West Chester University’s Contemporary Issues program held a panel discussion open to students on Tuesday, Feb. 3 on Thomas L Friedman’s new book “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” which discusses why we need a green revolution and how it can renew America.Discussion panel members included West Chester University’s Dr. Paul Morgan of the School of Education, Dr. Timothy Lutz of the Geology and Astronomy Department, Dr. Larry Udell of the Philosophy Department, Dr. Paul Arsenault of the Marketing Department and Dr. Linda Stevenson of the Political Science Department.
Although panel members were in agreement that Friedman’s concepts on a green revolution were neither new nor radical, “the issue of climate change is very real,” said Dr. Paul Morgan, “he opens people’s minds but maybe not far enough.”
Dr. Timothy Lutz states that Friedman “makes it clear. radical science is quiet conservative science.” He challenges skeptics saying that we should do nothing about global warming. Friedman brings attention to how global warming will affect us and already is affecting us. Lutz states that “climate change means we can no longer tell who is responsible.” No way of knowing who is responsible for global warming, how it happened or what this new phenomenon is doing and will continue to do.
Dr. Larry Udell of West Chester’s Philosophy department compared Friedman to Socrates, saying he is trying to be a gadfly, trying to motivate people into action. Dr. Udell says that America has been exporting fear since 9/11, and how the US Embassy in Istanbul is protected and sheltered like a fortress. Dr. Udell brought up Friedman’s concept of “dumb as we wanna be” politics, where people think that others are going to solve the problem and everyone else can just go on and live their lives. “Do we care enough to do something about it? We just expect the world to go on.”
Dr. Udell also brought up an article from the NY Times where Vaclav Klaus, 67-year-old president of the Czech Republic, “has called global warming a dangerous ‘myth,’ arguing that the fight against climate change threatens economic growth.”
Dr. Paul Arsenault said that Friedman could be the one to take the message to Washington. Friedman’s discussion of innovation and “prevailing concept of change,” was only lacking leadership because “we’re still looking for someone to solve this.”
Dr. Linda Stevenson referenced that “the bubble has burst,” but it has been twenty years since we’ve had a bubble. Stevenson said that it was not accidental that Friedman published his book on the eve of new administration. She discussed “Friedman-isms” mentioned in “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” such as ECE (energy climate era), when we all work to achieve clean energy. Dr. Stevenson said that Friedman did not mention how to reform our political system, which is an important challenge.
Dr. Stevenson also mentioned international politics and how it is always “us versus them.” She also said that she is worried about the mentality of the United States that we have to be the innovators and first at everything. “The world is leaving us behind. not anti-American but post-American.”
“Let your ears hear what your mouth is saying,” said Dr. Morgan. “We’re headed for an iceberg and we’re on the Titanic,” and Friedman’s only solution is rearranging deck chairs because he’s a high status writer and won’t take the radical chance. “He’s taking the pressure off people we should be cracking down on.”
Students had questions of their own regarding frustrating issues including a sense of panic that they can’t rely on Washington, and if they should rebel if Washington decides to take away certain liberties and resources before nature takes them.
“Policies do matter,” said Dr. Udell, regarding the option to sit back and let new administration be in charge of everything.
Dr. Stevenson added that West Chester University took its own steps in order to add the geothermal energy site at Mitchell Hall. Dr. Lutz said that role of government was to shape prices of resources, because “true cost is what we have to be responsible for,” the cost of how it affects the world.
Another student questioned how do we redesign America, or recreate the world? Dr. Udell suggests that many things can be done, such as changing building codes, reprocessing mortgage loans, and giving builders incentives to add solar panels. Dr. Arsenault suggests putting a set price on the price of oil and a penalty for using dirty fuels, because the government is not giving clean energy a chance for survival by not having penalties on dirty fuel users.
West Chester resident John Post said “my optimism is starting to erode rapidly,” and that he is becoming more and more concerned about the climate changes and the percentages of pollution in the air in twenty to thirty years when his children are older.
Dr. Morgan responded by saying, “Optimism is an old style, a reflection of what we want life to be. It is our job to hospice them to death, nicely.”
The final student question was regarding fossil fuels to going green: can we trust the forces behind these changes? Dr. Arsenault says that there is no mention of whether or not places like Wal-Mart that are now selling energy-saving light bulbs for profit, Dr. Stevenson agreed that profit can push motivation.
“We’re all charged with being a part of the solution, pay attention,” said Dr. Stevenson, in her closing statement. All the panelists agree that everyone should pay attention throughout their day to see if there are things they can change to the environment they live in, whether is changing their lights to energy efficient bulbs or using recycling bins in their doors or homes.
Joli McCarthy is a third-year student majoring in English and minoring in Journalism. She can be reached at JM625940@wcupa.edu.