Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We Are Having a Green Party

Now is the time. Yes, I know, it’s time to party. But on a serious note, I would like to encourage everyone to put environmental awareness and innovation on their list of goals for 2009. Green regulation is no longer good enough. We need green innovation. We need to turn our green party into a green revolution. If not, everyone will suffer in ways that are not known by man. I came to this conclusion after watching The 11th Hour and reading Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Below is a video of Friedman talking about his brilliant book that offers solutions to the biggest problems facing mankind right now.

“It’s really a book about America,” says Friedman. “Why we have lost our groove as a country, and how and why I think we can get it back.”

Friedman’s first example is on a slideshow presentation with a picture of a billboard in South Africa last year, advertising the Daimler Smart Car. Next to a photo of this fuel efficient car, it reads:

German Engineering
Swiss Innovation
American Nothing

The first chapter of Hot, Flat, and Crowded takes place in Istanbul, Turkey in 2003, where Friedman visited the American consulate, which was once located in the heart of the city. It is now in an Istanbul suburb. “It is a maximum security prison,” says Friedman. “San Quetin has nothing on it.” The consulate has 15-foot high walls, barbed-wire guard towers, and it is so secure they don’t even let birds fly there, hence the title of Friedman’s first chapter: Where Birds Don’t Fly.

“Where birds don’t fly, people don’t mix, ideas don’t get exchanged, friendships don’t get forged, collaboration doesn’t happen, freedom doesn’t ring,” says Friedman. “Now do not get me wrong, I understand and those who read me understand that we have real enemies, and unfortunately we do need consulates with high walls today. And we do need metal detectors. I would actually go through 16 metal detectors when I leave here in a couple of hours at the San Francisco airport under one condition. That on the other side of the last metal detector would be a great project worthy of the inspirational prowess and innovative capacity of the United States of America, and not just another metal detector. And that’s really what’s been bothering me these past few years. We are not the United States of fighting terrorism. That’s not who we are. I weep and I truly mourn for everyone who was killed on 9/11. But for me, 9/11 is still just the day between 9/10 and 9/12. My day is the Fourth of July. 9/11 was about them. The Fourth of July is about us. And we need to get back to being the people of the Fourth of July and not the people of post-9/11.”

The third reason why America has lost its groove, Friedman says, is because “our government today cannot solve any big multigenerational problems. And whether it is called energy, environment, health care, social security, it just doesn’t seem to work anymore. It has to do with gerrymandered political districts, money in politics, 24-hour news cycles, and a permanent presidential campaign that have come together in a way to simply gridlock politics in Washington.” He goes on to say that America still has the best and brightest entrepreneurs, but today’s government is not nurturing these incredible ideas.

He goes on to explain how and why government needs leaders who can make green cars and companies mandatory. Why? Because there are so many people in the world living like middle-class Americans that we are in essence killing the human species if we don’t make dramatic changes right now. According to Conservation International, we are now losing one new species every 20 minutes. The level of pollution is growing exponentially because cities like New York are becoming the norm in countries such as China, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. This is simply not sustainable for the next decade or further down the road.

Friedman’s book lists the 5 trends that he believes will be the most vital challenges for the 21st century:

• Energy and Natural Resources Supply and Demand
• Petrodictarship
• Climate Change
• Energy Poverty
• Biodiversity Loss

I believe the biggest circumstance of a hot, flat, crowded world is climate change. Many people call it global warming, but Friedman uses the term “global weirding” because the weather gets weird. Basically the world is getting hotter and wetter and more unpredictable. What is predictable is that the hurricanes, storms, and tornadoes are intensifying. Because we’ve released so much CO2 into the environment, we no longer know whether incidents like Hurricane Katrina where caused by an act of humans or Mother Nature. As Friedman points out, the IPCC study now indicates that all the ice in the Arctic will melt by the summer of 2012. “You will be able to sail right across the Arctic in July in 2012 and never meet a piece of ice,” says Friedman. This will then warm the earth’s oceans, causing environmental changes that are beyond human knowledge. For this reason, Friedman suggested that Al Gore should write a column titled, “I’m Sorry.” Then he suggested the lead should be, “I’m sorry. I apologize. I, Al Gore, completely underestimated climate change.”

Another result of a hot, flat, crowded earth without immediate changes will leave billions of people without sufficient electricity, including the electricity to get online. “If you cannot get to Google, you cannot get to all the world’s knowledge. You cannot get to the 99 things everyone knows in order to invent the one that they don’t know…. That is so much worse than not being able to get to a library. That means you can’t get to all the world’s knowledge. It means you will fall behind exponentially.”

Despite the hole we dug ourselves into, humans still have time to dig ourselves out. Friedman calls the solution to the 5 challenges listed above as Energy Technology (ET). “It is very clear to me that the country that owns ET is going to have the most energy security, national security, economic security, competitive industries, healthy climate, and global respect. That country has to be the United States of America. If it is not, the chance of our kids enjoying our standard of living, I believe, is zero.” Green will no longer be about electric power, but about national power because of the reasons Friedman mentioned above. “Green is the new red, white, and blue,” he says.

Armageddon for the human species is here if we don’t dramatically change. It is no longer about conservatives and liberals. It is about survival of the human species. This is why I am urging everyone to have fun tonight, but to start making an environmental revolution in 2009. I aslo strongly believe in having only two children or less. With the world population rising so fast, a two-baby limit in a hot, flat, crowded world is something all young couples should follow. Most of all, I want to emphasize the power of awareness. Please tell your family, friends, and strangers about the need for massive green innovation, rather than just green regulation. Without it, we may not have many more happy new years.