“Hot, Flat and Crowded” is by bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman who argues an ambitious national strategy which he calls “geo-greenism.” Friedman claims it is what we need to “save the planet from overheating; it is what we need to make America healthier, richer, more innovative, more productive, and more secure.”
Friedman encourages an energy technology revolution that has the power to both transform and disrupt our country. This book is rich and fearless with fresh ideas that make sense to approaching our environmental crisis.
Friedman works on the premise that we have two problems: America’s problem and the world’s problem. The world’s problem is that it is getting hot (from global warming), flat (a metaphor for the rise of middle-class citizens who are beginning to consume like Americans), and crowded (there are almost seven billion people living on our planet), and that negative trends are being driven by this convergence.
America’s problem, Friedman argues, is that we’ve lost our way and have become a subprime nation that thinks we can just borrow our way to prosperity. He argues we can fix both problems by taking the lead in solving the world’s problem. It’s ambitious, indeed.
Friedman offers an example of light bulbs. If we give each one of the next billion people on the planet just one sixty-watt incandescent light bulb, we will need twenty new 500-megawatt coal-burning power plants just to turn each of those light bulbs on. This metaphor is convoluted with numbers, but the idea is important. While one light bulb per person doesn’t sound absurd, the idea of turning on one billion light bulbs is much more difficult.
The argument sounds familiar in the beginning. Friedman illustrates the need for renewable, sustainable energy and conservation measures like recycling and energy efficiency, but this demonstration is merely a preface to his main hypothesis: “there is only one thing bigger than Mother Nature and that is Father Profit.” Although Friedman is an avid supporter of the free market, he believes we need government guidelines (such as a floor price for crude oil and gasoline) and tax incentives (he proposes the old idea of a $5-$10 tax per gallon) to pressure green technological innovation. He challenges China and the United States to a duel of “outgreening” one another, modeled on President John F. Kennedy’s ambitions to beat the Soviets to the moon. Such a race would require mobilization throughout the country.
Friedman’s arguments and ideas are very forward-thinking, innovative, and in the most radical sense of the word, realistic. “Hot, Flat and Crowded” is a fascinating book that will have you completely engulfed. The book’s layout is aesthetic and natural, beginning with where we are now and how we got here. Then, Friedman continues with how we move forward. He highlights China, asking if red China could become green China, and finishes the book highlighting our own country. This is a wonderful book that will leave you feeling optimistic, if we can have the courage to do what needs to be done.