The title refers to three impending crises: hot (global warming), flat (the burgeoning middle class around the world, leading to greater use of resources and energy), and crowded (the population explosion). Friedman, a New York Times columnist, argues that the dovetailing of these three trends is pushing us into a new age, the Energy Climate Era, in which the world as we know it must either change – or we will all perish.
Sounds dire, I know. And the first few chapters are a bit of a downer. The problems seem almost insurmountable. But what makes the book good is that here are not just problems, but also solutions. Friedman talks to experts all over the country, and the world, and shows us how we can change in time to evade disaster.
One part that particularly struck me was the chapter called “205 Easy Ways to Save the Earth.” Friedman points out that “green” is so hip now, that every magazine, every group, is coming up with lists of ways to make a difference. But they’re always presented as “simple” or “easy” – it’s painless being green.
Sure, all of those little things add up. Using CFLs instead of conventional light bulbs, recycling your aluminum cans, bringing cloth bags to the grocery store – that matters. But Friedman argues that this can hardly be seen as a revolution. It’s more like a fashion statement.
Revolutions are about turning the world upside down, shaking things up from top to bottom, radically reconfiguring the way we look at everything. We’re talking casualties, bloodshed. I don’t mean that literally, that people will have to die. But institutions and ideas should definitely be on the chopping block.
Friedman gives dozens of real-life examples of people and companies and even government agencies who are re-thinking every product made, every watt used, every structure built, and coming up with the innovation that is critical to save us from Mother Earth’s Judgment Day.
The good news is that he remains convinced that the most effective ways to change our world originate with grass-roots movements. Nations and politicians need to be on board; but each one of us has the power to steer those governments (and mega-corporations) in the right direction.
Keep bringing your own bag to the grocery store. Don’t stop composting. Maintain your vigilance when sorting garbage from recyclables. But don’t stop there. Take the next step. Think of it as an extension of the bodhisattva vow: “Beings are numberless. I vow to save them.”
Start a revolution.