Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tom Friedman Interview

Great podcast from Scientific American. You can download the interview with Tom Friedman or read the transcript at Tom Friedman's New Book--Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Scientific American Podcast. I've included the first question and answer below.
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Tom Friedman discusses his new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America. Plus, we'll test your knowledge about some recent science in the news. Web sites mentioned in this episode include

Steve: Tom Friedman: "Hot, flat and crowded"; tell us what that means.

Friedman: Well, you know, basically what it means is that what we're seeing out in the world today, it seems to me, is that the convergence of three, you know, big, big seismic events. The first is obviously global warming. Second is what I call global flattening, which is really just my shorthand for the rise of middle classes all across the world in bigger numbers than ever before from China to Brazil to India to Russia; middle classes that increasingly have the kind of energy and consumption patterns, demands, and aspirations of Americans; and at the same time, global crowding—global population growth. The fact that when I was born in 1953, there were about 2.68 billion people on the planet, and if I lived to be a hundred—God willing and keep eating yogurt—then according to [the] U.N., there will be over nine billion people on the planet. Hence that means the planet's population will more than triple in my own lifetime, which also has its own energy resource implications. And so what the basic argument in the book is, [is] that these three, you know, huge seismic events—global warming, global flattening and global crowding—are like three flames that have converged to create a really big fire, and this fire is boiling a whole set of problems, five in particular, that I think are really going to shape the 21st century and a new era of history that we're going into which I call the energy–climate era. And those five problems are climate change, petro-dictatorship—the rise of Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela—energy and natural resource supply, and demand constraints, and we see that from food to fuel today, biodiversity loss, the fact that we are right now in the middle of the sixth great extinction phase in the Earth's history that we know of; and finally something I call energy poverty, the 1.6 billion people on the planet we [who] still have no on-off switch in their life because they've no direct grid electricity. And the basic argument in the book is, you know, hot, flat and crowded are driving these five trends into wholly new rounds and how we manage these five problems is what is really going to determine the stability and instability of the 21st century.

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