In Reflection on Tom Friedman’s Remarks

I just attended a wonderful event on campus at Spingold Theater.  Tom Friedman, New York Times colmnist and Pullitzer Prize winner, spoke about his new book Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America. He explained how America has “lost its groove” since 9/11, how the environmental crisis affects us, and how these two issues are linked.

I could relate to one part of his speech in particular.  He contrasted the “green party,” the phenomenon of the everyone-can-go-green craze we’re experiencing now, with a real green revolution.  Friedman explained that while it’s great that he and all his neighbors have switched to hybrid cars, they’re not making real change.  A green revolution can only come from the leaders–the people who make the rules in government and the people who lead America’s economy.  In a real revolution, he explained, “people get hurt.”  No, not in the physical sense, but hurt such that if you don’t out-green the competition then you will fail.  If our government does not respond to the environmental crises, then our generation will have “zero chance,” as Friedman says, to enjoy the same standards of living as our parents.  While changing our habits is valuable, it’s more important to change the rules so that others must change their habits.

Last spring, Brandeis had a Student Union referendum on the question of what to do with our Student Activities Fund roll-over money, amounting to over $100,000.  A proposal to invest in solar panels on campus lost to refurbishing the weight room.  After the upsetting result, I decided that I would make a difference where Brandeis student body had not.  I found some instructions on how to make a solar charger for my iPod.  If students wouldn’t support renewable energy, I would go it alone.  Unfortunately I’m not a professional, and I have little work tinkering with thin film panels, voltage regulators, and the science of solar power.  My charger worked… sort of.  The truth was that as just one person, it was difficult to make a change in renewable energy.

Only when we mobilize our peers, confront our leaders, and make change as a group force, with the help of all types of laymen and professionals, can we make a change.  We must make changes at higher levels by, as Friedman puts it, “getting in peoples’ faces.”  Brandeis wants to put up a meteorlogical tower in Sachar Woods to find out whether putting a wind turbine on campus is a feasible idea.  Waltham isn’t letting it happen–they don’t want a tower in their back yard.  We as Brandeis students need to “get in the faces” of the Waltham city government and force them to permit our renewable energy study.

I’d take clean, reliable, renewable energy coming from wind turbine in Sachar Woods over a half-working solar iPod charger hanging in my window any day.