Is it all a ‘green hallucination’?
July 5, 2007
ASPEN Respected New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman doesn’t buy the hype surrounding global warming.The three-time Pulitzer Prize winner doesn’t question that global warming is a critical issue and that humans are tipping the balance. He isn’t buying the hype that humans are doing anything meaningful to promote global cooling, he told a couple of hundred people attending the Aspen Ideas Festival on Thursday evening.There is a saying in the Pentagon that a vision without resources to act on it is a hallucination, Friedman said.”Right now I think we’re in the middle of a big green hallucination,” he said.And the stakes are high. The Americans who came of age during World War II are known as the “greatest generation” for the sacrifices they made for their country and humankind. Friedman said his generation will be judged by how it responds to the global warming threat.The journalist, whose forte is blunt and keen assessments of complex issues, said it is probably the biggest challenge ever facing humankind. “We’re talking about changing the weather.”Everybody knows about the problem but more people need to be convinced they can be part of the solution. Being “green” needs to be redefined, according to Friedman. The label cannot be associated any longer with environmental extremists or granola-eaters. Being “green” needs to become a way of life or, as Friedman put it, “Green is the new red, white and blue.” His next book will pursue that idea, he said.He made a case that adopting green lifestyles will address terrorism and improve the economy, as well as benefit the climate.Greater reliance on alternative, “clean” energy sources would end U.S. addiction to Mideast oil and cut off revenue sources terrorists and militants use, he argued. He made the case that the U.S. is funding both sides in the Iraq war: We fund our own military effort through taxes; we fund the insurgents through oil purchases. “How stupid is that?” he asked, to the amusement of the audience.In addition to addressing terrorism, going green would be an economic boon for the U.S., Friedman said, because making “green” products means making “smarter” products. And making smarter products is something the U.S. is still good at and hasn’t shipped overseas.His reasoning was much like the position Rocky Mountain Institute co-founder and chief scientist Amory Lovins has pitched for years: Going green in ways like improving energy conservation makes good business sense for corporate America because it improves efficiency and cuts long-term costs, Lovins has said on multiple occasions. Friedman sees that logic.”When I hear people say we can’t afford to be green, that’s utter lunacy,” Friedman said. “We can’t afford not to be green.”But taking enough action quickly enough to stem catastrophic consequences won’t be easy, Friedman said. He defined the problem like this: People are being asked to deal with an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas that will create the biggest problems for generations that aren’t even born yet.The U.S. is capable of making technological advances to address the problem, he said, and the capital exists to fuel the research and development. The missing link is policy changes by the government.He ridiculed Congress for passing an energy bill that requires new mileage standards for cars in 2020 that will match Europe’s standards of today. The policy-makers aren’t willing to take the drastic steps necessary to combat global warming because industry and professional lobbyists define policy.The common folk need to figure out a way to wrestle policy away – or be doomed to a legacy they don’t want, he concluded.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com