Hot, Flat and Crowded

By Thomas Friedman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

| January 08, 2009
'Hot, Flat and Crowded'
  • 'Hot, Flat and Crowded'

In Hot, Flat and Crowded, Friedman provides his readers a broad set of ideas for an energy-climate revolution in which nations will develop renewable energy, preserve biodiversity and, quite literally, save the world. In an ambitious and important book, Friedman moves the conversation from what we can do as individuals to what we can do as citizens of the world.

Many Humboldt citizens have probably heard the calls for renewable energy, have seen Al Gore's movie or are actually working to make the needed changes. From the CCAT house at HSU to the hydrogen fueling station in Arcata, from the proposed wave-power generators to the Arcata wastewater treatment plant, the community is trying to move toward the new energy solutions that Thomas Friedman heralds. But more needs to be done, from governments, markets and grassroots. And, he argues, America needs to lead this effort.

Friedman has put so much information into his book that he precipitously walks on a path of flooding his readers' senses, sifting through problems that seem impossible to solve. However, he skillfully leads us on this path by providing facts, stories and conversations from all parts of the globe and writing in a simple, easy-to-follow style.

The world, according to Friedman, is becoming hot (because of climate change) flat (because of the rise of a worldwide middle-class) and crowded (from increased population). This starting point may seem like common sense, but Friedman uses it to launch an ambitious blueprint of how America and the world could and should operate. The United States needs to stop having a "green party," thinking that windmills and vegan condoms are going to solve our problems -- instead we need to have a real green revolution.

In the first half of the book, Friedman, a New York Times columnist, delineates the problems in the world through chapters that cite scientific evidence, statistics, scholarly wisdom and anecdotes from remote locations to illustrate how this hot, flat and crowded world is affecting us. He makes another case against oil -- how it not only pollutes but provides wealth to "petrodictators" and reverses democratic trends all over the world.

Friedman has done a masterful job in showing the breadth of the needed changes and in doing so has made the book applicable for everyone. In the second half of the book, he begins laying down strategies, goals and direction for the green revolution. The American government needs to create a market for green technologies. We need to invest in a new power grid and rethink the way we generate and spend our energy resources. All citizens of the world will benefit if America becomes the leader in the Energy Climate Era, and we need to head in that direction now.

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