I just finished Friedman’s book. It is the most illuminating book written that I have read on the subject of Global Climate Change. There are many important books, journals, and studies, which lay out the deadly global trends that add up to the most important challenge to confront our species. Friedman collates those ideas and orders them into an understandable and accessible system. A system that America needs to adopt in order to successfully renew our Global Leadership before rival nations, like China, discover that to dominate the global market place in the Energy Climate Era is to out-green all other countries.
I’m breathless. My heat pounds in my chest. Typing this review brings tears to my eyes because it will not have the impact that I desire. I’m ready for the revolution, a revolution with a capital “R,” one that is not easy, one that is painful. I don’t make a lot of money. I spend more time weighting the opportunity costs of my dollar-earned than a sane person should. However, if America needs a lasting market price-signal that will turn my dollar into seventy-five cents or even fifty cents so that we can show the world that America is the greatest most flexible economic green-machine, I am ready.
I don’t write to my elected leaders very often believing that individual voices that are not backed with healthy campaign contributions are rather worthless, but I wrote to both Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar this week encouraging them push through the energy-climate legislation that the House of Representatives had the courage to pass (NYTimes.com 6/26/2009). I’m no expert on how laws and regulations that impact markets, but Friedman puts forward a convincing argument that the only thing that can put America on tack to meet the demands of the Energy Climate Era is a market price-signal, which will provide the long term market stability necessary to attract venture capitalists to invest in clean renewable energy. It is my hope that this energy-climate bill will be such a price-signal.
My understanding of how such a price-signal will spur the type of innovation necessary to for America to become the global leader in the Energy Climate Era is sketchy at best. I will need to study those chapters a few more times before I feel truly comfortable with the intricacies of the system, and just how to turn the price-signal key that will drive us into a clean, sustainable energy future. However, what I did understand is that is no other way to be green in the Energy Climate Era. There are thousands of lists with millions of ways for individuals to go green, but not a one of those will matter without a market that can quickly develop and bring to scale new ideas and technology.
I keep my house warm in the summer and cold in the winter. I recycle everything that I can. I support local farms. I use CFLs. I ride my bike 11 miles to work and 11 miles back (when I can). And I try to minimize my ecological footstep whenever I can, but none of that is going to matter if the American market does not receive a price-signal. I will not give up on my personal footstep. I will continue to seek ways to reach a carbon-neutral future because it is important. However, I am now more motivated than I have ever been before to see that my elected leaders are held responsible for the creation of such a signal.
Beyond the elected leaders and markets, Friedman suggested that our friendly meteorologists have both the access and the most public capital to expend in educating the home viewers about the connections between climate and weather. I agree. For what it will be worth, I plan on writing each of my local meteorologists encouraging them to read Friedman’s book, point out how they can make a difference. But not only that they can make a difference by adding short quips and climate vocabulary to their information, but that the first one of them to do so will not only be report the weather, but becoming news themselves increasing ratings and their popularity. This could be their late-breaking-story that puts them in limelight, rather than settling for partly cloudy with a high of 75 F.
It is so clear to me now that we have passed beyond the time of inaction. If America desires to remain the Global Economic leader, the model for which all other countries aspire, we must act now. The time for being green to mean a granola-eating activist with a clipboard full of signatures has passed (however, they are still vitally important). We all must get involved. Citizens must elect leaders that are willing to do what is right, what is necessary, and what is hard. Elected leaders must follow the advice and expert learning as put forward in scientific peer-reviewed journals and not lobbyist contributors. Meteorologists must begin to show the citizens the connections between local weather and climate, and how they influence the natural resources that we cannot survive without, like water.
If America cannot get Global Climate Change right, we will be the next great society to be come extinct, out competed on all sides by one that does. And it is not just America’s global dominance that is at stake, it is the Earth’s ability to sustain life that is ultimately at risk. The current rate of species lost is at a historical high. The rate of species lost is calculated to be 1,000 times greater than baseline projections. A loss that Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin believe may be the “Sixth Extinction” (which is the next book that I’m going to read). We must ensure that we do not create a scenario in which Mother Nature can no longer support humans. Alan Weisman wrote, “The World Without Us,” a narrative of what planet earth will look like when humans have become extinct, which gives me hope for that planet, but is a prediction that I do not wish to see come true.
If you are serious about being green in the Energy Climate Era, your first step must be to read “Hot, Flat, and Crowded.” And when you’ve read it, do everything in your power to motivate others to join the only green revolution that can create lasting change.
Thomas L. Friedman. “Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America.” New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008