Catherine's Reviews > Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America

Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman
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Mar 17, 2009

really liked it
Read in December, 2008

I've always liked Thomas Friedman's articles in the New York Times, and I loved his last two books, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and The World is Flat. This book, if anything, covers even more, and more urgently if a little less optimistically than the last two. Its a very thoughtful and yet panoramic view of how climate and energy use are linked, and the implications for education, investment, jobs, and the economy now and in the future.

One of the most compelling chapters was on Energy Poverty, the lack of electricity available in Africa and how it impacts kids trying to do their homework, adults trying to get jobs or business trying to persist. A whole continent without electricity in this day and age is a huge detriment, and will only make matters worse and worse in a vicious cycle as these people fall farther behind the rest of the world.

Another fascinating chapter was A Million Noahs, A Million Arks, about the importance of essentially community organizers who are also biodiversity experts who save their little corner of the world by letting the community see how their own survival depends on it.

The Energy-Climate Era, which began in the year 2000 is upon us, and Friedman's view is that this is a make or break pivotal moment in time, and if we don't succeed in meeting the challenge of reducing CO2 loads in the atmosphere quickly by using clean energy sources, there won't be a future economy, or a future mankind, to worry about. His main contention is that everybody doing their little part is no where near enough. Government has to set a price signal on oil that will provide incentives for a quick and massive transition to alternative energy sources.

He sounds optimistic in that he believes it can be done, but sober in that its going to take big actions by big government now to do it. He provides many angles of vision on this problem, as he always does, in a very entertaining, interesting and absorbing way, so I highly recommend the book, especially for those who think we may be able to work our way out of this recession with green jobs. That won't happen without some major policy shifts at the highest levels of our government.

One happy note: as the price of oil decreases, the past would indicate that freedom and democracy in petrodictatorships increases. One can hope for that at least.

I was just reading all the things Barbara Boxer wants to do to save and create jobs. It reminded me of one of the things that Thomas Friedman recommends for the same purpose--effectively making mandatory PG&E's approach for all US utilities, including uniform requirements to place a premium on conservation and alternative energy feed-in (like requiring that a utility accept solar power energy from your home). Our friend Ron Hamilton works for a company that contracts with PG&E to insulate and in other ways save energy for homes and businesses, and PG&E pays them to do that because they are in turn paid or allowed to retain profits by the Public Utility Commission here for conservation efforts. His explanation of how utilities currently work in most cases shows why Californians energy use is so much more efficient than that of any other state. I just assumed every utility company was like PG&E, but evidently not. This is why Obama and others are saying that they can create green jobs and at the same time promote conservation and green energy. Unfortunately, that particular strategy won't have a big impact on California because we're pretty far ahead of most other places.
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