Saturday, March 21, 2009

Green and Read

Our book club is reading one of the most important books I've ever encountered. I hope President Obama, along with millions of citizens and policy-makers world-wide, will read multiple-Pulitzer journalist Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded.

Let me say at the outset that Friedman supports his thesis and sub-theses ad nauseum with example after example. His work is redundant, and some readers would find it boring and tedious. That said, this book is more than just another treatise on global warming and the fact that it is bad.

Friedman points out that emerging economies, such as China and India, will doom the world to environmental extinction unless we all make drastic changes in how we live. The United States is the world's single largest user of oil and other pollutants. (1) We need to reduce our consumption and waste, and (2) we need to choose leaders with environmental vision. Contrasts between national environmental policy during the Carter and younger Bush administrations show the impact of governmental attitudes on alternatives to fossil fuels, for example. Additionally, new approaches can be financially and politically profitable. We must aid developing nations in how to advance without damaging the earth as we have.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded builds upon some of the foundation presented in the author's previous bestseller, The World Is Flat: we're all in this together; what is done in one nation impacts the rest of the world ... and quickly. I discovered that I could catch his main points and skim the examples to read faster. However, I found the examples from articles he has culled and experts he's interviewed to be as interesting as they are varied.

The last chapter opens with a speech delivered to the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit by a 12-year-old Canadian girl named Savern Suzuki. If you can read this 1992 address, a plea for generations mostly yet unborn, and not be moved, you either lack a pulse or heart, or both. We have become rather fluent in greenspeak, but Suzuki reminds that "You are what you do, not what you say."

It may be fitting that this book is difficult. Its message is not pleasant (although Friedman believes we have the potential to save our planet). The task is daunting, far beyond the PC feel-goodism of the token recyling or planet-friendly light bulb purchase. The work will be hard and expensive. Work your way through this book. Everything earthly hangs in the balance ... and perhaps so does soulwork beyond.

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