Feeds

The US and the impossible green revolution

A dream beached by the economy

The essential guide to IT transformation

Book Review Feel a little pity for Thomas L Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded, his new book on what must be done to deliver a green revolution in America. With the economy collapsed, political will in the United States is now decisively hostile to almost everything in it.

Nevertheless, Friedman's premise is easy to absorb and reasonable. The world's growing middle class (and the desire of those not yet in it to join ASAP) is bringing environmental and energy catastrophe. And if the rest of the world follows the same pattern of consumption as practiced by the US, it will only end badly. The real limits to growth have arrived, Friedman says, taking the place occupied by the Club of Rome over thirty years ago.

He even deploys the lily-pads-in-your-pond analogy. Go on vacation thinking you have time to trim the vegetation. When you get back, the overgrowth has exploded exponentially. The pond is choked. Your fish are all dead.

Friedman tells us a "Code Green" must be established, not as an advertisement for business as usual - which is what it is now - but as a systemic and global way of moving the world's energy economy to one of distributed super-efficiency. In this, he wrote before the chances of it happening evaporated, the US must take the lead.

For the book, Friedman goes to China, relating a lecture he gives to the locals on how America is going to innovate, innovate, and out innovate the Asians in smart green energy technology. And then we'll sell this innovation to them, helping China to achieve even more prosperity for its middle class as the environment is rescued from ruin.

And there must have been at least a few in the group thinking, "Listen to that Yankee brag."

The cognitive dissonance occurs in Friedman's view of the US, taken from a man who calls his job the best in the world, hop-scotching the globe and country to sample from the wisdom of a small number of the scientific and political elite. You get Edward O Wilson and his ant collection. "Destroying a tropical rain forest and other species rich ecosystems is like burning all the paintings in the Louvre to cook dinner," reveals the Harvard scientist. No kidding. And there's Friedman's ever-present friend, Nate Lewis of Caltech in Pasadena, drinking strawberry lemonade at the faculty club with the author, telling readers, "[The US] has energy politics, not policy." And when did that first occur to anyone with common sense and the power of observation? Quite a while ago.

The view from the faculty club

Being around such people, along with a seemingly abundant supply of sunny optimism, Friedman's world view doesn't quite align with this reviewer's. Over a decade of living a few blocks from the Caltech faculty club, in the heartland of energy super-consumption, I've cobbled together the opinion that this country is no longer capable of the efforts required to get those things done which Friedman deems critical.

Briefly, the author describes it as the installation of a systems approach to everything involved in energy generation. It's a massive national upgrade in which billions of smart energy transfer nodes, from household appliances to the national network, constantly analyze the energy cloud for the greenest electrons at the best operating hours. A few pages, printed in italics so one knows they're special, are devoted to describing this future. "Your car, by the way, is no longer called a 'car,'" it reads. "It is now called a RESU, or rolling energy storage unit..." A little bit of this goes a long away as techno-virtuous pap for boys who enjoy watching TV shows about what the marvelous future has in store. (Which it turns out, Friedman has been involved in briefly for a US cable network.)

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?
Do Brits risk arrest for watching beheading video nasty? We asked the fuzz
EU justice chief blasts Google on 'right to be forgotten'
Don't pretend it's a freedom of speech issue – interim commish
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.