Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution

Thomas L. Friedman

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution

Thomas L. Friedman

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Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution Summary

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Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – ­and How It Can Renew America (2008), by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, argues that the possibility of climate devastation is an opportunity for the United States to reassert itself as a scientific and moral leader in the world; also, by investing in renewable energy, the U.S. stands to make a great profit. Friedman has received many honors, including three Pulitzer Prizes and a National Book Award.

This book of nonfiction explores themes of political pride and ineffectiveness, global interrelatedness, moral obligations, and economic prosperity in times of global duress.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded is divided into five major parts. The 400-page book presents research on the earth’s climate status and certain threats to biodiversity in the first half and analyzes certain solutions in the second half.

The work opens with Friedman's reflections on the gobal reputation of the U.S. in the years after 9/11. He looks at how anti-immigration legislation and sentiment has diminished America’s position as a global leader in innovation, in both the humanities and in the sciences.

Friedman contends that “the war on terror” was a major mistake and distracts from America's (and the planet’s) real long-term enemy, which is climate change. He also points to the irony that when Americans consume oil and other forms of nonrenewable energy, they are supporting the wealth of countries like Saudi Arabia, where nearly 78% of the 9/11 attackers were citizens. In fact, because of U.S. mass transportation policies and a dependence on foreign oil, the U.S. has unwittingly supported the rise of several dictatorships, in places such as Iran, Nigeria, and around the Middle East. When the American public relies on big oil, it inadvertently supports what Friedman calls “petrodictators,” a small group of persons who command the world’s fossil fuels.

The author looks into how and why climate change became a political issue. In the 1970s and the 1980s, both major political parties in the U.S. agreed that the environment had to be protected. But starting in the 1990s, climate change became a political issue.

Friedman also looks at how major oil and car companies claim that they simply produce large cars because that’s what the public wants. This is disingenuous, as both groups have sent lobbyists to the nation’s capital to restrict any ban on large engines or higher gas prices. The market has been unfairly gamed by such forces to make gas and other fossil fuels appear inexpensive, while making renewable energy like wind and solar solutions unpractical and expensive.

In several European countries, after standards on limited engine size were imposed, the demand for larger cars decreased. The same applies to the demand for oil; citizens found ways to use less energy. In shifting to green energy, utility companies will have to find creative ways to encourage their customers to use less of their product, while remaining profitable through the provision of new energies or in new markets.

The author suggests that the US should stop relying on old forms of energy production and become a leader in renewable energy; this form of energy production will create more jobs in the future. He cites Denmark as one successful example of a country tht switched to green energy. Another issue he raises involves the military; platoons that used less energy had to traverse dangerous terrain less often and were more likely to remain alive.

Friedman calls the world “flat,” which refers to the way processes of globalization have changed the way different parts of the work relate to each other. In the past, U.S. citizens didn’t have to compete with citizens from other countries for jobs, but now, because technology has connected the world so thoroughly (and cheap technology is available all over the globe), U.S. citizens face the possibility that their jobs will be outsourced to another country, where workers will accept less money.

Populous countries like China and India are also have a growing middle-class, which wishes to consume more goods that are often nonrenewable. Understandably, these countries want to be as wealthy as the U.S. and have pursued (and continue to pursue) manufacturing methods that are not renewable and harmful to the long-term health of the planet. This “crowding” problem adds to the instability of the climate, Friedman writes.

The heating planet, the nature of globalization, and the growth of a middle class around the world makes the world’s environment precarious, but also provides an immense opportunity for investment, leadership, and fiscal growth in the U.S. But if the U.S. does not put its foot forward, Friedman warns that another country (or group of countries) will benefit from supplying the demand.

He looks at some successful innovations in New York City, such as the tax incentive for taxis that purchase hybrid cars. The major British consumer goods company, Marks & Spencer’s, also shows signs of incorporating renewable considerations into all of their future operations.

Friedman encourages the public to be skeptical toward companies that claim they have enacted green processes: such claims are often a PR scheme unless thoroughly scrutinized by the public. “Going green” is a hot topic now, and if treated as a fad, nothing real will be done to curb climate change.

He hopes these sparks of renewable planning will catch on with the rest of the world. The U.S. is a model for how a country can become industrialized and wealthy; if it sets an example of renewable energy production, other countries will follow.
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