Wednesday 21 October 2009

Why We Need a Green Revolution: Insights and Opinions of Thomas Friedman

My husband and I went to see Thomas Friedman, a best
selling author and NY Times columnist speak about his most
recent book, Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green
Revolution - and How It Can Renew America, which is a
follow up to his previous book, The World Is Flat: The
World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first
Century. We enjoyed his presentation which was full of
vivid examples, memorable images, and humorous lines.

American Industry Problems

According to Friedman, America has lost its way over the
last decade or so. His entire book is about, as he put it,
how America can gets its groove back. His ideal solution is
that the U.S. should become a world leader in the green
innovation and technology that's needed to tackle the
world's largest problems, which all stem from the fact that
the world has become:

- Hot: As you can guess, this part of his book is about
the climate crisis due to global warming.

- Flat: Straight from his last book, The World Is Flat,
this term refers to the fact that far more people on the
planet have high paying jobs that allow them to achieve the
American standard of living.

- Crowded: The world's population is growing exponentially
which is going to tax all the resources on the planet.

With the world in this three-pronged predicament, five
significant global problems have arisen:

- Ecological and Natural Resources, Supply and Demand.
Increasing demand for raw materials such as timber, water,
and minerals is putting stress on the earth's ecosystems.

- Petrodictatorships. As the price of a barrel of oil
decreases, the pace of freedom increases, and vice versa,
in countries such as Russia, Iran and Nigeria. By
continuing to purchase oil from these countries we are
contributing to the problem.

- Climate Change. As the average temperature of the earth
increases, look for the weather to become more extreme.
Friedman prefers to think of this as global weirding rather
than global warming. In a way he is correct. All weather
patterns are going to become more extreme. Hot will become
hotter, but cool will become colder. Wet and dry, the same
thing. Weather patterns will shift dramatically with as
little as one degree of temperature increase.

- Energy Poverty. A large portion of the world's
population lives without electricity. No electricity means
no access to the world's knowledge. Ignorance through lack
of learning creates large scale problems.

- Biodiversity Losses. The world faces a mass extinction
larger than when an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs.
Currently we are losing one species every 20 minutes,
primarily due to loss of habitat. As the climate changes,
animals will have to search for new habitats, but they are
unlikely to evolve rapidly enough to survive the abrupt
shift in their habitat.

The Solution

Not one to despair over such large problems, Friedman sees
one solution to these five problems: cheap, abundant,
clean, reliable electrons

His hope is that our country will use the power of
innovation, technology, government and businesses
leadership to produce electricity that satisfies these
requirements. He refers to this new industry as Energy
Technology, or ET, the next generation of Information
Technology, or IT.

The Reality

As it stands now, the rest of the world is a step ahead of
the U.S. Of the top 30 clean tech companies in the world,
only 6 are American companies. If we don't take action now,
we'll lose our place as an innovative force in the world.

What we need is a bold revolution to solve the climate
crisis... a Green Revolution, so to speak. He described the
current green effort as a party where everyone gets to
continue enjoying life without making a commitment or
sacrifice. A party, a change in lifestyle, is not enough!
We need to take a stronger stand to get done what needs to
get done. As he put it... a Revolution isn't a revolution
unless someone gets hurt. There will be losers in this new
world, the outdated, dirty, carbon based businesses that
continue to contribute to the problem.

The Action

The ultimate goal of the green revolution is the
disappearance of the word green from our vocabulary. It can
happen as current green standards become embedded into our
everyday lives and become the norm, rather than the

To accomplish the goal of becoming an innovator in the race
for clean, abundant, clean, reliable electrons, we need to
create what he calls an Ecosystem for Innovation. To
explain this, Friedman used an analogy of a rocket on a
launching pad. The technology and innovation now bubbling
up within entrepreneurial start-ups is the engine exploding
with energy. For the energy of to be directed and focused,
we need the second set of engines to ignite and the
astronauts in the capsule on top to steer us toward the
goals. Unfortunately, at this moment, the astronauts in the
capsules (read politicians in Congress) are in disagreement
about the flight plan.

That flight plan, the system of rules, standards,
regulations, incentives and pricing, is essential to create
the necessary infrastructure for this Energy Technology
explosion. If we are committed to this goal, we need to
focus our attention on getting leaders in all levels of
government to believe in the cause and be willing to take
action. One of Friedman's take away lines was... Don't
change your light bulbs, change your leaders!

According to Friedman this is a critical moment in the
history of planet earth. The next great global industry,
Energy Technology, is just beginning to take shape. We must
act now to reduce the world's carbon output. We must all
take a part in turning the national conversation to issues
associated with cheap, abundant, clean, reliable electrons.

Our actions can't wait. The word later must leave our
vocabulary. There is no later when it comes to addressing
climate change.

If we all start now, we have just enough time to solve this.

About the Author:

Green Career Expert Carol McClelland, PhD, is the author of
the forthcoming book Green Careers For Dummies and founder
of Green Career Central, a membership website with useful
programs, 500+ pages of effective, targeted information to
help you identify your green niche, find a green job, start
a business or further your education. Visit to request our free
report - "Six Strategies to Find Your Green Career"d

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