I read Friedman’s previous book, “The World is Flat,” and really liked it. The premise of the book was that innovations in technology have made it possible for more people to innovate and collaborate globally than at any time in the world’s history. My wife checked this book out from the library and let me read it. It took me nearly a month.
I’ve got really mixed feelings about this book. One, I’m not a huge fan of Friedman’s writing style. He can be repetitive. He can drag out his point. I fell asleep several times as I got to the last half of the book. Second, I don’t buy into the whole climate change, global warming hype. I think the problem is more local/regional (Beijing, China, which he brings up, is a prime example). The changes in climate have much more to do with solar activity than man-made carbon emissions. Just thirty years ago, climate scientists were convinced that the world was headed for an ice age. And a warmer planet may indeed be a better planet (crop yields, etc.). Plants thrive off carbon dioxide. Contrary to what most of the media says, the jury is still out on the climate change issue. Thus, I don’t agree that the world is necessarily “hot.”
I also don’t buy into his notion that the world is “crowded.” Yes, there are places in the world that are crowded. More people are moving to urban centers (cities) than at any time in history. This puts a strain on local resources and local governments. But in no way is the world overcrowded. You could put every man, woman, and child in the United States and give them all a 1/3 acre lot (a little smaller than my lot–and that’s a lot of room per person). Granted, that’s a huge simplification–there are issues of poverty, hunger, genocide, etc., that we must face. But just on the issue of population… the world is not “crowded.”
Those are minor issues, though, compared to my two main problems with Friedman’s book. First, citing Al Gore as a climate expert. Seriously? The man’s “carbon footprint” is way bigger than the average US citizen’s. Yeah, he buys those bogus “carbon credits,” but from one of his own companies. He took a climate course in college. He’s not an expert. Citing Gore as a climate expert is like the single woman telling mom’s how to raise their kids–both may know a few things, but neither really has a clue.
I also disagree with Friedman’s premise that the federal government is the only entity that can ensure a switch to renewable, clean energy. He correctly states that big oil and coal have reached deep into their pockets to keep their interests in Washington, DC. But I felt he didn’t give enough attention to an effort from the bottom up instead of the top down (he did give some). Most things the government attempts to do are massive financial black holes with poor results. Some regulation is good and needed, but government tends to over-regulate. I’m convinced only an effort from ordinary citizens putting pressure on politicians, utilities, etc., will ever bring about any change to renewable energy.
Having said that, there were some things I really liked about the book. Although I don’t agree with the whole climate change issue, I do agree that our dependence on fossil fuels is more akin to an addiction, and with the rise of India and China on the global playing field, there will be a much bigger demand for those fuels (there already is). These things will not last forever. The United States can certainly regain some clout in the world through pioneering in renewable energy innovation. It’s being talked about, but not seriously pursued at this point.
What I liked the most is Friedman’s assertion that there is no “green revolution” taking place in America. It’s more of a “green fad.” Magazines issuing green issues, public service announcements on TV, and lists of “20 Easy Things You Can Do to Save the Planet” isn’t a revolution. It’s an easy way to feel like you’ve done something when in reality you haven’t done a thing. It’s going to take a movement of ordinary people demanding changes in how energy is produced, distributed, and paid for and making real changes in their lives. Don’t talk about how green you are if you recycle water bottles and drive a “Flex Fuel” Chevy Suburban.
As you can tell, I found this book interesting (overall). It’s long, the writing is dull in many parts, and Friedman repeats himself and reveals that he’s dressing up as chicken little for Halloween by continually shouting “The sky is falling.” But it is worth a read no matter where you are on the political/environmental spectrums.