He came, he saw, he said a lot of no-shit stuff.
Thomas Friedman, three-time Pulitzer Prize winning author and caustic foreign affairs mouthpiece for the New York Times, dropped by the Republic of Boulder last night to pimp for his latest and greatest, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America. The book outlines Friedman's vision for how and why this country should get back to the business of kicking global ass and taking no end of names -- only this time around, he argues, we should do it by going green, way green. As in that Prius you drive and those Fat Tire bottles you're recycling ain't gonna do the trick, buster.
Talk about preaching to the choir. The capacity crowd was made up of left-leaning, idealistic, wing-nut professors from the University of Colorado and their well-intentioned, trust-funded students, who, predictably, ate the lecture up. You've never seen so much intellectualized Kumbaya. Or perhaps you have, which is likely why Friedman's tour passed over the Mile High city in favor of Boulder's friendlier confines. His patois of slashing carbon emissions and adopting the use of cheap, clean, renewable electrons was spot on for the hippies on the hill that sold out CU's Macky auditorium. It's no stretch to think he went to Boulder because, you know, pushing green on Mr. Highlands Ranch with his Cadillac Escalate isn't exactly an easy sell.
Of course, there's no word yet on when or how we'll actually find those cheap, clean, renewable electrons. That's for scientists to figure out, and Friedman is just a clever commentator. Still, heads were nodding. The eco-minded, earth-friendly Boulderites responded with enthusiasm, with agreement, and with the occasional about-damn-time hoot.
Not that there's anything wrong with hugging trees. In fact, if current climate doomsayers are correct, we're right now boarding the runaway fail-train to Planet Hell. And that's likely to put a damper on powder days at Vail. Still, warned Friedman, some well intentioned, red-blooded, manly men types might hold off on becoming green warriors, if for no other reason than to avoid the stigma of wussitude. Not to worry, said this proud East Coast liberal: Going green "is the new red, white, and blue." That rousing, evangelical declaration was the only comment of the night to win spontaneous applause. Not even the occasional poke at the previous president scored more than a good chuckle.
Which makes you wonder: Are we interested in saving the planet because it's the right thing to do, or because we want to play hooray for our side? You don't have to read between Friedman's lines to know that his call for a green revolution simultaneously means to keep America on top. And that's fine. Good marketing and the waving of flags might be the only way to sell green-think on the same country that brought us plastic flamingos and strip mining.
Still, there wasn't much of anything new brought to the table. Between dropping doomsday bombs about global warming and reminding folks that compact florescent lamps alone aren't going to cut it, the night was a big no-duh session. Friedman did drive home the point that unless we put a hefty tax on fossil-fuel use, we're only saying we want a revolution. It remains to be seen whether putting on price signals, which drew polite applause, sticks. The notion that we voluntarily make expensive what today remains wonderfully cheap didn't seem to win over everybody last night, even in Boulder. (Because, you know, you would never, ever see those bourgeois bohemians cruise around in a gas-sucking Hummer.)
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SHOW ME HOW
Good Point: Friedman's most insightful remark came when he quipped that the current global warming nay-sayers are likely to live long enough to see how idiot
wrong their "science" has been.
Say what?: In response to a how-can-we question, Friedman suggested that the best way to go green was to "pay attention." This was probably lost on the many in attendance who kept their heads buried in their smart phones, texting the world about the lecture they weren't listening to.
Bad science: In addition to producing cheap, clean, renewable electrons, Friedman calls for finding the technology to create cheap, clean, renewable "molecules," too. Except that there's this law-of-conservation-of-mass thingy, standing in the way. Obviously, he's not a physics buff.