It is not a political book and it is not a Global Warming book. It is an energy book. Hot, Flat, and Crowded focuses on five major problems in the world, what will happen if we can't control them, and how to control them. Those five problems are:
- Energy Supply and Demand - The world WILL run out of fossil fuels, we are addicted to them, and we are increasing our rate of usage so that the world demand will at least double by 2050. It will be impossible to sustain without new technology.
- Petrodictatorship - Because of this worldwide addiction, countries with oil have a disproportionate amount of wealth not earned by growing through an Industrial Revolution. They have not built this wealth through investing in education and infrastructure, but they have religion, and this is where the extreme groups we fear most are born.
- Climate Change - The Earth's average temperature has risen. We, as a WORLD, are not changing the way we live. As more countries start to live like American's, we will eat up all the Earth's resources at a faster rate. We will be screwed.
- Energy Poverty - There isn't enough non-renewable energy and resources in the world for everyone, especially as we add newly developed countries. Countries that cannot keep up will be forced into a corner, and the result could be disease, death, or more likely, violence.
- Biodiversity Loss - The world is crowded and people are forced to sprawl, devouring natural resources in the process. Half of the world's tropical forests, temperate forests, and wetlands are gone. We will not get these back. The world needs them to survive. Human's need the diversity to develop new cures for future diseases and for the food chain. It is non-renewable and we will eventually deplete it if things don't change.
China, India, and America are at the heart of this book's dilemma. America has set the benchmark for standard of living. Everyone wants to live the American Dream: own their own house, car, two TV's, computer, refrigerator, microwave, oven, washer and dryer, and dozen's of of small electrical gadgets. One American consumes the same energy as 10 Chinese or 30 Indians. But developing nations are catching up, fast, learning to live the lifestyle we made popular. And, while there are only 300 million Americans, there are 2.5 billion between China and India. What will happen when they too are living the American Dream?
The truth is we are probably already screwed, and that is terrifying. Fortunately, there are different levels of screwed. The future hasn't happened and the things we do now will either help or hurt the future.
Thomas Friedman does a good job of scaring you in this book, but he also proposes a very sensible course of action. We need clean energy. America has some of the most innovative and intelligent minds in the world, and it also has the resources to develop new technology. We need to start rewarding and encouraging new, clean energy options. We need to wean ourselves off of non-renewable energy. America has the responsibility to set an example for the rest of the world. We went through our Industrial Revolution and exported the American Dream. Countries will continue to follow our example, and we need to lead the world in the clean energy economy. We need to change what it means to Live The Dream, and we need to change it fast.
I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future – because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation."
- Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address
Sorry for the bummer post, but this must be the most important idea of this generation. Educate yourself NOW. In 2050, we'll look back and judge the world on how it reacted in the early part of this century. I pray we can be proud of ourselves.