So Thomas Friedman’s long New York Times Magazine essay today hits on his newest metaphor for changing the world: “Green is the new red, white and blue.” After spending the last week or so helping my most excellent wife Wendy write an Earth Day “sermon” she’s delivering to our eclectic little UU fellowship today, I hope he’s right. By the way, stay tuned in the next couple of days for a Fisch-esque video on the environment that she created. YouTube, here we come. But I digress…
No doubt, Friedman uses the environmental angle to hammer home the idea that the world is still flat and getting flatter…and warmer. And he frames the three major issues facing us today as “jobs, temperature and terrorism,” all of which he says can be dealt with in the context of green geopolitics:
How do our kids compete in a flatter world? How do they thrive in a warmer world? How do they survive in a more dangerous world? Those are, in a nutshell, the big questions facing America at the dawn of the 21st century. But these problems are so large in scale that they can only be effectively addressed by an America with 50 green states â€” not an America divided between red and blue states.
Friedman’s self-important tone does get a bit tiresome, but there is still a lot to take away from the piece. It’s a pretty compelling reminder of just how much of all of this, the environment, education…all of it is driven by money and greed. And, this is a moment of serious challenge to our traditional ways of thinking about consumption and our use of the planet’s natural resources, just like it’s a moment of serious challenge to our traditional ways of education.
Technorati Tags: environment, education, change
Janice Friesen says
Wow! That was fast. It is Sunday morning and I am just getting up from reading the beginning of that article! I think it is REALLY important because it is a POSITIVE look at the future. There are so few ways to look postively at the future right now. I hope he is right too.
Joe Luft says
For a slightly different angle on Friedman’s article you might want to take a look at this –
Stephen Downes says
One wonders what Friedman was thinking when he writes this:
“We will need to find a way to reknit America at home, reconnect America abroad and restore America to its natural place in the global order â€” as the beacon of progress, hope and inspiration.”
This is a nice story, but it is believed by Americans only. People living in the rest of the world are well aware that to be first in America is not to be first in the world. Progress, hope and inspiration have no natural home.
What do people see instead? “Itâ€™s a pretty compelling reminder of just how much of all of this, the environment, education… all of it is driven by money and greed.”
This is the real crisis we must face.
The sorts of world conflicts prompted by the appetite for oil are not restricted to petrochemicals. The wars to supply American consumers with diamonds, or coffee, or cocaine, all result in the same consequence.
What we are seeing is not the greening of geopolitics. This was already well in progress – only the Americans have been lagging.
No, what we are seeing is the creation of a new kind of political view, one that brackets energy as an issue unrelated to the rest of socio-economics and allows people to be, at the same time, politically and philosophically conservative, and yet, to still call themselves ‘green’.
To rephrase (and repurpose) the Gawker article: it would be plainly ridiculous for any individual in our traditional culture to claim, on April 15, 2007 that environmentalism is a non-partisan issue that everyone rallies around.
The ‘new green’ is, in a nutshell, the study of how to make money from global warming. “How do our kids compete in a flatter world? How do they thrive in a warmer world? How do they survive in a more dangerous world?”
I saw the same message displayed on the big screen at the closing keynote at the eLearning Guild conference. The shrinking Arctic icecap means that northern waters will be open, Cecily Sommers said, suggesting (incorrectly) that none of the nations bordering the ocean has laid any claim on the resources underneath.
For people like that, events such as the flooding of New Orleans represent, not disasters, but opportunities.
Friedman does describe, quite well, I think, the ‘new green’: “I want to rename it geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic and patriotic.”
All the things that caused the last series of problems, and which – if adopted as a unifying theme in the United States – will both fail to solve those problems and will additionally propel the entire world toward the next series of problems.
So long as we retain the rhetoric of ‘competition’, so long as we think of our own country first, so long as we try opportunistically to benefit from crises rather than to prevent them, we will be best by one crisis after the next – Rwanda, the World Trade Center, Iraq, Darfour, New Orleans…
Preserving the environment is not about putting America on top again or helping its children to compete in a hostile world, and people who say it is are leading you down a dangerous and desperate road.
Robin Long says
Thomas Friedman after supporting the war in Iraq for a long time, eventually turned the cornerâ€¦so, now he appears to jump on the Green Wagon. I can not see real greening taking place in the US as long as the corporate need to be ever expanding, ever growing is the thrust of our society. There is just too much green to be made encouraging and cultivating a consumer society. Consider, for example, that Recycle, Recycle is the push as opposed to Reduce, Reduce.
A teacher of affluent middle school children who by birth happenstance will easily move into the power structure of the future, I see only too clearly how connected they are to consumerism. Despite their heartfelt expressions of love of the planet, when asked to describe their ideal free time afternoon (could they do anything they wished) â€“ to a person all reported: Go to the Mall. One child did first say that she would go to Hawaii, but upon further questioning reported that her first activity there would be to head to the Mall. On my end, I expose students to what I can of the larger picture, but it is an uphill fight. Friedmanâ€™s article will no doubt generate a bit of talk in the hallways at least among faculty which I suppose is something. In the end I turn to Pete Seeger for inspirationâ€¦an old, old advocate for the environment, I heard him recently describe his favorite bumper sticker (that he hands out freely to discouraged activists): There is No Hopeâ€¦but I could be wrong.
