Asiatic soft shell turtles are among extinct species representing unacceptable loss of biodiversity

Tom Friedman Warns About ‘Global Weirding’

There Is “exactly enough time, starting now” for American architects and engineers to marshal a new invention – abundant, clean, cheap electrons – that will return America to competitiveness and reverse the pernicious consumption trends we’ve practiced and spawned. So New York Times columnist and author Thomas L. Friedman told an audience of nearly 2000 American architects and engineers this morning as he delivered the keynote address at the 2011 AIA convention in New Orleans – Regional Design Revolution: Ecology Matters.

Observing that “incredible opportunities masquerade as insoluble problems” Friedman sounded a clarion call for American inventiveness to redress the high probability of worsening climate change, acknowledging humorously that he and former Vice President Dick Cheney share in common the belief that “uncertainty is the reason to act, not the reason not to act.”

Friedman began by nimbly summing up themes in his latest book, Hot, Flat and Crowded – specifically, what he calls a “values-decline” around sustainability, and his reading of the “sub-prime crisis” (i.e., the recession) as “our warning heart attack” about the inextricability of the market and Mother Nature.

“Green is just better,” said Friedman as he took the stage, sketching in 15 minutes the blown “loop” that saw American consumer habits fueling Chinese coal-fired production and thirst for U.S. T-bills, a cause-effect scenario that Friedman interprets as having exploded in some measure because of our institutionalized disregard for consequences.

He cited a favorite business-model bifurcation on Wall Street, IBG-YBG (“I’ll be gone (or) you’ll-be-gone”), as having demonstrated our made-in-America sense of being able to walk away from(somebody else’s) problems.

Simultaneously, the sprouting of so many (Friedman’s coinage) “Ameri-comes” has seen our global brand becoming  floodlit long-distance Manhattans running on 24/7 fossil-fuel grids. Language is powerful, and Friedman prefers the phrase, “global weirding” (a Rocky Mountain Institute phrase) to “global warming,” which he allows has many detractors.

“You don’t believe in hot? That’s between you and your beach house . . . (But) when ‘flat’ meets ‘crowded’ will be enough to put every architectural firm from Shanghai to London to Kansas City into the green building business.”

The facts in support of his thesis: 1.4 billion of earth’s inhabitants are “energy poor” with no connection to the electric grid. Among the things most impacted by climate change but receiving the least attention are those other species going extinct, leading to massive biodiversity loss – as measured by the loss of a species roughly every 20 seconds. “We are the asteroid,” Friedman said, comparing this mass species extinction today to the asteroid that took out the dinosaurs.

Where he wound up is where his talk began: with warnings that to be competitive is to be profoundly American – namely, inventive. Charging that “we are abdicating leadership of the next great global initiative” as Americans, Friedman rhetorically asked the roomful of architects, “have you even been to a (green) revolution where no one got hurt?”

“We’re not having a revolution, we’re having a party,” he said.



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