July 22, 2007

Notes from Summer Camp: I am not Tom Friedman

Notes from Summer Camp: I am not Tom Friedman

From Paros, among the Cyclades, in the deep blue of Odysseus’ Aegean Sea

On a Greek island that would do for paradise, we’re contemplating the near impossibility of rescuing the human habitat from earthly ruin.

The conference here is a sort of poor-man’s Davos. The 10th annual “Symi Symposium” is George Papandreou’s personal in-gathering of old and new friends among American and Euro progressives. Bill Clinton (absent this summer) is one of the old ones; I’m one of the new ones, invited because George Papandreou listens with pleasure, he says, to the podcast of Open Source.

George Papandreou may be the most comfortable professional pol I’ve ever watched. Born in Minnesota of an American mother who is here coaching him, he is the dynastic heir on his father’s side of the liberal tradition in Greek politics, and chief of the Socialist party that will be contesting parliamentary elections as soon as this Fall. George is a bridge-builder with Turks, a listener among intellectuals, a remarkably calm and confident practitioner in a political culture of shouters.

The main Symi conversation this summer centers on global warming, with guests prepared to take it in many directions. Among them: Joe Stiglitz, the Nobel economist from Columbia; Misha Glenny, British journalist and historian of Yugoslavia’s fall, now finishing a book on global organized crime; Gerd Leipold of Greenpeace International; Ronald Heifetz, the clinical analyst and coach of “leadership,” and his Kennedy School colleague at Harvard, Richard Parker, biographer of J. K. Galbraith; sprightly Anthony Barnett, the British founder of a great global website, a sort of HuffPo for grown-ups called Open Democracy; and Kemal Dervis , a Turkish progressive and Princeton-trained economist who’s now the head of the UN development program. At an informal session on Turkey’s admission to the EU, I volunteered because nobody else would that until Turkey fesses up to the Armenian genocide, one of the signal national crimes of the modern era, perhaps it shouldn’t be admitted to much of anything. Kemal Dervis was the first of a rather stunned table to come and give me a hug.

So the mood is comfy, not least because many guests have brought spouses, teenagers and tots who make all the grand survival issues cheerfully personal. But the most amazing relief for an American wanderer is to be sitting among self-styled Social Democrats whose reflex is to think and speak first and last of civil society and “the commons,” the general interest, “the republic,” as our Founders, or Plato, might have said.

Dismay and grief are the near background of our gab on global warming.

Greece’s tiny remnant of forest is ablaze not far from Athens. The fires seem to represent a culmination of well-tracked climatic and environmental trends, on one hand, and official fecklessness in confronting them, on the other. A Greek version of our Katrina has cast the country into shocked mourning: our band concert here on Paros was cancelled Thursday night because the usual music and dancing for visitors would have ill fit the Greek mood of loss and bitterness.

It’s an old story, like everything else in Greece. Henry Miller, in his book of Greek marvels, The Colossus of Maroussi, experienced and written just before World War 2, writes in a perfect anticipation of our idyll in a disaster zone:

Trees, more trees, that is the cry. The tree brings water, fodder, cattle, produce; the tree brings shade, leisure, song, brings poets, painters, legislators, visionaries. Greece is now, bare and lean as a wolf though she be, the only Paradise in Europe. What a place it will be when it is restored to its pristine verdure exceeds the imagination of man today. Anything may happen when this focal spot blazes forth with new life. A revivified Greece can very conceivably alter the whole destiny of Europe. Greece does not need archaeologists — she needs arboriculturists. A verdant Greece may give hope to a world now eaten away by white-heart rot.

Henry Miller, in my gift edition (from intern Colin Baker) of The Colossus of Maroussi (1941), page 48 in the New Directions paperback.

The context is very strange actually, as fraught as the whole numbing climate crisis. An early onset of the strong northern “Meltemi” wind nearly blew me off the pier in Athens, but there is not a windmill to be seen on the fantasy island of Paros where we talk of renewable energy. As on Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts, the local powers do not want to compromise their postcard scenery with scarecrows in the wind. Here in Greece, the brightest sun I’ve ever seen burns like a roaring furnace, but I haven’t glimpsed a solar panel anywhere.

Greece’s per capita carbon emissions are the worst in the European Union. At a break in our symposium with local politicians and citizens on Paros, George Papandreou commited himself and presumably his PaSoc party, to lightening Greece’s carbon footprint by getting it’s dirtiest coal — lignite — out of the power generating system. He didn’t say exactly when or how this would happen. There are more than 100,000 Greek jobs in lignite production.

So who is to say whether George Papandreou’s lignite line was a brave start or an empty gesture? Was it a trial baloon or the wisp of an illusion, in the spirit of Henry Miller’s pre-war dream of a “verdant Greece.” “I can see the whole human race straining through the neck of the bottle here,” Miller wrote in The Colossus of Maroussi, “searching for egress into the world of light and beauty. May they come, may they disembark, may they stay and rest awhile in peace…”

Good luck to all of us.

In sum, the catastrophe, the cure, and the conversation.

The sense of a week’s gab on global warming is that while the vision of cataclysmic climate change is unforgivingly sharp-edged, this cross-section of constructive minds has barely a clue — and not much confidence — about averting it. The consensus goal is to contain the rise of the globe’s temperature at 2 degrees centigrade in the 21st Century. A “50-50” solution might just do it: meaning a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2050. But that 50 percent reduction for the world at large turns on an almost unthinkable 80 percent (!) reduction by the industrialized elite of today’s big-time carbon emitters, led by the US, which has had a hard time officially acknowledging the problem.

Nick Mabey, a congenitally buoyant “change agent” from London, threw up his hands at the conversions required in domestic and global alliances, in public and private investments, in universal definitions of justice — all unprecedented in human history. “Money and technology are not the real constraints,” Mabey observed. “We do not have the politics.” Kemal Dervis, another born problem solver, remarked darkly: “there’s a chance the world will be four times richer in 2050, and a chance that the world will be disappearing by then.”

