View Full Version : Thomas Friedman sounds the call for a green revolution

09-29-2008, 12:49 PM
NEW YORK -- IT IS 90 degrees on a crisp fall day, 89% humidity. One-hundred thousand refugees are stranded in Texas, courtesy of Hurricane Ike. Could just be a bad day. Then again, it could be something worse.

The headline of Thomas Friedman's column in this morning's New York Times reads, "How to Make America Stupid." Friedman is reacting to Rudy Giuliani's rallying cry at the Republican National Convention: "Drill, baby, drill!"

"Why would Republicans," he writes in what we might call classic Friedman-ese, a tone best accompanied by beating the forehead with one's open palm, "the party of business, want to focus our country on breathing life into a 19th-century-technology -- fossil fuels -- rather than giving birth to a 21st-century technology -- renewable energy?"

This is also the tone of Friedman's "Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: 438 pp., $27.95), a book so combustible it makes a reader want to skip the palm of the hand altogether and bang the offending forehead against the nearest power line. In other words, it is Friedman's column times 438 (the number of pages in the book). Here's the gist -- Americans are facing five critical issues created by our dependence on fossil fuels: increased demand for energy, biodiversity loss, climate change, energy poverty and the transfer of wealth to oil-rich nations whose politics (human rights, distribution of wealth, treatment of women) are often less than commendable. Dependence on oil, Friedman argues, has negative effects on both the freedoms we associate with democracy and on innovation.

What we need is a Green Revolution. This is our chance to show the rest of the world how to create a sustainable future. And we are blowing it. We have the knowledge, Friedman believes, but we lack the political will. We need leaders who are willing to make ending dependence on fossil fuels a priority. We need leaders who are willing to use tax incentives and other mechanisms to encourage innovation and help shape the market, leaders who are willing to invest government money in clean energy research. Recycling and buying green products is all well and good, but what we have now, he believes, is a flimsy excuse for a Green Movement -- we have a Green Party. "We need leaders," Friedman writes, "not lightbulbs."