Award-winning author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman stressed Thursday the need for young people to get off Facebook and into the face of the country’s leaders in a push for the environmental change he says is so vital to the future of the earth.
Friedman – who gave a lecture on his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – and How It Can Renew America” Thursday night in Lisner Auditorium – said Americans need to be the leaders in “environmental technology” in order to maintain the nation’s position as a world superpower.
“If we are not one of the leaders, if not the leader in [environmental technology], the chance of us passing our standard of living onto these peple is zero,” Friedman said, pointing to the sea of students, faculty and community members who filled Lisner. The freshmen class read Friedman’s book over the summer as part of the Freshman Reading Program.
Friedman said that to garner popular support for cap-and-trade legislation – which he said is necessary to implement the needed change – the idea of “going green” needs to be redefined. “Green,” Friedman said, is a hard sell, since converting dirty energy to clean energy at the end of the day still comes to the same end – it turns on the lights and powers day-to-day life.
“We need to redefine green in order to reorganize America,” Friedman said. “If you can name an issue, you can own an issue. The people who named it, the people who owned it, were the people who hated it. They named it liberal, tree-hugging, sissy, girlyman, unpatriotic and vaguely European… But we need to define it as geopolitical, geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic, patriotic. Green is the new red, white and blue, oh yes it is.”
Friedman points to a powerpoint presentation, describing why Citibank, Iceland’s bank and the ice banks of Antarctica melted at the same time.
To “redefine green” and gain support for cap-and-trade legislation, Friedman said Americans cannot simply sit behind a computer screen creating Facebook groups or blogging.
Instead, he said Americans need to generate a “wake-up call” by getting in the face of Congress, which he called currently “broken,” adding that legislative leaders are more swayed by companies with money than what is best for the future of the earth.
“Exxon Mobil does not have a Facebook page,” Friedman said. “They are not on Facebook. They are in your face. Exxon Mobil, they do not have a chat room. They are in the cloakroom right now where the rules get written. Remember one thing. You may live a digital lifestyle – and God bless you for that – but politics in this country is still analog.”
He continued, “If we don’t get out of Facebook and into somebody’s face, the rules of the future are going to be written without us.”
About a dozen members of GW’s Young America’s Foundation protested Friedman’s appearance outside of Lisner, calling the issue of global warming and climate change a fallacy.
Friedman met with a small group of School and Media and Public Affairs students earlier in the afternoon, discussing a range of topics including his thoughts on current Middle Eastern issues and the ways to break into the journalism field. He also ate dinner before the lecture with freshmen who had submitted the strongest essays after reading his book.
Students interviewed after the lecture said they enjoyed Friedman’s appearance.
Freshman Gabrielle Friedman said she thought it was fantastic that the University was able to bring Friedman to campus after assigning one of his books for the Freshman Reading Program.
“I think a lot of kids were really interested in the book over the summer, and we got to write essays, so I think the kids that were interested definitely thought this was a great opportunity to come and watch him speak,” Friedman said.
Dean of Freshmen Fred Siegel, who assigned Friedman’s book to the freshman class, said he was glad to see the event finally come to fruition after months of planning.
“It feels great,” Siegel said. “I was sitting in the third row and I looked back and saw Lisner at capacity, I saw people with rapt attention listening to Mr. Friedman.”