And finally, there’s the public conversation. It leaps out of my deep media file on the climate crisis that the man who has captured the journalistic flag of the “green transformation” is much closer to being the problem than the solution. New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has mapped a path of green politics to serve explicitly as a recovery road for politicians and pundits like himself who can’t yet explain how they got the Iraq war so wrong.

In an epic Times Magazine piece last April 15, “green” was Friedman’s word for the way America will “get its groove back.” The world may hate us a long time for Iraq, Friedman concurred with Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it will love us for saving the environment. We will save the environment, it turns out, by a “more muscular green ideology” that embraces capitalism, patriotism, our car culture and an impatient rage to even the score with some Arab regimes we don’t like anymore, especially Saudi Arabia. It reads much more like the road into Iraq than the road past Iraq. And the final promise sounds like the nonsensical George Bush: “… green is not about cutting back,” Friedman writes. “It’s about creating a new cornucopia of abundance for the next generation by inventing a new industry.”

Friedman — of flat-earth fame — is now looking for a hill to charge, a “green” Iwo Jima, and a Green Generation to pair with the Greatest Generation. Block those military metaphors, Tom! More typical of the very few heroes of the climate fight so far are the women that got incandescent bulbs banned in Australia and plastic shopping bags banned in Ireland, the Mayor of London who is clamping down on autos, the scientists and the loony left activists like Greenpeace who have stuck to their guns on the problem itself. What the world would love from America — 5 percent of the world population producing 25 percent of the problem carbon — might be less talk of muscles and techno-magic, more modesty and an air of responsibility for the rising waters that have begun to drown Bangladesh.

Global warming, as Kemal Dervis wrapped it up here on Paros, “is an inherently multilateral problem. It may just be the topic that could bring us all together — and we badly need something like that.”

So let us Open Sorcerers make our own metaphors and find our own fresh grounds for talking about it.

Update, 7/23 7:45 pm

Chris recorded a handful of the participants. The following is Chris’s interview with Gerd Leipold of Greenpeace International. Stay tuned for more conversations.

Click to listen to Gerd Leipold (4.9 MB MP3)

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  • hurley

    Delightful dispatch from the Mediterranean Bohemian Grove. Sounds like Davos, with fire instead of ice. Would that someone had picked up on Miller’s call for reforestation. The prevailing attitude to such things suggests Greece might be not just where Western Civilization began, but where we might, chicken-liver style, divine the portents of its collapse. There are several beautiful stories on the subject of Mediterranean reforestation, Jean Giono’s one, William S. Wilson’s another, but before hitting the books I say let’s parachute herbertbrowne in for a radical reappraisal of the prospects in the meantime — I’m still haunted by those visionary barroom scenarios of bringing rain to the Chilean altiplano, Tibet, etc. Weigh in if you’re out there HB. You’re the man with the plan…Loved Chris’ kindly evisceration of the egregious Thomas Friedman. I’ve been waiting for someone to point out his fraudulent metamorphosis from war monger to Captain Planet. Nevermind the human toll in Iraq, factor in the environmental costs and he’ll be doubling the accounting for the rest of his life.

  • CL, So good to hear from you and so glad you are not Tom Friedman. As we old-fashioned tree huggers know, war is not only hard on people it blasts blazing holes into the entire web of life. One of the values of the Green Party (a global green movement that has been around for a while) is non-violence. To go from pro-war to green requires a paradigm shift that honors the social skills it will take to bring us all together.

    Greek Green Party


    PS speaking of war metaphores maybe there is a more apt metaphor for us looney lefty types than “sticking to our guns.”

  • altartifacts


    Wow, I’m missing the podcast. Sad, very sad. Having been interviewed by Chelsea once it made me feel a bit closer to the show despite the fact that you called me by the wrong name. 🙂 How about just recording your blog entries and posting them as a temporary fix for us? How about having a few friends over and passing the microphone around. Yes, I’m reaching.

    Opensource and “In Our Time” with Melvyn Bragg have been my mainstay podcasts for quite some time. The BBC actually has quite a few great podcasts. We Americans can hardly afford to lose Opensource considering the broadcast/podcast field of mindless tabloid trivia that currently pretends it matters here.

    Peggysue, How about “Sticking to our greens?”

    All the Best,

  • altartifacts, sticing to “lefty greens” sounds kind of like “leafy greens” a bit like a salad which can always end up sticking to your gums. I like it. Looney lefty greens!… stick to your gums! ;^)

  • hurley
  • To the visioning of a verdant Greece I offer lines from

    the Poet Sappho

    Some say an army of horsemen, or infantry,

    A fleet of ships is the fairest thing

    On the face of the black earth, but I say

    It’s what one loves.


    …here …me….from Crete to this holy

    Temple, where is your lovely grove

    Of apples, and altars all smoking

    With incense,

    Where cold water rustles through the apple

    Branches, and the whole land is shaded by roses.

    While the leaves are a-rustling,

    A deep sleep cascades.

    A medow where horses graze blooms

    With springtime flowers, the winds are

    Gently breathing……….

    There you, Lady of Cypris, taking….

    You, in golden goblets gracefully

    Mingled nectar for our festivals

    Pour the libations.

  • southern europe is in a sad state… while you’re there in greece.. Im here in my other country.. Portugal, looking at what an unsustainable disaster this place has become. A government that is incapable and unwilling to really push for real environmental reform and a population that lived poor and under the thumb of a dictator for so long that now they are like spoiled children, buying whatever comes cheap and fast, polluting like there is no tomorrow, and convinced that THIS is the only way forward. As i type this big bulldozers are outside my window, destroying a pine forest to build new condo’s.. while down a few blocks.. condo’s built in the 80’s lay empty. oh southern europe.. when I think about what could have been…

  • Potter

    Loss and bitterness dismay and grief. Hard to picture such conversation among those so right but with so little power to actually change things in such a place.

