Saturday, August 29, 2009

Part I: Where We Are (Chapter 1)

1. In your own words, briefly describe what Friedman means by saying that the world is becoming "Hot, Flat, and Crowded," and what he asserts the role of the United States should be in dealing with these problems.

2. Speculate, based on your current understanding of the APES course and current environmental problems, as to why I chose this book for us to read for the course (what is the relevance?)


  1. 1. In Friedman’s Book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded, “ the three title words are defined as the three largest problems currently facing our planet. The first, “hot,” obviously is describing Earth’s current environmental situation and global warming’s effects on the planet. The second, “Flat,” refers to the movement of Earth’s population toward one economic standard, and how this new larger population of middle class peoples throughout the world is increasing the levels of consumption, and therefore further exhausting the planet’s resources. The third word, “Crowded,” has to do with the steadily growing population numbers across the Earth, and how this continual increase in population is only helping to further exasperate the Earth’s natural resources making it even hotter. In his book, Friedman states that America has a vital role in fixing the environmental problems facing planet Earth. He describes how developing countries are becoming large consumers just like America has been for years, and how others will only follow if America doesn’t start to set a better environmental example. For years, America has set an example with “the American Dream,” and now consumerism is at an all time high, and will only continue to rise unless something changes. This is why Friedman suggests that America must begin to set an example as an environmentally conscious country instead of a country which revolves around consumerism. Friedman states that America must start to undo the abundant damage that it has done, by fulfilling its role as a leader in environmental innovation.

    2. This book relates to our course because it assert that the planet’s current environmental crisis is the most pressing of our world’s problems. Instead of stating that it is one of the principal concerns of 2009, Friedman says that the environmental crisis is the most important issue of our day, and that it can not be taken lightly. In that thought, I presume this class and Friedman’s book are the same, both putting global warming at the top of the world’s list of problems.

  2. 1. Friedman is trying to explain how mankind is reaching a tipping point in how it can continue to sustain itself in the book Hot, Flat, and Crowded. “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” is a succinct way to summarize what the earth is like as of today and the future. As pollutants are thrown into the air, and trees are chopped down and razed, vast amounts of carbon dioxide are released into the air that exceed naturally occurring levels. Carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, is accelerating the rate at which the earth is heating up, explaining the “hot” in the title. As for “crowded,” populations in developed countries tend to grow gradually while the trend reverses in countries that are not as well off. The total number of humans seems to never stop increasing, which spells disaster that will cause more suffering in this world as it makes mankind more vulnerable.

    The United States represents a relatively small percent of the world’s population. Yet, it uses a large fraction of the total amount of energy consumed today. It is fair to say the US is wasting a lot of energy, even to say that it takes for granted this status of being a prodigal user of these resources. The act of the United States confronting and putting an end to these problems would be a huge milestone and set an example for rapidly growing countries like China and India to the smaller, more slowly developing countries of the rest of the world to do the same. Now is a crucial point in which the rest of the world is catching up to the United States and the developed world.

    2. The book Hot, Flat, and Crowded was written in order to point out that now is the best time to take action. During this century, a huge disaster in a global scale is waiting to happen. It is better to act now rather than fifty years from now when everybody is in the midst of an ecological and societal catastrophe. We are reading this book as to compel us to believe that the problems we will encounter in this course are occurring right now and that we have to take immediate action to better our situation. Friedman takes what we will learn in this course in terms of what choices we make and their effects on the environment and provides economic and societal implications of them. Environmental Science is more important than ever as we witness our fate being unfolded through each path we take.

  3. By saying the world is becoming "Hot, Flat, and Crowded", Friedman means that the three major problems the world faces today have all converged and none of them is independent of the other. Global climate change, the rising middle class, and the increase in population all over the world are all contributing to the problems we face environmentally. It is the convergence of these three things that have had a greater impact all over the world, to the point where it is demanding our immediate attention. The United States, being a global superpower, is in a position to influence greater change and to address the severity of the "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" trend. Post 9/11, the United States has taken a defensive standpoint politically. There is been a focus on making our country a safer place for those here, even if it takes a proverbial impenetrable wall to keep us safe. This defensive stance has not allowed the United States to " tap the vast rivers of idealism, innovation, volunteerism, and philanthropy that still flow though our nation" (5). The innovation we need to address the "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" phenomena must start with changes within our government. If the United States were to address the weaknesses in communication and collaboration with other countries and within our own country, then we could get more done in terms of developing new ways and policies to live a greener way of life. The trend has already started in Europe and Japan, but if the United States were to join then even greater change could happen.

