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Hot, Flat, And Crowded – A Book Review

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

After the success of his other books like ‘Lexus and the Olive Tree’, ‘Longitudes and Attitudes’ and more recently, ‘The World is Flat’, the new theme the New York Times columnist has got in is global warming. Global warming is a problem common all throughout the world. Well, for one it is real. There is an astonishingly high number of people for whom it took too late to understand that ‘global warming’ is not any political innovation. It is already happening. Your experiences in May (in case you are in Northern Hemisphere) give you a receipt of this repeatedly. The 2006 European Wave that took some 35, 000 lives is one big receipt. Of course, Hurricane Katrina and 2004 Tsunami were other that affected other parts of the world.

Image Courtesy: (A Mirage in Finland)

Image Courtesy: (A Mirage in Finland)

Globalization or rather flattening of the world has brought up many a people from poverty into middle classes. More and more people coming into middle classes marks a new phenomenon and that is, ‘flat meets crowded’. The case with world is such that it doesn’t matter how many people live on earth, what matters is the number of people living a typical American Dream, where the energy consumption is high. Fighting global warming is quite an urgent issue, but Thomas Friedman leaves no bone in elaborating his well researched points that can help economically as well.

There are five major reasons that Friedman gives in his books: Energy and natural resources supply and demand, petro – dictatorship, climate change, energy poverty and biodiversity loss. There are chapters dedicated to almost each of this term in the first half of the book.

Supply and Demand: The oil price rise that we saw in May 2008, when oil peaked at $147, was driven by the imbalance between supply and demand. This was not about geopolitics as it was in case of the 1970s oil embargo. This was purely because the demand had grown, from China and India and from other developing countries.

Petro – Dictatorships: This is another important issue in combating global warming and in coming up with alternative energy / fuels. Oil as a resource, is found with mostly all authoritarian regimes of the world. Saudi Arabia, Russia (which is a complete autocratic state at high oil prices), Nigeria (democracy was best there at oil $10 in 1995), Venezuela, etc. Graph of oil price vs. freedom is given in the book.

Climate Change: ‘Global warming’ is kind of a misnomer. In fact, it is ‘global weirding ’or rather‘climate crises’. Al Gore had first called it global warming, but later on he named his website of his documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ as .The term climate crisis describes the term more aptly.

Energy Poverty: This is all about load shedding/blackout and I am experiencing it greatly! Yes, this problem is grave. Developing countries are rising, and so is the demand for electricity. Blackout is common all across Africa, especially Zimbabwe and South Africa, and in India as well. Renewable energy is necessary now, also for environmental concerns, and for business concerns. The country that will come up with something substantial in energy technology is going to lead the world next. US and China both are doing well in this regards, and Obama administration has paid heed to this pressing issue. Can you imagine a day without electricity? No computers, no internet!!

Biodiversity Loss: This mainly deals with the deforestation that is taking place at a very fast speed in Brazil, and Indonesia, two of the countries in the world that have claim to one of the biggest and dense forests. Different species have started becoming extinct, and let us hope human race is not one of them!

This revolution, green revolution is unlike other. There is not a single revolution in the history of the earth, in which no one got hurt. In green revolution, everyone is enjoying. It is going to help us all as it is a question of human survival in the end. It is rather a green party.

The second part of the book is well researched and provides solutions to the American industry on what to do next. It gives a 7 – page example of an experiment that was carried out in Washington, US on efficient electricity utilization. It saved electricity by 70%! This is no exaggeration. The model is described in detail in the book. It is all about a smart grid to be used, in every home as well in every block.

After the recession in 1991 that gave birth to IT it is the turn of ET after this global recession equivalent to The Great Depression. It will make a good entertainment to see which country gets a major share in it. As of now, US and China have the highest chance of getting it, though Israel has a good chance too owing to a successful electric car experiment there. India has all resources but no political will.

The world at present is all about going green.

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