    I happened to have a copy of Miller’s Maroussi on my shelf and it may be just what I am looking for to escape. . Too many egos in this world… but I love what Henry Miller does with his. It’s good to know of Papandreou the younger. The name sounds so familiar- wikipedia had a good article on him.

    Okay so the politics will come from the bottom up, from awareness and catastrophe and probably too late. So now what?

    Three things to thank you for Chris- the report from Greece, inspiration to finally read that Friedman article I had been saving, and dusting off my Henry Miller ( oh how I loved to read him years ago.)

    However I don’t get why put down of the Friedman article (“The Greening of Geopolitics”). It was on the whole good. We need all the help we can get as far as basic awareness of the urgency of our looming catastrophe; that starts with awareness that will lead to commitment and movement especially here. Why drag in Friedman’s position on Iraq and the dissembling over it?

    The article was a good overview of the situation and some respected thinking on it. Friedman partly talks about dealing with the Middle East by using less oil, but the rest went on about saving the planet from catastrophic climate change, what could be done. He points out-critical-that the US has a major role to play and is not now playing it. If the general public would reads this, it’s part of a much needed awareness campaign. No, I agree we didn’t need the military analogy at the end of the article, and we really have to change our lives more drastically and faster than he says- but let’s get rolling. I’m no Kermal Davis but I also noted on one of these climate threads that saving the planet will have to bring us all together: a fantastic opportunity. It’s obvious, no great insight. So I don’t understand why we have to knock Friedman ( Hurley calls him “egregious” and applauds – send him the article)- even if Friedman was dead wrong about Iraq and borders on obnoxious at times. For God’s sake, for the sake of coming together, let him out of his hole.

    Thank you again Chris for the Henry Miller, for the report from Pavos, And to Bicyclemark thanks. I feel like mourning.

  • Samgr

    Hey Chris, your summer camp experience sounds cooler than mine ever were. Glad to hear you are in Paros, though! I went there when I was writing for Let’s Go travel guides. Check out the church of a hundred doors (if you haven’t already), it’s really neat! Do you have the opportunity to go to to nearby islands? Naxos is amazing as well.

  • bicyclemark – except that the condos down the block from me are not empty what you describe sounds just like the good ol’ USA to me.

  • and except we don’t have the excuse of having lived poor under a dictator for a long time.

  • hurley

    Potter says:

    ( Hurley calls him “egregious” and applauds – send him the article)- even if Friedman was dead wrong about Iraq and borders on obnoxious at times. For God’s sake, for the sake of coming together, let him out of his hole.

    The sound of no hands clapping: where is the applause? Friedman a menace. The only hand he’ll get from me, virtually anyway, is a polite but firm direction to the door. Look back on his career and what has he done, what (app)laudable issue has he advanced? War in Iraq? A Candide-like version of globalism? I could go on, but answer you only because of my surprise. All best.

  • Potter

    Hurley- Well at least I agree with you about herbertbrowne. I was amazed at his posts on the foodstamp thread… should have told him so.

    To your question re TF ( delivery aside)- many years of great insight regarding the Middle East, in particular, vis a vis Israel and the Palestinians. I agree of late regarding Iraq he lost it especially his refusal to admit wrong. I had stopped reading those columns. But even in this article which Chris criticizes, which I just read- he has good points to make about our enabling “petroauthoritarians”. Should you read it I would be interested in some decent criticism.

    I know it’s fashionable to keep him in the doghouse in certain circles. I am more interested in what he is saying. How, where is he off here? Why drag in Iraq? Is this about the person or what he is saying? Do go on….I mean the title of the thread enables… perhaps I am the one who needs further education.

  • Potter, I started reading TF’s article, now will have to find it again. I think you do have a point, we need everyone on board if we are going to preserve complex life on the planet even if they are an arrogant macho jerk. Which is how Friedman strikes me. Yes, I agree with him, we do need a Green president! (That is why I voted for Nader in 2000 – not to reopen that can of worms).

    Does America really have to compete to be #1? Couldn’t we show some humility by actually joining the community of nations and cooperating to save the planet? Isn’t American hubris and arrogance part of the problem? As for tree-huggers being sissies, the FBI has called American tree-huggers the nations #1 domestic “terrorist” threat. How can we be both sissies AND terrorists? And as Chris points out there are plenty of women out there who have been doing the real legwork for green issues for a very long time. Too bad that it takes a macho blow-hard to get Green issues into the NYT magazine section.

  • Potter

    I listened to a Charlie Rose interview w Friedman last night on his flatland theory. I find Charlie Rose obnoxious at times. I am separating those reactions from the subject. So there I had a very interesting discussion with two people who can turn me off (Friedman was very heated) because of a manner of delivery- but the discussion was very interesing- compelling. Friedman may not be so original either- but he puts it together and serves it in a dish. He may have some insight as well. He does the legwork. He’s easier to take on the page. “Macho jerk” is way too strong for my taste though. O’Reilly is a macho jerk. Friedman is just too much in love with himself.

    I also agree that we need to act with humility and in cooperation. In the recent green article is that everyone is looking at us to lead the way and that we should lead the way for two reasons. He also says we do not have the leadership and will have to wait for the next pressident- though we do not hear anything like what we need to hear from any of the candidates.

    I will send you the article- I have your email- if you like. I would send it to Hurley as well. I am not saying that this is holy grail- but he is helping to call attention to the importance of this,summarizing others ideas- and that it’s not a crazy tree hugger thing.

    The way we are set up- competition, capitlaism is the engine. But we desperately need the politics to guide it: laws, regulations etc. If they are going to call it “the war against global warming” I am not going to stand here drowning complaining about the slogan. Definitely it’s about cooperation on the political level.

