Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Just when you thought the Earth was round...

Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman believes that the world is "Hot, Flat, and Crowded," as the title of his book suggests. He uses these three words to refer to global warming/climate change, the rise of resource consumption and standards of living around the world, and population explosion. As these three concerns intensify, people must increasingly consider what Friedman believes to be the world’s 5 major problems: resource supply and demand, petro-dictatorship, biodiversity loss, climate change, and energy poverty.

Friedman appeared at Duke on Monday to give a lecture and a panel discussion. The panel included Blair Sheppard (Dean of Duke's Fuqua School of Business), Jay Hamilton (Charles S. Sydnor Professor of Public Policy at Duke), Thomas Katsouleas (Dean of Duke's Pratt School of Engineering), and Richard Newell (Gendell Associate Professor of Energy and Environmental Economics at the Nicholas School).

I attended both the panel and the lecture, and I found Friedman to be incredibly engaging. Using numerous metaphors and examples, he effectively communicated what lies at stake for people of America and the world: increasing environmental degradation, if change cannot be achieved.

On the subject of biodiversity, he said that one new species goes extinct every 20 minutes. 
“We are the first generation of humans that will have to think like Noah. We have to think about how we are going to save the last two of each species,” Friedman said.

The good news is that Friedman's proposed solution to the world's 5 major problems is clean, renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

“Energy technology is going to be the next great global industry. It has to be."

For Friedman, energy technology represents an opportunity for America to get back on top of the global food chain. He asserts that America must "outgreen" its competition by investing heavily in the production and implementation of clean energy technologies. If it does, then it will create thousands of jobs and revitalize American industry. If it cannot, then young people today will not experience the same prosperity that their parents enjoyed.

“Green is obviously the new red, white, and blue. There is no state more appropriate to lead this revolution than the United States of America," Friedman said.

If the market for green energy technologies can be encouraged through effective legislation and incentives, he said, then capital will be invested and innovation will come.

“Necessity is the mother of innovation. If you have market necessity, you’ll have innovation. If you don’t, you get more Hummers,” Friedman said.

My friend Jori attended the lecture with me. Here she reacts to Friedman's argument that the world's 5 major problems can be solved through massive implementation of clean, renewable energy technology.

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