Nordic Track Book Club Review: Hot, Flat, and Crowded

If you know me at all through my blog you’ll already know that I think Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America is a very important work that every American and freedom-loving Capitalist should read.  The main reason I think the book is so important can be summed up in this one point, the Green Revolution Friedman advocates is as much about economic growth as it is about Global Warming.

As for my take on my [NordicTrack] experience with Hot, Flat, and Crowded, the book was more detail-heavy with facts and statistics than Friedman’s The World Is Flat and as a result felt a bit tedious in spots. Still 5-out-of-5 [NordicTrack] stars and a must-read.

I’m sharing excerpts for the first half of the book only.  Tons more where these came from.

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p.5 I am convinced that the best way for America to solve its big problem–the best way for America to get its “groove” back–is for us to take the lead in solving the world’s big problem.  In a world that is getting hot, flat, and crowded, the task of creating the tools, systems, energy sources, and ethics that will allow the planet to grow in cleaner, more sustainable ways is going to be the biggest challenge of our lifetime.

But this challenge is actually an opportunity for America.  If we take it on, it will revive America at home, reconnect America abroad, and retool America for tomorrow.

p.7 “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”

We have been mortgaging our future rather than investing in it.

p.20 If all Americans could compare Berlin’s luxurious central train station today with the grimy, overcrowded Penn Station in New York City, they would swear we were the ones who lost World War II.

p.23 What kind of America would you like to see–an America that is addicted to oil and thereby fueling the worst autocracies in the world, or a green America that is building scalable alternatives to crude oil and thereby freeing ourselves from the grip of countries who have drawn a bull’s-eye on our back and whose values we oppose?

p.27 “I don’t think we’re post-anything anymore–I think we’re pre-something totally new.” And the thing we are entering is the Energy-Climate Era.

p.32 The Industrial Revolution gave a whole new prominence to “fuels from hell”–coal, oil, and natural gas. All these fuels from hell come from underground, are exhaustible, and emit CO2 and other pollutants when they are burned for transportation, heating, and industrial use. These fuels are in contrast to “fuels from heaven”–wind, hydroelectric, tidal, biomass, and solar power. These all come from above ground, are endlessly renewable, and produce no harmful emissions.

p.35 The striking thing about greenhouse gases is the diversity of sources that emit them.  A herd of cattle belching can be worse than a highway full of Hummers.  Livestock gas is very high in methane, which, like CO2, is colorless and odorless.

p.37 A one-degree change in the global average temperature may not sound like much, but it is telling you something is amiss with the state of the climate–just as small changes in your body temperature tell you that something is amiss with your body.

p.79 Through our energy purchases we are helping to strengthen the most intolerant, anti-modern, anti-Western, anti-women’s rights, and anti-pluralistic strain of Islam–the strain propagated by Saudi Arabia. Second, our oil addiction is helping to finance a reversal of the democratic trends in Russia, Latin America, and elsewhere that were set in motion by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Communism.

As the price of oil goes up, the pace of freedom goes down; and as the price of oil goes down, the pace of freedom goes up.

American energy policy today can be summed up as “Maximize demand, minimize supply, and make up the difference by buying as much as we can from the people who hate us the most.”

p.142 “Destroying a tropical rain forest and other species-rich ecosystems for profit is like burning all the paintings of the Louvre to cook dinner.”

p.157 Every problem of the developing world is also an energy problem.

p.174 Mounting a real revolution–going Code Green–is a “quintessential American opportunity.” It plays to all our strengths. It requires enormous amounts of experimentation–the kind you find in our great research universities and national laboratories; it requires lots of start-up companies that are not afraid to try, risk, fail, and try again, and plenty of venture capitalists ready to make big bets for big returns.

p.186 If you don’t have a system, you don’t have a solution.  If you hear a politician calling for “renewable energy,” walk away. If you hear a politician calling for a “renewable energy system,” listen up.

p.240 I cannot stress this point enough. If you take only one thing away from this book, please take this: We are not going to regulate our way out of the problems of the Energy-Climate Era. We can only innovate our way out, and the only way to do that is to mobilize the most effective and prolific system for transformational innovation and commercialization of new products ever created on the face of the earth–the U.S. marketplace. There is only one thing bigger than Mother Nature and that is Father Profit, and we have not even begun to enlist him in this struggle.  We don’t need a Manhattan Project for clean energy; we need a market for clean energy.

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A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.