    Friedman was absolutely wrong about bringing democracy to the Middle East through the barrel of a gun, esp our gun- if that is what he advocated or supported, he did not buy the wmd argument. I think he got carried away by a dream that ended happily every after, in love with his own solution/s to problem/s. Too often he had THE answer…if only.

    From the Friedman article “The Power of Green” 4-15-07 NYTimes:

    (After the article appeared we heard that China is now number one emitter of CO2.)

    But if China is having a hard time cleaning up its nitrogen and sulfur oxides — which can be done relatively cheaply by adding scrubbers to the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants — imagine what will happen when it comes to asking China to curb its CO2, of which China is now the world’s second-largest emitter, after America. To build a coal-fired power plant that captures, separates and safely sequesters the CO2 into the ground before it goes up the smokestack requires either an expensive retrofit or a whole new system. That new system would cost about 40 percent more to build and operate — and would produce 20 percent less electricity, according to a recent M.I.T. study, “The Future of Coal.”

    China — which is constructing the equivalent of two 500-megawatt coal-fired power plants every week — is not going to pay that now. Remember: CO2 is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas. Yes, it causes global warming — but it doesn’t hurt anyone in China today, and getting rid of it is costly and has no economic payoff. China’s strategy right now is to say that CO2 is the West’s problem. “It must be pointed out that climate change has been caused by the long-term historic emissions of developed countries and their high per-capita emissions,” Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, declared in February. “Developed countries bear an unshirkable responsibility.”

    So now we come to the nub of the issue: Green will not go down Main Street America unless it also goes down Main Street China, India and Brazil. And for green to go Main Street in these big developing countries, the prices of clean power alternatives — wind, biofuels, nuclear, solar or coal sequestration — have to fall to the “China price.” The China price is basically the price China pays for coal-fired electricity today because China is not prepared to pay a premium now, and sacrifice growth and stability, just to get rid of the CO2 that comes from burning coal.

    “The ‘China price’ is the fundamental benchmark that everyone is looking to satisfy,” said Curtis Carlson, C.E.O. of SRI International, which is developing alternative energy technologies. “Because if the Chinese have to pay 10 percent more for energy, when they have tens of millions of people living under $1,000 a year, it is not going to happen.” Carlson went on to say: “We have an enormous amount of new innovation we must put in place before we can get to a price that China and India will be able to pay. But this is also an opportunity.”

  • Potter

    Sorry about my typos—

  • hurley

    Potter, You twice mention “delivery.” Sorry if mine grates, but my rough edges the least of my failings. Many thanks for the offer of TF’s article, but I much prefer to read him filtered through you. You manage to distill the small sense he implies and add to it an almost redeeming portion of your own. I can’t improve on Chris’s verdict, but I will add that he’s the worst blot on the NYT’s editorial pages since the late, unlamented Abe Rosenthal. He’s a bad writer and a pernicious and profligate tribune of sound-bites masquerading as ideas. “The world is flat”… He has blood on his hands, and a paper trail of scarcely credible stupidity and quasi-intellectual opportunism. His transformation from laptop bombardier to environmental shill too little too late, at least for me. Speaking of which, what do you imagine his “carbon footprint” might be as he racks up the miles in pursuit of his banal epiphanies? We’d all be better off if he stayed home. I agree with you that we need all the help we can get, but when TF arrives at this late date, trying to salvage his pundit’s bona fides by telling us that water wets and fire burns, I turn to wiser heads, like yours and others here.

  • Potter: There’s neither profit nor joy in flogging Tom “the next six months are crucial” Friedman. But read that magazine article — his full bag of lines and attitudes — again. And again. He reminds me of what Rick Hertzberg once said of David Horowitz: “He moved from the far left [in the 60s] to the far right [in the 80s and since] without ever passing through doubt.” Tom Friedman moved from flag waving for the Rumsfeld brigades and Tony Blair to flag waving for the Green Revolution without ever passing through humility; without ever putting his flag pole down; without ever surrendering his faux-innocent American exceptionalism and corporate cheer; without ever saying: Dear readers, dear God: I’m sorry. Tom Friedman is a nice man who embodies, alas, the contradictory embarrassment of big-foot media: he wouldn’t have settled into his smug Times line if he were writing on his own; and if he wrote those Times columns as private letters, or a blog, nobody but nobody would credit them.

  • Dear Jack:

    You’ll just have to believe me that while we posted on the subject of Tom Friedman just five minutes apart — you in the shadow of the Vatican, me in the shadow of the Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — I had not seen a word of yours when I wrote. But I guess that Somebody Up There wants to say we’re right, right?

    Yours — and Potter’s too — Chris

  • Potter

    Thanks Hurley and Chris- I know when I am beat. Sort of…. especially in the shadow of those holy shrines.

    I don’t get that he’s far right. For instance he does not want to dismantle the New Deal- quite the contrary.

    “Economics is not war, it’s about expanding the pie”- Friedman to Rose (on the world being flat). Maybe not original.

    I think it’s evangelism. We need green evangelism right now. His lack of humility is his problem. I agree Bush and Rumsfeld’s lack of humity are ours.

  • hurley

    Chris, Synchonicity not what it used to be, but it still kicks in now and then. Wonderful when it does.

    Potter, Lurking in my mini-polemic about Friedman was an unspoken paen to you. A pity he has the op-ed slot and you don’t, but then what’s an internet for?

  • Potter

    I got it Hurley- and lurking in my post of course is reciprocation-

    I wish that you were not so turned off that you could discuss on merits.

    I’m trying not to take offense at Chris’s use of holy shrines to give weight and credence to the flogging party. In spite of the lack of joy or profit it continued even in the same sentence. And I am trying not to feel flogged myself for not joining. I don’t want to defend Friedman for not apologizing, nor do I want to flog him or talk about his flying habits or how many sq feet his house contains for that matter.

