Tom Friedman at the David Suzuki Foundation
We need to get our groove back: writer
Pulitzer winner; We’ve lost our edge, columnist says
(Gazette) Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times columnist and author Thomas L. Friedman was in town yesterday to help David Suzuki celebrate his 74th birthday and raise money for the Montreal chapter of the David Suzuki Foundation.
Friedman’s latest book, Hot, Flat and Crowded; Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How it Can Renew America, came out in paperback this fall. Before his $300-a-ticket lecture, Friedman agreed to share some of his thoughts on climate change, his country’s future and other topics in the book.
On why he wrote a book about the environment.
It’s not really a green book. This is really a book about America. It’s a book by someone who really feels his country has lost its groove, lost its edge … and how we get our groove back as a country, and I think this applies to Canada just as much, by taking on the world’s biggest problems. The world’s biggest problems all flow from a planet getting hot, flat and crowded.
On why he writes:
I’m a big believer that to name something is to own it. If you can get people to see the world the way you think it should be seen … that’s the beginning of leverage. … Once you do that, you can really mobilize and direct and encourage and inspire and you can leverage them.
On the world’s twin crises:
The economic crisis and the environmental crisis are … rooted in the same faulty and dishonest accounting. … In the financial realm we allowed people to massively underprice the risk of sub-prime mortgages, we allowed them to privatize all the gains and then when they blew up we socialized all the losses on the back of every American taxpayer. We’ve been doing the exact same thing with Mother Nature. We’ve allowed people to massively underprice the risk of emitting carbon molecules, we allow them to privatize the gains – cheap coal-based electricity, cheap gasoline – and we are socializing all the losses in the form of future climate change which we are charging on our kids’ Visa cards, and they will pay for it down the road.
On President Barrack Obama’s performance on the environment so far:
I voted for President Obama – I guess I’m not supposed to say that but as if you didn’t know – and I certainly don’t want my money back … He’s done more by fiat, in terms of what he’s ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to do than any president in history. (For example) his EPA ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.
Now that health care is more or less behind us, everyone is waiting to see if he will take (climate change) up.
On whether the U.S. will wake up and do something on climate change any time soon:
A new consensus is aborning in America around (climate change). The chance of getting an economy-wide cap and trade system is impossible. You can forget about that. But in its place, what’s happened is that (Senators Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman and John Kerry) are proposing their own new bill (that will) … put a price on carbon at the utility level, not on transportation, to support offshore drilling, nuclear energy, and the other renewables. I can support this on one ground and one ground only, we have got to get started. … Give me a price on carbon and I will plug my nose on the rest.
On why it’s important to put a price on carbon:
Putting a price on carbon will be the equivalent of when the Surgeon General in America declared that smoking causes cancer. When the Surgeon General said that, my mother quit smoking. Millions of other people did too. They didn’t really know the science. I believe that if the president declares that carbon pollution (causes climate change) there will be a million CEOs in North America who are going to say the next morning, “All right, what’s our carbon policy? Somebody get me a sustainability officer. They don’t need to know the details. All they will know is something is coming down the road and they have got to deal with it. And then, magic happens.
Business Week – Enlisting Father Profit to Save Mother Nature
The Good: A call for green innovation to fix energy shortages, climate change, and the population explosion
The Bad: Long-winded, and parts will be familiar to readers of the author’s newspaper columns
The Bottom Line: Required reading, with valuable sections on China
Tom Friedman makes a gripping political, environmental, and economic case for green innovation
Sept. 13, 2008
“New York Times columnist and globalization exponent Thomas Friedman pleads for Americans to wake up to the perils and opportunities of an emerging resource-strapped world. The author comes across as a blend of Will Rogers, Jack Welch and Norman Vincent Peale—a plain-spoken citizen outraged at the bullheadedness of U.S. politicians, yet optimistic about the power of ingenuity and finely crafted policy to avert disaster.”