Tom Friedman urges U.S. to lead the green revolution

Jeff vonKaenel

“He is a rock star,” said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. The mayor was introducing three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman to about 900 Sacramento-area citizens attending a monthly Greenwise Sacramento meeting at the Crest Theatre.

The mayor hopes that ideas from these Greenwise meetings will help transform our region into what he calls the “Emerald Valley,” the greenest region in America. This month, Friedman and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger were featured speakers.

While I didn’t hear any rock ’n’ roll, I can tell you that Friedman’s speech and public discussion with Gov. Schwarzenegger was an intellectual tour de force covering environmental policy, the impact of developing nations, a sustainable moral code, the federal energy bill (that would have capped greenhouse gases) and California Proposition 23 (which would suspend the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006). All were presented clearly with humor and passion.

Picking up on the themes of his latest book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Friedman explained how increased greenhouse gases are creating disastrous climate change (hot), while the world is becoming more and more connected (flat), and how our increasing population and standard of living put the hot and flat problems on scary steroids (crowded).

Friedman urged us to deal with these problems right away. As awareness of global warming spreads, energy-efficient transportation systems, inexpensive energy sources, energy-efficient appliances and green homes will be in high demand. There will be little interest in those companies and countries that try to hold on to the old energy-wasting, greenhouse-gas-producing ways. Thus, those countries that are early adapters of green technology will thrive in the future.

While he may not be a rock star in real life, Friedman was clearly born in the USA. He believes in America. He proposes that the United States should lead the green revolution. It will save the country economically, and it is the world’s best hope for preventing disastrous world climate change.

Johnson called Friedman a rock star. But we did not hear happy lyrics from the Crest stage. Friedman was clearly saddened by the nation’s inability to produce an energy bill this year, and also by the idea that Californians would roll back the Global Warming Act of 2006 if they pass Proposition 23 on the November ballot.

In fact, Friedman reminded me more of a biblical prophet than a rock star. In a modern world where science can produce disasters such as the atomic bomb, as well as angel-like flights to the moon, this man was predicting an apocryphal future if we do not change our ways. We are sinning. And we will pay a horrible price for our sins if we do not change our ways. In a hot, flat, crowded world, we need to look toward science and our souls for the answers.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.