“We’re not having a green revolution, we’re having a green party,” says world-renowned “efficiency guru” Thomas L. Friedman. The celebrated New York Times columnist who has won the Pulitzer Prize thrice, was speaking about climate change and the urgent need for breakthroughs in clean energy research at an ‘invitation-only’ lecture organised by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP).
The green revolution will have arrived only when it is imperative for all involved to “change or die”, said Mr Friedman. “You know it’s a real revolution when the word ‘green’ disappears. There will be no ‘green’ buildings; just buildings that you can’t build unless you use the highest levels of energy efficiency and sustainability. Till then it’s just a party.”
Speaking to an audience of more than a thousand people, which included diplomats, business leaders, academics and students, Mr Friedman rued the fact that his country had fallen behind in the clean energy race with China taking over the baton. He shared that he was motivated to write his bestselling book, Hot, Flat and Crowded – Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How It Can Renew America, which was the basis of this speech, because he felt that his country was “losing its groove” and the most effective way for the US to re-establish its leadership role in the world was by tackling the “world’s biggest problem” and pioneer change. But that is still very much a work in progress.
In explaining the US’ attitude towards the environmental and financial crises, Mr Friedman spoke about the “values vacuum” that has overtaken the country for the last decade, saying that both crises are flip sides of the same coin. He elaborated on the mechanics of climate change, the need for “green” technology to be economically viable and the importance of motivated leadership, saying that in some situations, the message is “Change your leaders, not your light bulbs”.
With Earth’s population set to increase by 2.5 billion by 2050, the planet is under unprecedented stress. The word “later” has no place in our lexicon, said Mr Friedman, as biodiversity loss speeds up and future generations face the prospect of having to save the last two of every species like the Biblical Noah. The world’s hope lies in the creation of an abundant, reliable and cheap clean energy source. The country that achieves this historical breakthrough first will not only gain economic and military security but win global respect. As Mr Friedman said, “There is no Planet B, so Plan A better work.”
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