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Late to the Party

Tom Friedman just left the stage at PopTech, having talked a bit about about his GeoGreens notion. Friedman frustrates me; his work in the 1980s and early 1990s on the Middle East was remarkable and insightful, but he's lost me with his recent work. His analysis of globalization feels mired in the 20th century -- an amazement about technology coupled with a fixation on top-down authority and very traditional social structures. With his observations and declarations about Iraq turning out to be fatally in error, he's turned to the need for greater sustainability and more renewable energy. And here's where the frustration really hits -- as much as I agree with most of his proposals, his ideas are hardly new (even if he acts like these are novel discoveries and insights), and they're far too timid.

The key problem with his approach is that Friedman's observations about the environment get swallowed up by the quite traditional, limited language of international politics. I'm completely convinced that global warming is already having serious political impacts, but Friedman doesn't tell us anything that anyone with open eyes couldn't have seen five years ago -- and he tells us in a way that (as much as he wants to say that he's trying to butch up the terminology) diminishes the importance of the environment. With an emphasis on the geo-strategic aspect of energy, he opens us up to scenarios in which the political problems are solved without much impact on the environmental problems -- and the potential for "solutions" that could even make environmental (and other) problems worse.

I understand the use of people like Friedman; when he raises topics, he makes them acceptable for the chattering classes and inside-the-beltway bureaucrats to discuss. That's good, I suppose, but if the allowable discourse on the environment is only about "support for freedom" vs. "support for terrorism," we miss out on opportunities for innovation and solutions that cut across multiple problem categories. We need to think bigger, broader and faster. Fortunately, we can, we will, and more and more of us already do.


I pretty much agree with that. What I hope is that Friedman is the "gateway drug" for many people, and that once they start doing a bit more research (books, internet) they'll see pass the political facet.

Friedman is a poseur. He doesn't have the grace to acknowledge that everything he's saying now Bruce Sterling said eight if not twenty years ago. I advised Bruce to get a hard copy of the eight years of Viridian Notes and smack Friedman upside the head. It would do Friedman good.

Bruce did get a jab in with his comment on "name it to claim it' versus "make it not fake it" at the beginning of his talk but I hope he got a chance to blow that Johnny-Come-Lately out of the water.

I've been saying Solar Is Civil Defense for a couple of years now and fully expect that Friedman will claim the phrase for his own if he ever sees it.

At one time, I was interested in reading _The Lexus and the Olive Tree_. Then I saw Friedman on Charlie Rose and realized that old Tom hadn't a clue as to the difference between a dead metal car and a living food-producing organism. I would suspect that Friedman has never planted a seed or kept a garden. Ecology for him is only another buzzword, and an effeminate, weak one at that. He wouldn't understand an ecological system even after it's bitten him in the ass. He's a billionaire man of the people who's always right, especially when he isn't.

You should ask Bruce about Tom sometime. I'd like to hear what he has to say about Mr NYTimes OpEd Flat Earth GeoGreen Iraq War Globalizer.

Friedman fries up too many neologisms.

How can one argue with someone who coins a mot -- they'll just tell you your understanding of their word is vastly incorrect.

Reading a Friedman column, composed of an assortment of his words, is a trip to flatland. Godel would puncture his self-squaring models of the universe with a raised eyebrow.


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