    Why read him then Chris? What is the meaning of “I am not Tom Friedman”?

    Sorry to go on……….. I have praised Chris so much……….

    Regarding synchronicity- it’s amazing when it happens…. maybe it’s love.

    Thank you Hurley.

  • hurley

    Potter, You’ve me dead to rights about my reluctance to “discuss on merits,” I would if I saw any, but I don’t. My failure in part, no doubt. I imagine what Chris was urging you to attend to in re-reading TF’s piece was the esprit de l’escalier opportunism, the slovenly prose, the bad faith, the provincial corporate boosterism presenting itself as worldly commonsense refracted through his own visionary sensibility, etc. Not to put too fine a point on it. Amitie.

  • Potter, you say, “I am not saying that this is holy grail- but he is helping to call attention to the importance of this,summarizing others ideas- and that it’s not a crazy tree hugger thing.

    I beg your pardon? It might do Mr Friedman some good to hug a tree. When you flog tree huggers. You flog me.

    I’ll say it loud! I hug trees and I’m proud!

    Talk about holy shrines. Trees are holiest of holies for us Druidic nature lovers.

  • Emerson was a tree hugger

  • Potter

    Hurley you are asking me to read with your or Chris’s sensitivities to what offends. I am not mining for that. Bad faith? Provincial corporate boosterism? You did not read the article! You ask me to re-read what you have not read while I am asking why Chris read him in the first place if he felt that way.

    I keep thinking of this from Harold Bloom on Emerson via my own post in the “Self Reliance” thread:

    that which you can get from another is never instruction, but always provocation.

    But what is provocation, in the life of the spirit? Emerson insisted that he called you forth only to your self, and not to any cause whatsoever…..

    Well- to go on, I am reading an interesting and ( yes) respectful exchange, a transcript, in the NYTimes from last year, a debate between Joseph Stiglitz and Tom Friedman. (I think Chris meant Joseph, linked Joseph, not George, at this Paros conference.) Stiglitz is good. I want to kiss him. Monitored by Ted Koppel with audience questions, it’s a real exchange though Friedman goes on too much about his book but it’s about his “the world is flattening”. This is exactly what I mean for discussion on the merits. And guess what- they don’t disagree completely- Stiglitz makes great points.

    It’s not about personality but ideas–how they are right or wrong or need qualifications or modifications or need to be trashed altogether.

    Thanks again Hurley……and for putting up with my own slovenly prose.

  • The archdruid himself on holy shrines…

    A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring

    storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious

    enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees

    are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is

    throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings,

    while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No

    wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples, and the more

    they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the

    farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.

    – John Muir

  • Potter

    Peggy Sue- I have a picture of myself years ago hugging a great sequoia in the Sequoia National Park. They are holy shrines. You have to watch out you don’t get an ant in your ear though. Glad to change the subject….

  • Potter

    John Muir! Thanks for that. There is ( or was) a museum dedicated to him in the park.

  • Potter,

    And watch out for the sap…. (no, not that guy reading Tom Friedman) but the gooey stuff on trees. Its deadly easpcially in fleece.

    Reading further I will conceed that TF may have a few good points. Where I fundamentaly disagree with him, beyond his annoying “muscular” verbage, is with his notion of heroic capitalism. Green needs to be more than a new ad campaign. Capitalism has been ripping off and killing nature (not to mention the working class) for so long I don’t see how it can possibly redeem itself and/or save the planet. Keeping capitalism in check is what seems critical to me. A capitalist in a green T-shirt may look more appealing but Friedman’s pro-capitalist argument just doesn’t seem to have any credible depth.

  • Potter

    Peggy Sure- I agree- reading further Friedman does not advocate gallooping captialism:

    Friedman from his debate with Steiglitz:

    pure let ‘er rip free market system is not politically sustainable. And a pure socialist, you know, planned economy is not going to produce the income that you need to nurture an advancing society. So it’s got to be some combination of the two.

    Where I would draw the line would be slightly more to the free market side than you find in Europe. But the idea that you have to have some combination of social safety nets and markets to me is indisputable.

    I totally agree- greenism is not an ad campaign- it’s a survival issue. If we implode a bit- I mean get less prosperous, less consumerous ( not a word) – it would be fun. The earth may forgive us.

  • Potter

    Funny- I wrote Peggy “Sure_- oops that was on one glass of wine my dear… but Peggy Sure is okay no?

  • Hey Potter, I think what Hurley and Chris are trying to express is an unwillingness to hitch any wagons to the TF horse because you can’t trust that he stays on the path he proclaims to take you down. It’s one thing to express a profound realization that has altered your view on something. It’s quite another to leave those wagons on the war path and airlift your horses to the front a new path being blazed. He’s a turncoat.

    It’s about integrity. You don’t want to give someone any leadership role when he’s already displayed a lack of integrity. Certainly, there are more worthy leaders to buoy. And if he were buoying those leaders, expounding on their merits and turning our attentions to them, that would be great. But he’s looking for the accolades himself.

    I totally understand your desire to have his prominent voice used for the good. I distrust him, though. And I don’t trust how he would carve the path if allowed to be the path maker. If he hasn’t been able to be humble yet, it’s not likely to happen now. And like the ring in the Tolkien Trilogy, you can’t expect to harness a dark power for good. It simply corrupts the process.

  • kaspergo

    I don`t understand Potter :/

  • Potter

    Thanks Allison- I feel really buried here. I am getting to be the issue, and I don’t want that.

