The world is flat, New York Times columnist Friedman told us in his bestselling 2005 book of that name. Now things are getting worse, and the clock is ticking.
Americans have squandered most of the goodwill extended since 9/11, writes Friedman, and in the years of the Bush administration no thought has been given to what 9/12 is supposed to look like. The climate is changing, but the administration has spent most of its tenure denying it and insisting on a particularist view that we deserve to be profligate because we’re Americans. Our political blindness and ignorance vis-à-vis other nations now butts up against the world’s instability and, Friedman continues, “the convergence of hot, flat, and crowded is tightening energy supplies, intensifying the extinction of plants and animals, deepening energy poverty, strengthening petrodictatorship, and accelerating climate change.” The way out of those tangles, he says, is for America to go green in any way possible—and to do it right away, investing in every kind of alternative and renewable energy form imaginable, setting the best of examples for the rest of the world and exporting green technologies everywhere, thus winning back allies and influencing people. Readers who have been paying attention to Fareed Zakaria, Jared Diamond or similar writers know most of this, but still the word has been slow getting out. Many others have written about these subjects, but few enjoy Friedman’s audience, so it’s good that he’s turning to such matters, if a touch belatedly. His case studies—from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s insistence on a fleet of hybrid taxis on the street to British firm Marks & Spencer’s insistence that going green is Plan A and that “there is no Plan B” —are well-selected, detailed and, in the end, quite inspiring.
That inspiration is needed, along with a lot of hard work. A timely, rewarding book.