Hot, Flat and Crowded Question Set #1 Key: Chapter 4, p. 64-84.


1.  Look at the first paragraph on p. 8 to learn what Friedman means by “hot, flat and crowded”.  He frequently uses those terms so you must understand what they mean to him.

By “hot”, Friedman is referring to global warming. “Flat” means the global increase

of middle class, high consuming population around the world. “Crowded” refers to the increase in Earth’s human population.


2. What are the five problems that “define the Energy-Climate Era”?

1. Growing demand for finite resources, especially energy.

2. Rapid economic rise of “Petrodictators”.

3. Climate change.

4. Energy poverty and the related increasing gap between global “haves and have-nots”.

5. Biodiversity loss.


3. What will Earth’s human population be by 2050 according to the UN? 9.2 billion.  In what parts of the world will this increase occur? In less-developed countries (LDCs) of the world.  The population of more developed countries  (MDCs) will scarcely increase.  The population of the more developed regions will decrease from ~18% to ~13%.


4. Note that since the book’s publication humans have become an urban species as more than one half of us now live in cities.


5. Why is the CIA worried about demographics?

The CIA director stated that most future population growth will occur in unstable LDCs that cannot, will not be able to, provide infrastructure, services and jobs (“basic freedoms and needs”) for these newcomers. Extremist views and violent acts can be more appealing to young people, especially males, in such societies.


6. What were the four “flatteners”? 

1.Personal computers.

2. Internet.

3. “work flow revolution” which made research, development, manufacturing and marketing globally integrated processes, rather than activities that were coordinated and conducted within a single country. 

4. Collapse of communism and the Soviet Union.


7. What were the benefits and detriments of the “flattening”?

As economic activity (production, distribution and consumption) became global, several hundred millions of people were lifted out of poverty and tens of millions joined the “middle class”.  The decrease in the impoverished population certainly is a good thing. It allowed hundreds of millions to more fully develop physically and intellectually. The increase in the middle class is also a good thing for the same reason.  Unfortunately, “middle class’ is based on the expectations of comfort and convenience that we take for granted. The main problem is that “middle class” is based on high consumption of consumer goods (building materials, automobiles, energy, electrical appliances, iPods…). The dramatically higher level of consumption by the new millions of members of the global middle class has increased the demand for finite resources (oil, coal, aluminum…) and increased the emissions of greenhouse gases and production of waste.  Friedman’s point is that Earth can’t afford to have another several hundred millions of people who consume and pollute like citizens of the US.



8. Because it’s been covered in popular media and K-12 education for so long, I’m not going to write questions to accompany Friedman’s description of the history of fossil fuel use and Greenhouse gas emissions.  However, please learn Lefkowitz’s “fuels from Hell” vs. “fuels from Heaven” example.


9. So, we move to p. 74-84.  What does Friedman mean when he says, “The simple answer is that flat met crowded”? His answer is to a question that might be stated, “How did get into this new Energy-Climate Era. To answer the question, Friedman effectively uses a dinner table as a metaphor for “flat” meeting “crowded”.  It’s effective because both the dinner table and the middle class lifestyle are based on one activity, consumption.  At a dinner table we consume energy in the form of food.  Members of the middle class pursue a lifestyle based on high levels of the consumption of material goods (energy, cars, clothes, food,…).  According to Friedman before 2000, a small portion of humanity (primarily from Europe, Australia, Japan, Canada and the US) got to sit at the middle class lifestyle dinner table.   Since then, tens of millions of diners have joined us as economic growth in LDCs has enlarged the middle class.  The increase in the numbers of high consumers had increased the demands on finite resources on which the middle class lifestyle depends.



10. How did 2004 signal that we were in a “new era” of global energy supply and demand?

Prior to 2004, “shock absorbers” prevented the gradual annual increase (1
% per year) in demand for crude oil to greatly affect supply and prices for crude oil.   In 2004 all three of the shock absorbers failed when global demand for oil grew by an amount that was twice as large as was predicted.  Much of this increase in demand came from China because of its rapid economic growth, growth that requires energy.  Only the economic collapse which began in 2008 reduced global energy demands so that oil prices did not skyrocket because of insufficient supply. 


Friedman also points out that supplies of oil were insufficient in 2004 because some oil-producing countries such as Russia excluded efficient oil companies from their reserves so that less efficient national firms could profit.  Hence, by making their petroleum industries more national and less global, countries like Russia and Venezuela reduced oil production and supply.  The US and other MDCs also reduced supply by restricting exploration and production in favor of conservation.


Economic growth (“flattening”) in LDCs and, especially, China and India has increased demand for many other finite materials such as bauxite, nickel…  and the experts who mine, process and transport them , and the machinery necessary for mining, processing and transporting.


11. What factors have led to the “massive transfer of wealth”?  From where has the wealth been transferred? To where? So, what?

Friedman’s talking about the transfer of wealth from high energy-consuming MDCs to energy-producing LDCs.  Consumers in the US and Europe send billions of dollars to Russia, the Middle East, Venezuela, Central Asia and Nigeria to buy petroleum.  So what? Well, unfortunately, in many of those countries much of that money has been used to entrench a corrupt elite of “Petrodictators” in power rather than to educate and develop the general population of those countries.   Friedman also points out that in the Middle East some of the profits earned from Western purchases of petroleum have been devoted to the support of extremist Muslims who view the West and the US as enemies.


That’s not a happy thought to ponder when I pump gas into my pick-up.


12. How have flattening and warming made electricity more important?

Well, firstly, flattening involves the increase in consumption that increases the demand for electricity to run the TVs, PCs, charge the cell phones and iPods…  Flattening also involves maintaining the global connections in cyberspace or over landlines.  For example, for a call center in Mumbai to be able to respond to callers or emails from the US, they must have a steady supply of electricity during working hours.  If not, the global company will move the call center elsewhere.


For a poor country experiencing unexpected extreme weather events predicted by climate change models, a lack of electricity and other energy sources will make warning systems and recovery from damages incurred more difficult. These difficulties will be exacerbated by larger populations living in marginal environments. 


The increase of population in LDCs unfortunately, makes more people vulnerable to environmental hazards.  Think about the massive Indonesian earthquake from several years ago.  It created a tsunami that killed large numbers of people in coastal South Asia. The number of mortalities would not have been so high had population growth of the past few decades not been so high.  And, the lack of an effective warning system in the region further increased the death toll.  


Haiti is another example.  Rapid population growth in a country that cannot meet the “basic freedoms and needs” of its people, combined with a massive earthquake, created massive mortality.  The country’s long history of instability worsened the damages and number of deaths because it never enforced earthquake-resistant building codes.  It did not have effective emergency and recovery plans.  Neither did it have a reserve of fuel that could be drawn on in times of emergency to produce electricity.