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Friedman calls for a ‘green revolution’

Published: October 17, 2008
Section: Front Page


Three time Pulitzer prize winning author Thomas Friedman ’75 told students to be activists in the “green revolution” and to use the government to make environmental technology widespread yesterday when he spoke at Spingold theatre in order to promote his new book, Hot, Flat and Crowded.

Friedman, who is a columnist for the New York Times, started his talk by explaining how the United States has “lost its groove as a country,” citing a billboard he saw in South Africa that advertised a car as having “nothing American” as evidence.

Friedman believes that the country lost its groove when, after Sept 11 it became obsessed with fighting terrorism.

“For me, 9/11 is just a day between 9/10 and 9/12,” he said. “Because if you concentrate on 9/11, it becomes about [the terrorists.] I concentrate on July 4, because then it’s about us.”

By concentrating on terrorism, Friedman said, Americans focused less on competing with other nations, saying that the United States needs to achieve a Cold War-like mindset about competition.

“We went from red to code red after 9/11,” he said, “We need to be in code green mode.”

In order to get into this mode, Friedman said that the country needs to “redefine green.” Instead of thinking of “green” as being European and elitist, he said that the country needs to see it as capitalistic and patriotic.

“Green needs to be the new red, white and blue,” he said.

To do that, Friedman said, as he wrote in his book, the government must create market signals in the form of gas and carbon taxes. Going green, he said, was too large of a project for people to practice as a hobby without the help of elected officials.

In addition, Friedman said, the country must hold its elected officials accountable and ensure that they run on green platforms, something which students are particularly responsible for doing because they are the future.

“The future isn’t fate, it’s a choice,” he said. “You need to get your ass out of facebook and get into people’s faces. We need to change our leaders, not our light bulbs.”

Before his speech in Spingold, Friedman met with some select Brandeis community members in the Shapiro Campus Center in order to discusswhat the university is doing to help the environment.

At the discussion, members of Students for Environmental Action presented Friedman with one of the reusable water bottles they had handed out to every undergraduate student at the beginning of the semester in order to demonstrate the campus’ commitment to limiting its bottled water consumption.

Friedman said he would “cherish” the bottle, and was proud of the students for their activism, but also urged them to do more and to partner with members of the Waltham community to “green” Waltham’s low income housing. Doing so, he said, would make Brandeis students “green collar workers.”

SEA president Matt Schmidt ’11 said that he found Friedman’s speech and the discussion with Friedman to be very inspirational.

“He cuts to the root of the problem and reframes in a way that I think is more effective for getting people on board,” Schmidt said. “He makes it about redefining America and I thought he also had some good ideas about what Brandeis students could do to help with that effort.”

In the end, Friedman insisted, that students should not pay attention to those who insist that global warming is a hoax, because “greening the nation only makes us and our economy stronger.”

Friedman ended by telling students to not be dismayed by the skeptics, despite how easy it is to be pessimistic about global warming.

“The pessimists are usually right, but all of the great change in history is made by optimists,” he said. “The hour is late, the project could not be more difficult, but the payoff could not be greater, and we have exactly enough time if we start now.”