Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book #3: Hot, Flat and Crowded

Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded is a thorough, thoughtful argument for the existence of an energy economy. Friedman argues that in the coming century, prosperity will be tied closely to the ability to produce clean, renewable sources of energy, as well as minimizing climate change and the use of existing dirty energy. In reading the book, Friedman's relentless optimism and unbridled corniness jockey for attention with the actual subject matter.

Friedman, who coins phrases like "my grandma back in Minnesota had a saying: never cede a century to a country that censors Google", is perhaps unique for a famous political commentator in that he tends to eschew cynicism and vitriol. Even when delivering an apocalyptic message, as he does in the first part of the book when discussing climate change, he manages to maintain his frequently irritating composure.

Much of the book doesn't say anything new, but what makes it interesting is how Friedman ties it to his well-known book, The World is Flat. As technology has increased competition for jobs in the West from countries such as China and India (producing a "flat" playing field), it has also produced millions of prospective new consumers, even billions, who can not manage to live in the way that we do. Combined with a growing population around the world, as well as the rapidly growing number living comfortably, the world will also get more crowded. The part about the world being hot is simple enough to understand.

The solution Friedman proposes is an urgent, high-priority drive to develop green energies. He predicts that whoever manages to get a jump start in this field will wield a great deal of power in the world in the 21st century. It's a convincing argument. American dominance of what Friedman terms the IT revolution enabled America to remain the world's most powerful country, while the importance of oil to the global economy has dramatically amplified the power of oil-exporting countries.

A running theme through this book, as well as The World is Flat, is the importance of innovation, as well as education. Funding for research and development in the area of energy is impossibly small given the size and importance of the area, as well as relative to other industries, which invest a great deal of money coming up with new products. Friedman repeatedly uses scare tactics (mainly about the Chinese) to scare his American readers into doing something about the matter.

The idea of investing in a green economy is a personal favourite of mine because they can replace the high-paying, low-skill manufacturing jobs that were so important to Canada and America in the twentieth century. Those jobs have since gone elsewhere, but without such jobs, the only alternatives are for everyone to go to university and become a lawyer, or for some people to make $100,000 a year and for others to make $10 per hour.


maria said...

This doesn't have anything to do with the post I'm commenting on. I hope you don't find this awkward, but I stumbled upon your blog, and wanted to know if you'd answer some of my questions about being a Pakistani in South Korea? My sister is interested in teaching English in Korea, and I was just wondering if you could give us/her some advice; especially since she also wears hijab.

Adeel said...

Maria, I definitely could answer your questions. If you leave me an email, I will get back to you.

maria said...