If one learns nothing else from Pulitzer-Prize winning author Tom Friedman's new book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, it's that our energy and climate crises are interconnected. We cannot solve one without addressing the other.
"Code Green" is Friedman's clarion call for the United States to marshal its combined talents and resources to attack climate change head on and reposition the American economy in the process. This is our new space race, and this is his call to arms:
|"The era we are entering will be one of enormous social, economic and political change – driven in large part from above, from the sky, from Mother Nature. If we want things to stay as they are – that is, if we want to maintain our technological, economic, and moral leadership and a habitable planet, rich with flora and fauna, leopards and lions, and human communities that can grow in a sustainable way – things have to change around here, and fast."|
"Hot," "flat" and "crowded" are references to three global trends that are converging: climate change, the growth of new middle classes around the world, and a world population speeding past six billion people. How we as a nation deal with these issues will send the world down two very different paths.
Friedman points out that 20 to 25 percent* of the total carbon emissions driving climate change come from the burning and clearing of tropical forests. This is more than the combined emissions of all the world's cars, trucks, trains and planes.
The book touts energy technology (ET) as the successor to information technology (IT), sparking a similar economic and inventive call to arms. But Friedman rightly includes the forest solution to climate change as an action we can take right now while the new environmental technologies come online.
Friedman clearly links the issues of innovation, energy efficiency and conservation of natural resources. Each requires the other if we are to succeed. What good is a new green innovation in 10 years if nothing has been done to stop the emissions from deforestation that are occurring right now? Innovation in technology is just as important as innovation in conservation.
Among other leaders in their field, Hot, Flat, and Crowded shines a light on the compelling work of CI's Indonesia country director Dr. Jatna Supriatna. A renowned primatologist, Supriatna's work to protect the forest ecosystems of Batang Toru and Batang Gadis in Sumatra has garnered him international attention. Indonesia is the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with most coming from the rampant burning and cutting down of its forests. A byproduct of this destruction is the loss of habitat for both animals and people.
LEARN MORE: Read about Dr. Jatna Supriatna's work protecting Javan gibbons.
Everyone suffers when that rate of deforestation exists anywhere in the world. The famed Sumatran orang-utans, the “forest people,” are down to a mere 4,000 to 5,000 in number. The local communities that depend on those forests for freshwater, shelter and protection from natural disasters see their quality of life decline and their futures diminished. The planet suffers as massive amounts of CO2 are emitted into our atmosphere fueling climate change. It may be lost there, but it's felt here.
Supriatna engaged communities, religious leaders, corporations and the government to help them realize their shared stake in protecting forests. This bottom-up approach focusing on the health of the communities has helped CI and its local partners make great strides in Indonesia.
As Supriatna says in Hot, Flat, and Crowded, "If the orangutan benefits and the community doesn't, 'we lose the foundation for protecting the whole.'"
Indonesia is not alone. All countries face environmental challenges as they try to expand their economies and create prosperity for their people. In order to be successful, corporations and markets need to take a leadership role.
Hot, Flat, and Crowded also notes Friedman's friendship with Glenn Prickett, CI senior vice president and executive director of the Center for Leadership in Business (CELB). CELB's innovative work engaging corporations has led to major changes in how some do business – helping the planet while improving their bottom line. Friedman and Prickett have traveled from Brazil to Bali and seen first hand the vital role businesses and markets must play in a solution.
"No one else can take a complex subjects like climate change and biodiversity and not only make them understandable and compelling, but also connect them to the bigger picture of globalization and foreign policy,” says Prickett. “This is an incredibly important book at a very critical time."
READ MORE: Tom and his family are working hard to let us know what issues the planet is facing and what we can do about it. His wife Ann is on our Board of Directors. Learn more about her.
*CI regularly reassesses our assumptions and conclusions to ensure they are consistent with the most current and reliable data sources available so that we are delivering accurate and up-to-date information. Accordingly, in December 2009, we updated our estimates related to global greenhouse gas emissions to reflect the best and most current science. We now estimate that 16% of greenhouse gas emissions result from deforestation and logging.
See our deforestation, logging and GHG emissions factsheet (PDF - 2.7KB) for details and data sources.