    I think it is important to be reading this book especially now because of how time sensitive this issue is. As we keep learning more and more about the environment, it is important to learn and be aware of the environmental challenges we face today. A class such as APES might teach us to love and appreciate the environment, but Hot, Flat, and Crowded truly addresses that the environmental problems we face. Much like the matrix of life, there is a matrix of environmental problems. Those environmental problems are far from being just global warming, they stem from the way we lead our lives, to our current political and economic systems. If we don't learn to look at the whole matrix, the changes we make might not have much impact.

  4. Try number 2
    1. Hot Flat and Crowded is a motto that Friedman uses to best explain his feelings about the worlds current state. Hot represents global warming and the negative effect the it has on the planet. Flat represents the state of the economy, the middle class is getting bigger and bigger based on consumption. Finally Crowded is pretty much self explanatory. The planet has to many people, this causes a huge problem because the more people we have the faster we use are resources. the most important being food. He also believes that America can play a big role in helping the turn around the worlds environmental problems. America needs to lead the way in the movement towards a better environment. If America can start a movement the rest of the world will follow. but America is always putting something else first. That ranges from social security to health care. Even though those things are important they are only relevant to the US. The environment effects the world. America is a great place to live and i agree with zoe's american dream view. America is where anything can happen, opportunities a limitless. That is the perception that America wants and if they want that to be true they need to help with the environmental problems
    2. This book is good for APES because it doesn't leave any questions about global warming. He states what he thinks America could do to jump start the movement. Friedman understand the problem and tells us that he has a way he plans to fix it. So not only is he presenting the problem, he has a plan for the future. With the current condition of the environment the way it is something needs to be done quickly before its to late, this could be a step in the right direction

  5. 1. “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” is the sort of hypothesis that Friedman offers as the largest problems facing the earths environment. The first word, Hot, refers to the problem of global warming that our planet faces. As the world continues to become more modernized and industrialized, the already unnaturally high amounts of carbon dioxide continue to increase, warming the planet. One of my favorite images that Friedman evokes is how people would feel badly if every time they drove, they dumped a bag of garbage out the window. Hey claims that when they drive, they are essentially doing that. Flat refers to the increasing number of people in the world who are considered middle class. He says that while this has lifted people out of poverty, it has also meant that they have become consumers of things that eat up energy and resources, in the end contributing to our global environmental crisis. Crowded simply refers to fact that the worlds population is growing at an alarming rate. As more people inhabit the earth, more resources and energy are used up, and the more difficult it becomes to live a sustainable lifestyle. The UN predicts that this massive population will boom, but it is also clear that our resources our running out. This triple threat essentially spells doom for our way of life. With all these problems, Friedman really stresses that America needs to redeem itself in the international world and become a leader in conversion to becoming green countries. He stresses things such as researching alternatives to crude oil, which would not only help the environment, but also help stop our reliance on middle eastern oil suppliers He also suggests introducing more green collared jobs.

    2. I believe that as APES students, its our job to tie our more science based lessons into a broader perspective. As we learn more and more about the environment and natural world around us, we will come to learn how amazing it is and value it more. I agree with Altaire in that it is a very time sensitive issue. Instead of “waiting on the world to change” it is something that must be acted on immediately. While the problems the book describes seem extremely overwhelming, it is also exciting to know that we are studying a topic that is so pertinent in today’s society.

  6. 1. Friedman uses the words, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" for the three major problems with the Earth's environment as a result of the direction in which the United States in particulars, is heading. The first, "Hot", for the rising temperatures on Earth as result of Global Warming.
    "Flat", as Friedman puts it, refers to the continuing growth of the middle class. The third term, "Crowded", refers to the ever increasing human population on Earth, which is a major factor in pollution problems and other environmental disasters. In the book, Friedman acknowledges that the United states has played a crucial role in creating many of the problems, and that it will have to play an equally large role in finding and executing solutions for the problems. He points out that America has been and will be, a leader in worldwide trends, which will prove to be an important tool in getting the rest of the world to follow suit in making the world, "Warm, Plump, and um...Suitably Populated..." once again.

    2. The way I see this book tying into the Apes course, is that it points out the problems that are threatening it, points out the role humans play in creating the problems,and the role we must play to solve them, and, as Zoe said, shows the importance of the problem, removing itself from the common trend to play the problems off as temporary. All things which are on the Class description, and in the class discussion so far.

