Hot, Flat, and Crowded…

One of the primary issues driving my interest in permaculture and urban farming is sustainable development. Professionally, academically, and personally I am involved, to some degree, in researching sustainable development mechanisms and finding new ways for growing populations to prosper without further degrading the natural environment. Unfortunately, the sustainability movement has been hamstrung by unnecessary politicization, causing rivalry between two sides that share a common interest. Sustainable development and the “green” revolution can, and should, bolster the natural environment and the economy and if we (Americans) fail to recognize this it will be to the detriment of the population at large. I am currently reading a book by Tom Friedman,  “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” , and I would like to share a few passages that I found particularly poignant…

If those of us who have become concerned about climate change turn out to be wrong– but we refocus America anyway on producing clean electrons and the most energy-efficient vehicles, appliance, and buildings in the world, and we make America the global leader in aiding the protection of tropical forests and natural habitat, what is the worst that will happen? Our country will have cleaner air and water, more efficient products, more workers educated in the next great global industry, higher energy prices but lower bills, greater productivity, healthier people, and an export industry in clean power products that people across the world will want to buy– not to mention the respect and gratitude of more people around the world than ever. And we’ll have to fight fewer wars over natural resources– because if the human race cannot create greater abundance, we will fight over everything that is in shortage, which is going to be a lot of things in a world that is hot, flat, and crowded.

And what if the climate skeptics and deniers who say climate change is a hoax turn out to be wrong– but we listen to them and do nothing? What will happen? We will have a future full of droughts, floods, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, resource conflicts, massive disruptions along coastal areas all over the world, and, as Rob Watson put it, ” the human race as a bad biological experiment on the planet”…

And the world is waiting for America to lead this energy-climate issue… I am convinced that if America becomes the example of a country that takes the lead in developing clean power, energy efficiency, and conservation systems, and grows more productive, healthy, respected, prosperous, competitive, innovative, and secure as a result, many more countries and many more people around the world will emulate us voluntarily than will ever go green through the compulsion of some global treaty. A truly green America would be more valuable than fifty Kyoto Protocols. Emulation is always more effective than compulsion.”

That last line, I believe, is why Americans must take the initiative in sustainable development and “green” technology. We have become a nation of slackers, propped up by the energy systems and massive technological innovations of our fore fathers. We are complacent because we are comfortable, and it is difficult to motivate a comfortable nation. Perhaps as countries like China, India, and Russia surge in the global economy our comfort levels will dwindle and we will begin to see the reality of our situation. These developing nations are striving to become more “American” in many ways, and unfortunately this means taking on many of our most unsustainable national traits. This means significantly increased pressure on natural resources, and subsequent environmental, economic, and political problems to follow. Or maybe these developing nations will have greater foresight, and leapfrog America in sustainable development and green technology. Either scenario is to our detriment as Americans. Sustainable development and green technology is our generation’s space race, and so far all we’ve done is the equivalent of the guy from Jackass firing a bottle rocket out of his ass. 

About Denton Homescale Permaculture

Environmental Scientist, Graduate Student, Musician, Husband, Father, amateur gardener, and permaculture enthusiast.
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1 Response to Hot, Flat, and Crowded…

  1. Enjoying your blog so far. I am looking forward to more of your pictures and thoughts.

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