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Minutes of the presentation and discussion provided by Christine Victorino

Page history last edited by Steven Marx 12 years, 3 months ago

Sustainability Book Club – March 6, 2009

Hot, Flat, And Crowded (Thomas Friedman)


Karen Bangs – Introduction


•    Previous books: From Beirut to Jerusalem, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Longitudes and Attitudes, The World is Flat; primarily books on globalization

•    Foreign Affairs columnist in NY Times

•    Contrasts between McKibben and Friedman (posted on wiki by Steven Marx, others)

•    Four major subjects (also colloquialisms, buzz words)

o    Introduction of Energy Climate Era (E.C.E.)

o    How We Got Here (laws of petropolitics, global weirding, industrial revolution, link to poverty)

o    How to Move Forward (green party vs. green revolution)

o    China and America (what you do, not what you say)


Open Discussion

Gerry – unnecessarily lengthy, could have deleted first 200 pages, real “meat” came after pg. 203, lack of editor; sometimes he would present an idea as though it was his and then later make a reference (not enough recognition to others’ ideas, not good scholarship)


Brian – agrees with Gerry’s comments; lengthy quotations, should rather summarize salient points


Jim – The World is Flat started as essay in NY Times magazine; got a lot of things out of the book; he likes his global view (doesn’t have opportunity to travel as much); idea of petrodictatorship resonates with him – the argument is simple and powerful (we are subsidizing our enemies)


Norm – peaked in his first book; not enough citations; most of his notes were on the first 200 pages; McKibben review was informative and quite blunt


Brad – critiques of style, too many anologies; serious problems with his assumptions; Booker T. Washington of climate crisis (major race leader in late 19th century, criticized as kowtow to major interests of the day, e.g. pg. 182 (oil producers – they’re just doing what they’re asked to do) – not willing to direct blame; he’s being shrewd to direct his arguments to oil producers without assigning blame (perhaps deliberately using this style in order to appeal to broader audience)


Steven – kowtow to captains of industry tone is so opposite to typical environmental discourse (“fight the corporate enemy”); this is not preaching to the choir, which Steven appreciates


Karen – Would we have not started the industrial revolution knowing this outcome? IR solved problems and then created new ones; will it be the same for clean electrons?


Jane – Who is Friedman’s audience? Too long a book for someone to slog through; is this really being read by corporate leaders?  Is it having same the impact as Lexus and the Olive Tree?  Should we allow to get off the hook for this reason?


Idea of technological fixes – most of his proposals are technological fixes; myth that technology can make it right; he moves back and forth between local and central decisions/fixes


Jim – don’t think engineering provides a clear solution; school of thought – how do we integrate sustainability as fundamental to educating engineers?  How is a product made, its life cyle, etc.


Jane – supportive of efforts in eng education; in the classroom, she’s experienced students saying that if we get the right technology, “we won’t have to change our lives”


Gerrie – lot of people paying lip service to being green; still yet to engage people; price signal – there has to be a monetary incentive that forces people to look at things a different way; China examples really needed citations


Steven – deflect Jane’s question to Norm; does this book have credibility in business circles? Provides important information on pricing, irregularity of policies in economic transformation


Norm – not necessarily from colleagues; who is this guy? Economics issues are covered better by other authors; not expert but making the issues is topical and sexy; last book was well received by business community (The World is Flat)


Karen – he is friends with CEOs, e.g. GE; what is it going to take for CEO’s to make the switch? Green revolution talks a bit about conservation, perhaps not enough 


Christine – contradiction between top-down vs. bottom-up revolution, China vs. America; doesn’t make a cohesive argument for either


Steven – Friedman appeal in colleges for contests on sustainability; could be the type of thing an administrator might take on; Friedman has the “big guys” approach to strike a chord among decision-makers


Karen – central vs. local; you need both


Sara – who is this book for? With respect to college students, Rachel Carson doesn’t resonate; but perhaps Friedman has a knack for connecting with non-academics and for popularizing ideas


Chandrika – despite weaknesses, problem needs both local and central solution


Brian Kennelly – read the acknowledgements, pg. 421 he shows off (built a “large” house, 11,000 sq. ft.)


