best" needs to be redefined as what is most sustainable, least polluting, benefits the most people *and* is profitable.
This may mean scaling back on the money that can be earned.
For example, if we made cell phones that lasted thirty years instead of the ones we have now, that are essentially designed to be disposable, Nokia and Ericsson's balance sheets would look very different than they do now. Sustainable operations would probably also mean that CEOs wouldn't be looking at multimillion dollar compensation, either.
But it would not mean an end to capitalism.
I wasn't suggesting that we do away with capitalism as such, but do take issue with the form of market-driven capitalism we now have.
Speaking directly to marvinzz point, however, I don't think that pure hard cash must always be the end point. Money buys comforts, it's true, but after a certain point, how many houses can you reasonably enjoy, how many cars? It is profit for profits' sake that has gotten us into this hole and so I am not confident that encouraging people to channel their greed towards the good will be successful.
I think we need to get away from a system that encourages greed and wealth for wealth's sake and refocus instead to look at quality of life. We have a whole marketing industry currently mobilized to sell us things (with the promise of comfort and pleasure) that not only destroy the natural environment but ultimately leave us cold, fat and riddled with lifestyle diseases.
There are no magic technologies that will save us and as such, motivational as Friedman's call is for global competition to solve the coming energy crisis and the problems of global warming, the reality is that we will need to fundamentally change the ways in which we have been thinking and operating.
See Saul Griffith's talk on Climate Change Recalculated http://fora.tv/2009/01/16/Saul_Griff...e_Recalculated in which he sketches out how we will need to scale back on our consumption (regardless of the introduction of new technologies).
The answer will not come through championing the same systems that got us into this mess. We cannot simply switch our consumption or investment to green options to make good change happen.
The current economic system has to be fundamentally restructured - through new regulations and legislation, through shifts in government policy and spending, etc.
Small example, in a period of coming water scarcity and rising temperatures can we still trade food (such as grains) as commodities on the stock exchange?
We need to be moving towards more localized systems: localized energy production (solar panels on every house and building, wind turbines that help power given municipalities, widespread [retrofits] geothermal home heating and passive heating technologies), localized food production and distribution, etc. All of these will necessitate major shifts in what our form of capitalism looks like.
We cannot go back to business as usual.
Green is just another marketing ploy. Like Low-Fat, Low-Trans Fat, Low Carb.
Over time it will be minorly incorporated into society and forgotten.
You won't see the words Green, Organic and environmentally friendly in 10 years
Excellent point, marvinzzz. You can't get rid of capitalism: it is, in theory, the best system. It operates under the principle that whoever does the best will succeed until someone does better. However, by subsidizing the oil companies, for example, they're allowing unfit entities like the auto industry to thrive.
Indeed, they should probably be charging them for the health and environmental problems they're causing. Because it's true: if companies had to pay for all the collateral damage they were responsible for, then only the soundest companies (both financially and morally) would survive.
Competition is the fundamental of motivated to succeed. The end game for societies has always been the endless cycle of wealth generation to make our lives easier. I can't see this changing.
The problem with the system today is that there are no strong incentives for people or businesses to be greener in the short term. This is the whole root of the problem. I think he's correct in that action has to come from the top down to change the rules of what the output of competition produces. People will always want to profit, we just have to figure out a system that rewards both profit generation and greening.
In business, very often both profit making and greening complement each other in the long term as supply chains & product design are rethought leading to reductions in waste, increased reuse of components, etc which in turn leads to higher margins. All that is lacking are the mandates which either force or subsidise companies to do so. Politically however this is incredibly difficult. If it can be done at all, presumably it will come now given the widespread collapse in the system. A system change won't come because of people's good hearts. Rather I think it will come out of the usual motivational drivers of competition & profit making.