Chris Champion says
A note too: this Saturday Discovery Channel presents Friedman’s “Green: The New Red, White, and Blue” on Saturday at 9pm EDT (PDT?). I know some people don’t have access to DC, but if you do….
And don’t forget Earth Day on Sunday.
Jim Gates says
Watch him talk about this topic here: http://poptech.org/popcasts/
Gary Stager says
Tom Friedman, this generation’s Nipsey Russell (“when the Berlin Wall becomes the Berlin Mall”), uses his time not spent creating witty puns for the NY Times to promote the Iraq War. Now we should take his advice on the environment, education, technology and most absurdly, peace?
The great promise of the World Wide Web and its spinoffs, such as Web 2.0, was access to expertise and unfiltered propaganda.
However, when our anti-intellectualism is combined with the viral nature of Web 2.0, dimestore populists like Tom Friedman do the thinking for us.
We should hear from more voices, not fewer AND we should the words of actual experts and primary sources.
Regrettably, Tom Friedman, a journalist (not scholar) I once respected, has become the Mary Hart of geopolitics. We should do our part by being a bit less reverential about his work and place it in the showbiz context it deserves.
Michele Bernhard says
I’ve just read this blog after finishing the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. It is a great book to read if you are concerned about both the environment and the education of our children. As one person posted above, many children feel that having fun means going to the mall, or plugging into a video game, computer, or TV. As Richard Louv points out in his book, our children will not truly care about the environment if they have not been exposed to nature, and have not had the chance to simply go and explore, and play, in natural environments, as most adults over the age of 35 did when we were children. Many parents today are not letting their children go out into the woods, or going camping or hiking with them, or fishing. Instead, fearing the “dangers” of the wilds, they encourage their children to “plug in”. We can teach environmentalism all we want in schools, but it is not going to mean much to children if they haven’t had the chance to really experience nature, and see the true value of the natural world, especially the natural world around where they live. In addition, schools tend to teach about what is wrong with the environment, and what we need to do to save it, rather than focusing on the wonders of the environment. I agree that we do need to change many aspects of our lives in order to help save our world from global warming and other environmental threats, but it is going to be harder and harder to do so when faced with generations of children who have grown up “plugged in”, and kept out of the natural world.
Gary Stager says
I completely agree with you and the author.
However, being plugged-in isn’t the fault of children. It’s the fault of adults. It’s also not the major cause of the conditions you describe.
Suburbs were built without parks. The only place to play was on school yards. Today, school districts lock kids off the grounds. PE is disappearing. Recess is being canceled by test score junkies.
Parents overcompensate for their work schedule by theiroverscheduling kids and by whipping up hysterical rationales for not allowing children to just play outside.
I recently heard Dave Winfield talking about how baseball is at risk because kids don’t play outside until dark any more.
Oh yeah, did I mention homework?
PS: My wife bursts into hysterical laughter everytime I mention that I used to camp a few dozen nights per year snd even taught wilderness survival as a boy scout.
Kids today are different and whether you like it or not, technology is very much a part of their world. It doesn’t matter who sends you the message that finally gets through to you. What is important is that their life involves technology.
I believe the “Green Revolution” is going to be akin to the Industrial Revolution in terms of global and national impact.
If the US embraces it, the Green Revolution could have the effect of reviving a moribund US manufacturing economy. Think of everything that will go into to retro-fitting the entire world economy from a fossil-fuel based energy economy to one based on zero-emission and remediation.
This is going to be a technological revolution and the idea of taking profit out of innovation is a recipe for disaster. Make profit available and positively good it’ll take off beyond our wildest dreams.
One positive effect of the Green Revolution as laid out in Green: The New Red White & Blue was the piece on Texas Instruments. Notice they built an engineering school. Link the sciences to the possibility of really contributing to the cleaning up of the environment and you’ll make engineering “hip”.
I’m actually excited for the future and the generations coming.
Friedman’s work is shameful in how he is using global warming to push his agenda. This was more clear in his Discovery program. On the segment on the coal mine, he nodded when his interview said something along: once we lower our green house gases, if some rouge nation does not we need to go after them as they effect our way of life. COME ON Tom! There was no need to put that in your show. We are the largest contributor of the global warming gases and are you suggesting to after other countries if they don’t become green.
In another interview one of his guests mentioned we are indirectly financing terrorism through buying oil, and how Pakistan would not be able to buy nuclear technology. The fact (CIA report) Pakistan produces 63,000 b/day but consumes 324,000 b/day. Helloooo….How about some fact checking before airing something on Discovery channel. Perhaps he should call it Discovery is the new Fox!