Brian Kesner – Johnny Appleseed without planting anything; authenticity vs. controversy; how do our students absorb and process this information; we need a set of global values that reflect complexity


Jane – he proposes to set a building limit of 5000 sq. ft.; that’s ten times her living space; what makes the book attractive – it allows American values to go unchallenged; for that, this book is actually dangerous (see ourselves as the model to the rest of the world); worry about this book as an entry point for business people


Hunter – it wasn’t particularly inspiring, but bringing these ideas to a broader audience is valuable; just not going to a deeper level that forces us to change values and ways of interacting; education has a huge role


Chandrika – should not be used as a course book; liked the word ‘affluenza’; we have created "carbon-copyAmericans" all over the world in other cultures who are mindlessly aping America, which is sad; We blew it but learn from our mistakes; there is another, healthier way to modernize


Mary – key point is not just focusing on technologies; we need to change our lifestyle and be a role model (these are the difficult choices)


Karen – Friedman uses example of mass transit; we need this investment in California; he doesn’t make the case strongly enough perhaps; by default, we’re an example to the world; sad to see Starbucks in the Middle East, e.g. Houston in Dubai; but until we set the example, sustainability is not going to happen elsewhere; triple bottom line – costs to social system, ecosystem, economic costs


Norm – internalization of these costs to products, “real cost” might people think twice about their consumption


Steven – McKibben’s review: the big drawback is Friedman’s optimism (thought-provoking), e.g. Friedman’s support for Iraq; current economic crisis puts a lot of our choices in a new light (way too much wealth based on a Ponzi scheme); who can put all of this together? What does the environmental situation mean to the economic crisis?


Hunter – sad thing about humanity: we have to learn through pain; we’ve had our piece of the pie, now what’s the other piece?  We’re so engrossed in this paradigm, we’ve forgotten about indigenous/other values and perspectives; we have other needs too; We’re already chauvinistic megalomaniacs (as Americans)


Gerry – second half of the book: if we stand up to the plate, we’ll be the first and make lots of money! But what’s worrisome about this approach, solutions might not be lasting


Brian Kennelly – cannot help but thing about CalPoly within CSU system (let’s maintain the status quo by injecting more money, i.e. college-based fees); are there not parallels?


Hunter – U.S.-centric approach, what about cooperation with Europe and Japan? We don’t always have to be the leader


Brad – competition is assumed to be a core global value (homogenization of all cultures to American lifestyle); basically translates sustainability into preserving American global dominance (green less an ideology, rather than in service to capitalist ideology)


Sara – people in Nebraska don’t get it like Californians; what we’re doing here is a good thing; what would it take to get people to think more critically and reflectively


Gerry – sad omission that sustainability is more successful in Europe, e.g. living in a 400 sq. ft. space


Jane – discussion about hunters and farmers (not just about left-leaning hippies); talking across differences in a coalition


Steven – McKibben (thoughtful depth with limited audience) vs. Friedman as interesting poles; Natural Capitalism (Amory Lovins) cooperation and social outlook was effective in synthesizing these differences


Christine – talking across difference; we need to include people of color in this discourse, e.g. community organizing in Oakland with young African Americans


Jim – Friedman is a journalist not a scholar; optimism is a positive thing


Norm – don’t know that we can change people on consumption habits in the short term; there needs to be a better way to buy buy buy


Jonathan – depressed by realization that students are completely consumed by consumption (how can they get out of this paradigm?) Can we construct peak experiences to help students have an epiphany (to understand the situation they’re in)?


Steven – possibly faced with a generation of students that don’t have credit cards (more impactful than a GE program; have to buy with cash); marketing things that are practical, e.g. healthy good; what’s life like in a world that’s a little poorer? It could be fun to face that


Implications at CalPoly


Chandrika – History of current ecological crisis (GE course); Ethics of human living (should follow first course) – part philosophy, part reality (to post onto the wiki)


Norm – marketing class currently covering sustainability (seems like a band-aid solution); seems peripheral; how do we integrate this more effectively?  Almost have to start from scratch


Gerry – classes have to be at different levels, freshman to more senior levels


Chandrika – in architecture, it’s necessary to think sustainably; can you set a general tone and/or modify what you teach


Karen – this green revolution has to be a philosophy vs. checked box; needs to be integrated more effectively


Jim – we’re grappling with how to integrate sustainability into engineering; as an example, computer science established CSC 300 which addresses ethics (est. framework for dialogue among students and faculty, and soon this diffused throughout curriculum); required course


Jonathan – architecture (aesthetics and values are inherent); fundamental way to get to students – who influenced you? How consciousness gets changed?


Sara – Preface program: can we choose a book that’s environmentally focused?


Jane – distinction between microethics (individual resp.) vs. macroethics (professional’s collective responsibility, society); we need to address both, tough conversations; in terms of accreditation, checkbox add-in makes it easier to demonstrate to external reviewers, rather than integrating it more fully into curriculum


Karen – as an example, teamwork is measured through its distribution throughout all courses; must be measurable


Steven – UNIV is a tremendous resource (opportunity for interdepartmental, intercollegiate classes that offer GE credit); finishing proposal on God and Nature (multidisciplinary, 3 faculty); could see a sustainability course with 20 lectures (each with a different faculty member) emphasizing Jonathan’s idea of each faculty member’s history of personal and professional involvement with sustainability.




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