New York Times Columnist Tom Friedman told an overheated capacity crowd at Aspen's Benedict Music Tent the world is "Hot Flat and Crowded" and our country would need to engages soon in a competition to "out-green" one another if we are to combat the effects of planetary environmental degradation.
Speaking on a hot afternoon to a combined session at the midpoint of the Aspen IdeasFestival, Friedman for the first time discussed publicly the details of his upcoming 400-page book of that title, [Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution - and How it Can Renew America].
Friedman, a much admired summer resident of this paradise at 8,000 feet, divided his subject into five areas - climate change, a topic he calls "Petro Dictactors", biodiversity, energy and resource supply and demand.
One of the pivotal chapters of the book, which of course argues that the earth is increasingly flat (global), its population is growing (to more than 9 billion in the next "half lifetime") and is already getting hot (climate change) is we're soon going to have to weigh the preservation of biodiversity against the sixth great extinction in earth's history, with a species vanishing every 20 minutes, or about 1,000 times a normalized rate.
"Imagine of rainfall were 1,000 times the norm, or the spread of HIV or snowfall," he said.
Against this background, Friedman notes, one out of four people - 1.6 billions currently - have no on-off switch in their life, guaranteeing they will only fall further behind, not just arithmetically but exponentially.
Nonetheless, the columnist and author said, he is optimistic about the opportunity created by the chaos, if American take a leadership role, and can perform at its best. This has not been the case in recent years, despite growing public concern over the environmental piece of the puzzle.
"We're having a green party. It has nothign to do with the scale of change that we need," he said, reading off a list of scores of book titles that have emerged about going green - many of which including the term "Easy" ways of doing so.
The rest of his book, due out in September, turns to progress across each of these defined areas, and how this progress may be advanced by focussing on immediate need.
Examples are rife, Friedman said, including in areas one might not expect, like in Iraq, where the U.S. military literally is trucking fuel at $20 a gallon delivered cost, and is exploring alternative energies to, literally, "out-green" al Quaeda and other foes there.
Like many of the companies who made money in the industrial revolution building railroads and shipping companies, and telecommunications and computing companies in the technology boom, Friedman insists the true green technology gains will be made when the enterprises are committed to the more mundane, boring sides of the business.
"If you want to be green, you want to make an impact, understand the rules of the game," he implored. Peabody Coal and Exxon understand the game, even if they are not fully credited for it. "They're not on Facebook, they're in your face. They're not in the chat rooms, they're in the cloakrooms. They're writing the rules."