Hot, Flat and Crowded Question Set #2: Chapter 5, p. 85-109.

 

1. What does Friedman mean when he makes the following claims, “Doha and Dalian show what happens when flat meets crowded”?  And, “Remember: the metric to watch is not the total number of people on the planet—it’s the total number of ‘Americans’ on the planet”?

 

Recall from the first question set, “Flat” means the global increase of middle class, high consuming population around the world. “Crowded” refers to the increase in Earth’s human population. Friedman has witnessed rapid growth, population and economic, in these two cities in the recent past.  In Doha and Dalian the population of humans who can consume energy and emit carbon dioxide at US rates has grown rapidly.  That worries Friedman because he does not believe Earth can support 2-3 billion people living the “American lifestyle”. 

 

 

2. What is one “Americum”?  350 million people who live the American lifestyle and suffer from affluenza. How many exist on Earth currently? Between 4 and 5. How many are projected to be on Earth in 2030? 8 or 9. So what? The growth of “Americums” is another way to conceptualize Friedman’s “flat” metaphor.  The global growth of high consuming middle class populations will have dramatic consequences on resource use and pollution production.  The first two Americums, the US and Europe, grew on what Friedman calls the “cheap fossil-fuel model”.  That model will not be sustainable for the next 4 or 5 Americums.

 

 

 

3. Pages 89-92 demonstrate why France cannot afford a 35-hour work week and how China has become the main player in what Friedman calls “consumption volcano”. 

 

 

4. How were communism and socialism effective at limiting the growth of Americums?

Friedman demonstrates how communism in the former Soviet Union and China and socialism in India caused economic growth to be extremely slow. The planned economies offered people only limited consumer goods and barely enough wealth to purchase the meager supply.  Since the collapse of communism and the end of India’s experiment with socialism, rapid economic growth has occurred and, with that, peoples’ aspirations and abilities to consume and pollute resources at much higher levels.

 

5. Note how China’s demand for iron in 2004 resulted in “the Great Drain Robbery”.  Poor economies don’t exert much of a global demand for resources like scrap metal or metallic ores.  Economies in which are growing rapidly and steadily creating Americums exert profound influence on global resources.

 

6. Be sure that you understand Diamond’s “relative per capita consumption rate”. 

What happens to world consumption rates when a person emigrates from a country with a low relative per capita consumption rate to the “First World”?  Why?  World consumption rates will increase because that person’s “relative per capita consumption rate” will eventually increase to First World levels.  Tens of millions of people are trying to make this move.  Who can blame them?

 

 

How does our “relative per capita consumption rate” compare with China’s?

Ours are 11 times higher than China’s.

 

What will happen to demand for resources like oil and metal if China’s “relative per capita consumption rate” reaches the same level as ours? Demand for oil and metals will roughly double.  Think about how that will influence prices.

 

7. How might recent rapid increases in rates of per capita consumption rate in OPEC countries influence the global supply of petroleum?

OPEC countries might export less of their petroleum so that they can meet domestic demands. This would cause global supplies to decrease and prices to increase.

 

 

8. Which “commons” fueled previous “economic spurts”?

North Atlantic Cod fueled Northern Europe’s shift to capitalism in the 17th century.

North America’s pine forests were exploited to build the ships.

Grain production in the American Midwest, tea in India, African slaves, partially fueled the Industrial Revolution of 18th and 19th centuries.

The world’s fisheries fueld Japan’s post WWII rebound.

Currently China has expanded its economic interests in almost every corner of the globe to acquire resources necessary to sustain it economic growth and consumption.

 

 

 

9. So, how does Friedman propose that we change the model of economic growth?  What resources will be required?

Friedman focuses on knowledge as the resource that will fuel a new model of economic growth.  He stresses that our knowledge must be focused on “innovation around sustainable energy and resource productivity”.  One example he offers is “cradle to cradle” resource use.  This involves the planning of production for “continuous recovery”, which takes knowledge, in which each material will be able to be completely re-used after the original product is discarded.

 

 

10. Why did Friedman’s visit to the “green” Wal-Mart depress him? It depressed him because that Wal-Mart is 30 miles outside of Dallas.  Those 30 miles are filled with sprawl that is common along US interstates.  He saw the sprawl and the automobile traffic as resource consumption that far outweighs the energy savings of the new Wal-Mart.

 

11. Pages 105-107 demonstrate how exceedingly consumptive our lifestyle is.  In pages 107-109 Friedman re-states his case that Earth can’t afford many more Americums and then challenges the US to create the model that will lead to a new model of economic growth that does not depend on exploitation of finite natural resources and such high rates of pollution.