Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hot, Flat, and Crowded

To help celebrate Reading Las Vegas and "going green," the Summerlin Library Book Chat Cafe is discussing Thomas L. Friedeman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded on Saturday, April 18 at 10:30 am.

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's uses these three adjectives to define the challenge facing the world today. The challenge is the convergence of three simultaneous trends: global warming, the growth of the middle class around the world, and human population growth.

The problem is that population growth and the growth of the middle class, especially in India and China, are creating rapid growth in demand for resources, especially energy. This is happening at the same time that mounting evidence is pointing to significant climate disruptions caused by increases in green houses gases due to human activity.

In case anyone hasn’t noticed, human population has been growing at an astonishing rate over the last 2 centuries. In 1800, world population was about 1 billion. Today, human population stands at about 6.7 billion and is expected to top 9 billion by 2050 and peak at 10 billion by 2100.

What I like about Friedman’s book is that he doesn’t spend much time talking about global warming itself. Instead he focuses on other reasons why encouraging energy efficiency and production of renewable energy are good for the United States and good for the world. Energy efficiency is always good because of the immediate savings when the same task can be done for less energy. Growth in renewable energy is important because of the risks that America’s reliance on foreign oil creates.

Although some of the details of Friedman’s presentation may be debatable, I think that overall Friedman has a compelling argument for a Green Revolution. It is fairly easy, however, to get bogged down in the details. Part I seemed like a slow start to me, but chapter 4, “Fill ‘Er Up with Dictators” and chapter 10 “The Energy Internet: When IT Meets ET,” were especially gripping.

I recommend this book, especially the audio version.

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