    I have no reason to defend Friedman. I was just turned off by the dissing of an article that had merit to it because of the case against he who wrote it. Hurley did not want to read it. So it was not about the article- but about the person who wrote it as you say. Maybe it’s not possible for some to read TF anymore without dragging in all the rest and it’s become more viceral. Friedman’s stance on the war … hanging on to the hope with stubbornness that this disaster might work out somehow, might work to fit his idea at all costs showed no lack of integrity. He may be stubborn, naïve, dead wrong. He still hangs on to his core idea that democracy in the Middle East is what is needed. If that is what he feels he cannot say otherwise. That is not lack of integrity. That’s hanging onto a idea past reality.

    I have not read Friedman in awhile because of my own anger about the war and his stubbornness, reluctance to say it was an unmitigated disaster. I held this green article until Chris’s post prompted me to have a look-see. And certainly you are right there are more worthy “leaders” but he is not a leader. We elevate his importance to the issue and it’s urgency here. He just has a column in the NYTimes for goodness sake and writes popular books that attempt to sort out this complicated world- not scripture, not infallible.

    It occurred to me while suffering through a Charlie Rose interview with him ( I too am put off by his cocksure, even child-like manner) and the transcript of a debate between him and Joseph Stiglitz on the flattening world, that he too had been flattened by the very forces he described. There was a day when he reigned supreme as the NYTimes foreign correspondent. No longer. And that is due to the internet I think. We have so much analysis and criticism that is available to the general thinking and surfing public. Friedman is no longer the prominent voice he was.

    Why called attention to the article at all just to diss it – from last April yet? Was the part/s that were off so bad that it negated all the rest? Was it harmful? I finally read it and, missing the points as major that Chris focussed on, decided that it was a good summary- overview of the problem, the urgency and what could be done. He does not say how drastically our lives have to change and perhaps, though he does not really say, he means for us to keep our lifestyles including cars- but regardlelss we need to get things rolling and awareness is critical. It’s is so critical that I really don’t care if we begin thinking we do not have to change drastically and then learn or segue into the hard stuff . There is a lot of meat in the article for the general public and here we are arguing about the messenger.

  • Potter

    Hi kaspergo welcome-sometimes I don’t understand Potter either 🙂

  • hurley

    Allison puts it better than I could. By the way, Potter, you several times make the point, intended at my expense, that I haven’t read TF’s article, never mind that I conceded the point from the get-go. I won’t read the article because I’ve suffered enough of TF in the past, and experience leads me to believe that wading through an epic “think piece” by someone who after all these years has yet to capture my imagination would be a waste of time — my time, maybe not yours. I suspect he is, as Chris says, a kind man, and smart and accomplished in his way, but from my point of view he’s nearly always wrong, with consequences I needn’t mention. Another thing: you object to “our” dissing TF, as though a discussion on something as important as war, global warming, etc, should be conducted in the manner of “by your leave.” Why should TF, who, among his other achievments,was instrumental in sending thousands to their death in Iraq, be immune from criticism? Why, as the world burns and countless people die unneccesarily, must we tolerate failure on such a colossal scale? For most of us, the consequence of being serially wrong is unemployment, or worse. Not so for TF. Have to leave it there for now.

  • hurley

    I’m going to bow out of this discussion soon, having said too much already, but wanted to mention a few things before I do. One among the many reasons that I distrust TF’s environmental pronunciamentos is that he clearly has no feeliing for nature. Nowhere in his vast logorheic corpus — what I’ve read of it, anyway — does he evince any feeling for the topic he now claims to advance. Think about it. Do you trust a critic who doesn’t love his subject? I don’t. An interesting contrast would be Alexander Cockburn, a remarkable writer — and global warming sceptic — with whom I often disagree but always attend to because of the beauty of his prose and the quality of his attention. He’s been writing about the environment for at least 25 years now, and not just polemically. Some of his nature writing, such as it is, smuggled into other ventures, is unmatched. I think in particular of a description, in The Golden Age Is In Us, of hammerhead sharks attacking a school of bonefish off the Florida Keys. I’ve seen something similar, but the primeval significance of it was lost to me until I’d re-experienced it through his eyes and the severe, off-handed artistry of his style. He’s looking at nature, and treating it with care, so I’ll listen. On the other hand, I challenge anyone, though I hope you don’t, to wander through the wastes of TF’s cuttings and come up with anything about nature you might want to carry home, through the burning wastes, the deadly floodplains, etc.

  • Potter

    Hurley I think we should criticize TF severely for Iraq. I was speaking about dissing this article, sorry for not making that clear. And surprised to hear about Alexander Cockburn’s nature writings and would look into to that. I’ve been getting “The Nation” for years and have read a few of his political pieces and he has turned me off more than once such that I avoid him though recently I did read something I admired of his. See- I gave him another chance!

    Oy- regarding TF not loving nature-what can I say? I don’t know, not so clear to me. I never thought while reading this article- “this guy does not love nature” He’s more into economics and politics, I agree, the subject of the article.

    I have said way too much myself.

  • Regarding integrity and clarity of vision as it concerns Iraq and the green movement, I think Al Gore deserves our accolades. Has anyone read Gore’s The Assault On Reason?

    Is there a more compelling, concise, articulate, intelligible essay concerning that which disinfects our body politic than the introduction to his book?

    If so, I would greatly appreciate a pointer to it.

  • Potter

    Hurley- To be honest – I was speaking about trashing TF – I just can’t get into it- Bush, yes. TF was not imo responsible or instrumental, not any more than so many others who we still read and listen to. Sorry for anything I said or say that offends. I must go.

  • hurley

    No offence taken, Potter, except that you should know me better by now. I’m a rough beast slouching in every direction, with a bulletproof hide and an impenetrable void within, so no worries. I take your point, as ever. I suspect we’re aiming at the same thing, along slightly different paths. Hope to meet you and others in the clearing someday.

  • correction to post above:

    Is there a more compelling, concise, articulate, intelligible essay concerning that which infects our body politic than the introduction to his book?

