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Hot Flat and Crowded by Thomas L Friedman

Hot Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman - November 2009 - paperback - 528 pages - $20.99 from

Hot Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman - November 2009 - paperback - 528 pages - $20.99 from

The environment is a hot topic right now in more ways than one. As this post goes to air the world is trying to hammer out some sort of deal at 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and the media is full of claims and counter claims about what is going on, who is to blame and what can be done about it.

Tripple Pulitzer winning NY Times journalist Thomas Friedman’s excellent and passionate “Hot Flat and Crowded” was a timely book back in the middle of 2008 when it was originally published, but has just been republished as version 2.0 – updated to take into account the efects the Global Financial Crisis has had on the recommendations he proposed in the first edition of the book.

The central theme of both editions is essentially that the way that the western capitalist society has evolved in such a way that it fails to properly account for it’s own costs – both in terms of the environment and in terms of the risks of  “innovative” financial instruments such as Credit Default Swaps and derivatives contracts.

Friedman’s book is incredibly well researched – the man must have racked up a phenominal carbon footprint flying round the world interviewing farmers, villagers, tycoons and politicians – but I think what sets it apart from much of the Doom and Gloom literature around at the moment is both the wealth of suggested alternative ways forward and in the detail with which he lays them out.

There is, he argues, no point ditching capitalism as any kind of “failed concept” because there is much in it that taps into strong motivational forces in society. But there are better ways in which those forces might be harnessed; better incentives by which true energy innovation can be encouraged.

Friedman’s solutions offer ways of working with what is best and good within the systems we have, capitalising on our strengths in such a way as to retain a competitive edge without costing the earth.

Here is the author Thomas Friedman talking to Philip Adams on ABC Radio National’s Late Night Live from October 2008:

Thomas Friedman on Late Night Live - 27 mins 40 secs - 12.6mb

In the interview the author defends the postulation that no two nations who have McDonald’s franchises have ever been to war with each other, the hope offered by dawning Energy Technology revolution, on why “drill baby drill” should be “invent baby invent”, on how the US military may be leading green innovation, the inverse correlation between the price of oil and the pace of freedom and many other fascinating topics.

Also he looks like Cliff Clavin from Cheers – what’s not to like?

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