Thomas Friedman and Sustainability


In his book, Thomas Friedman talks about a convergence of three factors that, when combined, signal certain doom for humanity as a species. He hasn’t been quite so literal yet (I’m a third of the way in), but our impending self-destruction is certainly implied.

The book (Hot, Flat, and Crowded) expands on his previous work (The World Is Flat), where he talks about the leveling of the global economic playing field (that’s the flat part) happening as a result of globalization. Basically, more people in more places are entering the middle class than ever before, and when they get there they want to live the Western way of life the same as we do. The problem with this is that the planet doesn’t have enough natural capital to sustain the Western way of life for everyone who wants it.

This, combined with global climate change (hot) and overpopulation (crowded), makes a dangerous brew for our species. Friedman tells us that if we don’t change the way we live, our planet will meet its maximum human carrying capacity, and when that happens we’re done for.

Friedman believes Westerners should set a positive example for the rest of the world. We can’t expect India or China to stop the industrialization of their countries simply because we want them to. We have to show them a better way (and a more profitable way, as he shows us in the book) to live and do business.

We have to be a beacon, as opposed to whatever it is we are now (because whatever it is, it isn’t good for us or anyone else in the long term).

Friedman is optimistic, though. He sees the emergence of the green trend and it gives him hope, but ultimately we may be doing too little too slowly to stop the global strife that’s coming. In the book, Friedman puts out a challenge: We have to change the way we do things, because if we don’t, the outlook is beyond bleak.

– Julian

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    antranpsu said,

    That was interesting. I know you’re a third of the way through the book, but i was wondering did he give the world a amount of time before we all go into chaos? There a so many people nowadays writing books on chaos and destruction around the world. Just scaring us, and it seems to work.


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