  • Potter, I hear your point on the TF piece. Only you can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim that he isn’t a leader, but then seek to have his voice on influence joining the call for eco-sustainability. He may not be in the White House, but by virtue of being printed in the NYT, he gets a lot of credence and a lot of eyes and plays a cultural leadership role.

    For me, this isn’t just about TF. It’s about who we turn to for leadership and when. Given TF’s track record, I would prefer to ignore him and highlight other voices that I trust more. Plus, I don’t trust that his way to eco-sustainability is a good way. It sounds more like he’s using his same old beliefs and tapping into the currently popular thread of global warming to pull more wool over our eyes. I wish the media would stop giving him a platform and make him irrelevant. I’d like to hear from Paul Hawken and others who have been working toward deep eco change for a while now. What can they tell us? What have they seen work and not work? And why?

    As for why Chris brought up TF just to negate him, I can’t say. But part of the post title is “I’m Not Tom Friedman” Perhaps, it was really about Chris having a moment of further defining himself by realizing with whom he is not aligned.

  • whoops, “…voice OF influence….”

  • allison, have you read Paul Hawken’s Blessed Unrest? Anyone? I recently picked up a copy but have yet to get into it.

    Hawken recently appeared on DemocrayNow!


  • Excerpt from Paul Hawken’s and Amy Goodman’s conversation of DemocracyNow!

    AMY GOODMAN: “The earth is not dying, it is being killed. And the people who are killing it have names and addresses.” The music and words of Utah Phillips. That’s one of the quotes environmentalist Paul Hawken uses in his new book, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. Paul Hawken is a bestselling author, one of the leading architects and proponents of corporate environmental reform, joining me now in the firehouse studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!

    PAUL HAWKEN: Thank you, Amy.

    AMY GOODMAN: That quote from Utah Phillips heads up a chapter called “We Interrupt this Program,” which I think is very much what Blessed Unrest is about.

    PAUL HAWKEN: It actually starts a chapter called “We Interrupt this Empire.”

    AMY GOODMAN: Rather, “We Interrupt this Empire.”

    PAUL HAWKEN: Which is what the empire would like to do to your program, actually. And it’s really about the rights of business or how business, basically, rights are unquestioned and continue to be sort of dominant in this world. The whole book really is about a rise of a movement that is a shift between a world created by and for privilege to a world created by community, and it details the rise of over one million organizations in the world who address civil liberties, social justice and the environment. And even though they’re atomized and there’s many of them and they don’t seem connected, due to modern technology — cell, texting, internet — they’re starting to intertwine, morph and come together in ways that is making it much more powerful than it has been before.

    AMY GOODMAN: Why do you call it Blessed Unrest?

  • Potter

    Allison- no he is not a leader- and he is admittedly shamelessly claiming the territory when he has been flattened considerably. But for those who still read him and magazine cover stories in the NYT, he gave a lot of meat even with all the “I”‘s and slogans ( I did read it twice folks when I could have been reading my copy of Assault on Reason). I was also reading Glen Greenwald’s excellent post- “The Tom Friedman Disease” ( I have Libra rising). That was good criticism. I should link it.

    The reason I wanted to kiss Joseph Stiglitz in his responses to Friedman ( Koppel interview posted on NYTimes site) was that he too was able to say “I agree with that but you are missing this”. This gives me something. Trashing gives me nothing and does nothing for me. (I hope you don’t think I trashed Ralph Nader. And I certainly would not blame Ralph Nader for Iraq- though some have.)

    No I don’t think Friedman is a leader. He is a voice and he is out there. My strongest criticism of his NYTimes piece is that he does not go far enough. My next strongest criticism is that we need humility and cooperation, not to show we are great when we are not. He says we need to lead, if we want to lead, by example. No brilliant insight but not wrong imo. But we do have to change our lifestyles – we can’t save the planet and keep our standard of living. That is misleading- but hey let’s get going. How we get there to me seems daunting. The real crime is that we have no leaders on climate change with enough power to do what needs to be done politically. Awareness, I concluded after my own reading, was key. That those who read the NYTimes and read Friedman get messages on energy conservation and climate change is very important. I would let him out of his hole ( with chains on parole if you wish) for that.

  • Potter

    I forgot to send kisses to Hurley 🙂 I am coming to Rome for some pasta.

  • thank you flow

    I love Utah Phillips – I always thought that was a Judi Bari quote, she must have got it from him.

    Global capitalism, epitomized by the WTO, is corporate lawlessness run amuck – no accoutability to the environmental laws and regulations (not to mention civil rights) of any nation. This is a big part of the problem, not the solution.

  • Hey flow,

    Thanks for the link. Could to hear that Hawken is still out there speaking.

  • Potter, I think we have different definitions of the word leader. Beyond that, i think we’re just talking in circles now. So, I’m ready to move on.

    What was it Chris wanted to engage in this thread?…..

  • Concerning leadership and the resolution to our climate predicament.

    This is a frightfully intriguing circumstance because it is permeated with the most intense irony and paralyzing paradox.

    It is a problem that plagues us globally (collectively), yet it’s resolution can only be effected personally (individually).

    May I offer a proposition for consideration: no one will lead us out of global warming. At essence, it is not a question of policy or diplomacy or security, it is a question rooted in paradigm. The symptoms that characterize global warming are the consequence of actions. Actions are inspired by motivation. Motivation is determined by paradigm (the way you see the world, more specifically the way you imagine the world). Only inspired imagination will light “the way out of” our current predicament.

    Who was it that said, “I have met the enemy and he is us”?

    Who was it that said, “we are entering a period of consequence”?

    Who was it that said, “be the change you wish to see in the world”?

    Who was it that said, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself?”

    What we are experiencing is crisis of values stemming from and rooted in a misfiring of imagination. Will we allow fear to cripple reason and pitch us into the fires of hell? Or will we accept personal responsibility and respond accordingly? Those of us that would look to “leadership” or “politics” to “solve” the “problem” are suffering an acute form of cogitative dissonance. Politics and culture are abstractions, abstractions do not melt ice caps or fire up automobiles or eat apples from Chile or shop for bargains Wal-Mart.