  7. When Friedman refers to our world as becoming hot, flat, and crowded, he is talking about a few different problems. Hot, refers to global warming and its already apparent and devastating effects on the earth. Flat refers to the swift global expansion of the middle class. Crowded refers to the ever growing human population. All of these issues are problematic in themselves, but the problems are all connected which make them even more pressing and relevant. To solve these problems, Friedman asserts that we must figure out a way to generate our own energy, and move away from our deep dependence on the middle east for oil. He also says that the government needs to have stricter fuel efficiency standards, and, as Alex mentioned, that they should create green-collar jobs. Friedman points out that these ideas will only work if America stays very focused in this task, and is united. I love how he says that we must be propelled by a common purpose, instead of fighting a common enemy. After we are in order nationally, Friedman emphasizes that our whole country needs to step up and become a leader for the rest of the world to follow. America was once a great world leader, and Friedman has hope that we can do it again. Friedman stresses that now, and in the coming years, America will be absolutely vital in facing the problems of hot, flat, and crowded.

    I think this book is a great way to learn about the many sides of environmental problems. So far, (for example), I have learned some history about laws that have (and haven’t) been passed in the last 50 years, which is key to understanding how we ending up in this mess today. The book of course also talks about the main environmental problems in our modern society. I agree with Brandon, in that Friedman not only talks about the problems, but also about how we can fix them. And I think this book will be especially helpful in APES, because environmental science is relevant to everything we do and hear about everyday, and the book talks about this science in the real world. No matter how much you learn about the earth, you can’t do much to help unless you learn it in the context of what’s going on right now.

  8. 1.In the first few chapters of friedman's book Hot, Flat, and crowded, Friedman refers back to the 3 words of the books title many times in and effort to summarize the state of our planet. For Friedman these 3 simple words do a good job of capturing the nature of our planet and the direction in which we are currently moving. Hot, and crowded are both relatively self explanatory and are unmistakably 2 of the biggest problems that we are and will continue to face in the coming decades. On the other hand our increasing flatitude is a more ambigous factor and may play out both to our benfit, but may also carry with it some detrimental consequences. Quite simply our planet is getting hotter as Friedman puts it. The increase in temperature is attributed to global warming, caused by our increased use of fossil fuels and their resulting C02 emissions. Global warming will have several significant ramifications that could change the shape of our world Global warming will cause a massive rise in ocean levels resulting in widespread flooding that could displaces millions of people, causing all kinds of problems. Global warming would also bring along with it a myriad of other problems. Population growth or crowding is the third of Friedman’s three conditions, quite simply we have too many people. Not only does this rapid population growth increase the rate of global warming, as we use more and more, it also brings us closer to resource depletion. It is also becoming near impossible to feed these billions of people, given our current patterns. The most interesting of Friedman’s three descriptors is flat. What Friedman means by this is the rise of the middle class. No longer are we a polar world of rich and poor, in our midst there is a growing middle class. This has some direct negative implication but it may also factor in as part of the solution to our larger problem. More people operating at a middle class level means we are going to deplete resources quicker. Increased consumption also means a sooner and more devastating onset of global warming. However this middle class is part of our ever growing networks. Internet is no longer a luxury for a select few it is becoming universal, and this growing middle class is jumping right into this internet culture. This growing network will not only be more aware and possibly more able to combat the issues facing our planet, but they will be able to play an active role in finding solutions to this global catastrophe. As we increase the middle class, we increase the number of minds capable of contributing to our global solution. Friedman sees the US AS highly important to this situation in several respects. First, we are certainly one of the key players in our global CO2 output, so an effort on our part to reduce emissions is also crucial. Additional the US has many bright minds with lots of resources and this global catastrophe may serve as an opportunity for the US to step in save the world and save our struggling country

  9. Friedman’s book is very current and provides a very nice assessment of the current state of our planet. The entire world really is struggling and Friedman gets right to the heart to of the matter with his very adept analysis. It just so happens that the majority of our global problems are both and environmental rooted and today and down the road they may all have devastating environmental consequences. As Friedman points out our planet is getting hotter due to global warming, and at least with my current understanding of APES, global warming seems in many ways to be the quintessential environmental problem. Global warming is the product of our interaction with the environment around us, and it will have a very wide range of effects that will touch virtually ever sector of the environment. Our global flattening does not play as much into the environmental sciences, but it will certainly play an indirect role in our ongoing problems and possible some of the emerging solutions. Crowding is certainly an environmental issue, that will act to magnify many existing environmental issues. Friedman’s book touches on many of the subjects that I presume we will also deal with in APES, and will provide a great precursor for our foray into the world of environmental sciences.