Friday, June 24, 2011

Light Reading

I'm about 150 pages into Thomas L. Friedman's nonfiction book Hot, Flat and Crowded, and I'm genuinely frightened. The book's main objective is to explain the importance of a green revolution in American economics and energy consumption, and how immediate action needs to be taken before we reach Earth's ecological tipping point, in terms of climate change. But here's the thing. Immediate action ISN'T being taken. There's a LOT of convincing evidence compiled from various fields of environmental studies to support that conditions on our planet are getting worse much faster than we have previously predicted, and little to no effort has been put in to combat it. This is largely due to the unfortunately large amount of people who completely disregard the idea of global warming and climate change, hindering progress in any area of environmental conservation, renewable energy development, and "green" political activism.

Friedman, in his book, breaks the nay-sayers down into "three basic varieties: those paid by fossil fuel companies to deny that global warming is a serious human-caused problem; those scientists, a small minority, who have looked at the data and concluded for different reasons that the rapid and extensive increase in greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution is not a major threat to the planet's livability; and, finally, those conservatives who simply refuse to accept the reality of climate change because they hate the solution--more government regulation and intervention."

Friedman will explain in detail his ideas for a green America in the second half of his book, but at this point in my reading, I'm thinking that with such a vehemently polarized national government, it appears action upon climate change and a green revolution are almost impossible to reach right now. Not completely impossible, but almost. As I see it, it all comes down to lack of foresight. Us Americans, along with a good number of other nations, are much too preoccupied with the "instant fix." We plan for the short term, and we do that repeatedly. There is almost no long-term investment in our weaning ourselves off of foreign oil, and a dispiriting amount of effort is put into large-scale, affordable green technology. We are much too divided, and it's sad, because our children will look back on this as the time we could have saved the world, but instead, we badger each other over no singular, coherent reasoning (i.e. fundamental differences between Republican and Democrat rationale) but rather disagreement borne purely of dislike, distrust, and frustration.

So here's a message from a concerned teenager to the American government: Let's kick this oil addiction once and for all. Stop sending our money to an area of the world where it is used to fund terrorist groups we're fighting right now (yeah, that's happening), and start investing in ideas that will save this planet. Here's an idea: cut the military budget, and give money to schools to give us our next great thinkers and problem-solvers. Curtail the production of SUV's and Hummers, in place of smaller, more fuel efficient--and eventually, fuel-free--vehicles. Put windmills everywhere, work on creating more efficient solar panels. Any action that drastically reduces our dependency on oil will, in effect, benefit the entire globe. Oil's price will go down, and as Friedman brilliantly explains in his book, lower oil prices (between $15 -$30 a barrel) mean the collapse of the petrodictatorships of the middle east, replaced by a much-needed economic freedom and the return of womens' rights in the area, as the area will need to depend upon the creativity and economic know-how of its people to survive.

I'm going to continue reading, and when I finish I'll post my thoughts on the second half. But for now, whoever is reading this, I highly recommend you go out and get Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded. It's probably one of the most important books you'll ever read.

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