    As long as we insist on the primacy of the individual and competition and fail to see the manifest reality of our co-dependence and the necessity of cooperation, we seal our fate.

  • a correction with apology:

    …suffering an acute form of cognitive dissonance…

  • tomr

    def. Car: personal carbon emitter

  • flow, “Politics and culture are abstractions” hmmmm, I respectfully disagree. Ideas about politics & culture may get pretty abstract but day to day culture and politics seem pretty real to me, it is how we human beings interact. As an artist I think of my work as direct participation in culture. When I go to Town Hall and take notes I directly participate in politics. I think we need individuals to participate more in real “boots on the ground” culture and politics. (Oh dear, another military metaphor). IMO we need to act both individually AND collectively through culture and politics to turn around from our current destructive course. Individual actions are important but so is leadership. For example I think due to the leadership/education of someone like Al Gore many individuals may change their personal behavior, make that paradigm shift. It won’t happen in a vacuum. I individually can modify my own behavior but I alone cannot stop a huge corporation from making giant footsteps toward destruction. That is what we need laws for.

  • peggysue,

    First, let me say thanks for sharing and I appreciate your perspective.

    I have a few questions. Please name one “act” that we can take “collectively” to effect global warming?

    With regard to the “giant footsteps” of “huge corporation”, what size shoes do giant corporation wear? Exxon Mobil for instance ought to be able to afford some pretty snappy shoes with all those bucks it’s racking in, right?

    You imagine your art work as “direct participation in culture” or going to the town hall and taking notes as “directly participating in politics”, (assuming you’re a painter) is the act of painting something secondary to cultural participation? and what becomes of the dialogue in the town hall?

    I do not intended to deny the validity of culture and politics, both are purposeful and instructive conceptions. However, when we allow the abstract to “seem pretty real” we enter a sort of Alice in Wonderland existence. In the USA we have entered into a sort of malaise where we feel disempowered at the individual level precisely because we are conditioned to expect the needed change to occur somewhere else. This provides us with a sort psychological sanctuary that allows us to rationalize our individual behavior. We get into a conversation with a neighbor at the gas pump about those dirty politicians who are letting corporations ruin everything.

    You say “I alone cannot stop a huge corporation” and I say imagination is the powerful force in existence. There is not a single corporation in “existence” that was not imagined into being a single individual or small group of individuals. Every corporation you can name is run by about 12 (or fewer) PEOPLE. And finally, corporations are a “legal entity” endowed with certain rights, they are primarily an accounting entity. They thrive on currency. The currency derived from transactions. That is to say they are transactional entities. Consider the word

    “transaction”, between actions, ultimately the acts of individuals.

    If we wish to “turn around from our current destructive course” there is only one “law” we need consider. The law of thermonuclear dynamics. If we, the human species, wish to survive, we need to reduce entropy. It is really just that simple. Isn’t it?

    What we are experiencing is a crisis of values. Our socio-economic institutions and the our current geo-political quagmire are all manifestations of our values. The climatic conditions we are presented with are the consequence of actions. Actions are the product of motivation. Motivation is function of paradigm. Values are the substance of paradigm. Values are informed by imagination. Who was it that said the fires of hell are the wages of sin? What is the third noble truth in Buddhism?

    Let us make this our creed: Reduce entropy! or how about this: “be the change you wish to see in the world”

  • flow, What I was trying to do by mentioning my personal participation in culture & politics is demonstrate their reality as opposed to abstractness. When I show my paintings or put together an art show in the Whale Museum where I work (which may be a better example than my own painting which is abstract but still “real” in the way I’m speaking) hopefully this is a real way to raise the consciousness of human beings in my culture with regard to the needs of other species most especially whales. When I particiate in meetings at Town Hall in my town I am instrumental in enforcing a Town code that has a direct and very real effect on what is built in my town. These are small but very real ways I participate in culture and politics. What I’m saying is participation in politics and culture is an important tool for change. I’m not at all denying the importance of imagination. Imagination is critical but we have to act on our imagination in real ways. Yes, we need to consider the law of thermodynamics and then with our understanding of that law we may need to pass a law to restrict Exxon Mobile from generating pollution that will raise our global temperature.

    Martin Luther King in a talk about loving your enemies talked about turning the other cheek but also added as an aside that he was still glad there were laws against murder because he didn’t want to be lynched. He was a spiritual leader but also a political leader. He got the Civil Rights Act passed. In doing that he brought an abstract idea to fruition in the real world through action. Ideally he wanted to get rid of racism. In the meantime he wanted laws that would allow black people to vote. The Dalai Lama is also a spiritual AND a political leader. The 3rd Noble Truth in Buddhism is that there is a way to stop suffering. The 4th noble truth is that the 8fold path is the way. The 4th step on the 8fold path is right ACTION. That is not a negation of steps 1 & 2 which are right understanding and right thought but it is equally important on the path to nirvana.

  • well done peggysue and well said.

    kudos to you, may peace be upon you.

    may the fruits of the 8 fold path nourish and keep you.

    and now a prayer for us all.

    dear Sophia,

    bride of the Almighty and mother of the living Christ our redeemer,

    light our way, enlighten us,

    lead out of this darkness,

    free us from our bondage,

    that we may return to dwell again in your kingdom one day.

  • oops, did I say kingdom? I meant garden.

  • Dear Sophia

    Bride of the Almighty,

    Mother of the living Christ our redeemer,

    Light our way,

    Enlighten us,

    Deliver us from ignorance,

    Free us from bondage,

    Guide us to your garden of earthly delights.

    There that’s better.

  • Thank you flow,

    May the Mother Earth Goddess, Gaia, be as merciful and forgiving as she is generous.