Writer stresses sustainability
Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and journalist for The New York Times Thomas L. Friedman said in a Monday night lecture at the Cullen Performance Center that government must take initiative in fostering a green revolution.
Friedman, author of the best-selling Hot, Flat and Crowded, discussed not only the significance of a worldwide green revolution, but also how it pertains to the U.S. and what American leaders can do to prepare for it.
"This book is about getting our groove back as a country," he said. "We lost our groove after 9/11, but my day is Independence Day, not 9/11."
Another reason for the country falling into less-than-perfect shape, he said, was losing the Soviet Union as a competitor. This made the government lazy, which is catastrophic at a time of emerging innovation, Friedman said.
"When they travel, rockstars get room keys in their pockets," he said. "I get business cards from innovative individuals. This country is exploding with energy and entrepreneurship, but we don’t have much government."
The government will face a combination of energy and natural resources supply and demands, petrodictatorships, climate change, energy poverty and biodiversity loss in the near future, Friedman said. The problems will emerge as a result of the planet being too hot, flat and crowded, as suggested by the title of his book.
"The global temperature rose 1.5 Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s," he said. "Small changes in temperature affect the planet in the same way they affect our bodies. The planet is also becoming flat, with the rise of the middle class worldwide, and more people are coming into the same standard of living as Americans, which will exhaust the planet the same way as the crowding will."
Recent natural disasters that have struck locally are proof of that, he said, asking if Hurricane Katrina was brought on by humans or by a greater power from above.
"We no longer know if it’s people causing this weird weather or God," he said. "But we are playing lead guitar in nature’s symphony."
The Farfel Distinguished Lecture Series and the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Ethics and Leadership Lecture Series hosted the event.
Friedman offered a solution to the problems awaiting government in the form of abundant, cheap, clean and reliable electrons and molecules.
"Right now, we are facing a flood, and we are the first generation of humans who are going to have to think like Noah and save the last pair of every species," he said. "A green revolution will provide national and economic security, and this country needs to lead it or our children and grandchildren will not have our standard of living. Green is the new red, white and blue."
The government has not yet launched the green revolution, despite protests, seminars and documentaries made in its favor. Friedman said the country will go through a revolution when the word "green" disappears from the picture altogether, and it will be the only option left.
"The only way out of this is innovation," he said. "Leaders write rules, rules shape markets and markets shape innovation. This is a critical time for our country – the stakes cannot be higher, the work cannot be harder, and the payoff cannot be greater."