American Revolution or a Global Revolution?

Today we continue our series of the winning essays submitted to Dean of Freshmen, Fred Siegel.  These freshman were selected from over 300 of their peers to attend a dinner with Dean Siegel and author, Thomas Friedman.

Our featured essay of the day is by freshman, Min Kyu Kim.

A Story that Happens in a Restaurant

In a luxurious French restaurant, people from developed countries start their extravagant full course meal with Amuse-bouche. Then, they move to the next step, caviar. Then, they move to the next step, soup. They keep on moving; shellfish, antipasto, pasta, quail, and etc. They chew. They swallow. They drink. Again and again. They leisurely enjoy the last step, coffee, with a full stomach feeling complete satisfaction. At that time, people from developing countries come into the restaurant. Generous people from developed countries invite the novices to their table and kindly order several additional cups of coffee for them. When the novices swallow their first sip of coffee, people from developed countries gently call an employee, “Check, please.”

Globalization means Americanization

America has been the hyperpower[1] since the Soviet Union collapsed. America has possessed absolute justice protected by its economic and military superiority. The justice of America even exists over the United Nation; the Iraq war – that ignored the decision of the United Nations Security Council – proved it to us. Thus, all nations in the world glare at America with respect, envy, and awe, and many of them have desired to be like America. Especially, all developing countries – that own relatively weak economic, diplomatic, and military power – have stronger desires than the others called as developed countries. Literarily, it is their American Dream.

At least from 1991[2](I think before than that) until today, Globalization has directly meant Americanization. Being global is not understanding and respecting the differences of other cultural characters, religious faiths, and philosophical ideas, but only accepting and following the things of American way. The hyperpower has gently welcomed other countries benchmarking and encourage them to pursue and adapt the values of America.

The Nation of Consumption

America is the nation of consumption. Although consumption causes the exhaustion of natural resources and environmental pollution, which has not been America’s concern. The more America indiscriminately expends, the stronger it has become. It seems that liberal consumption, only regulated by the Invisible Hand[3], is a shortcut to wealth. Such behavior of consumption actually becomes the key to achieve the American Dream.

After America has fully enjoyed its reckless consumption without adherence to the Kyoto Protocol[4], America suddenly shouts to other countries that have pursued the American Dream, “let’s make a Green World!” The countries, which just understand the pleasure of spending a little, blankly gaze at America that yells ‘Green Revolution’ and ‘World Revolution.’ For me, it looks unfair that the responsibility for the ill Earth – that most developed countries represented by America have enjoyed, ruined, and provoked – is very simply shared with the middle classes all over the world.

The Hot, Flat, and Crowded World and Code Green

Thomas L. Friedman, who has thrown a fresh socio-poli-economic[5] discourse to the world every time, published “Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–And How It Can Renew America; he came back with a new survival strategy for the future known as “Code Green.” The main strategy of Code Green is to change a present dirty-fuel system based on coal, oil, and natural gas to a clean energy system generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, etc. Friedman believes “Code Green is the only way to survive in this hot, flat, and crowded world including five serious problems: diminishing energy supplies and increasing demand for natural resources, enormous wealth shift to oil-producing countries and oil dictators, destructive climate changes incurred by the increase of carbon dioxide, the gap between haves and have-nots about electricity, and the loss of biological diversity caused by the extinction of many species. He predicts nations and corporations that survive through energy innovations will dominate the future.

There are two distinct methods to interpret Friedman’s Code Green. If one observes it microscopically, it is the “Green Revolution.” If one takes a broad view of it, it is “Global Revolution.” Either way, the subject of the revolution must be ‘America,’ and Friedman’s faith that the world changes only if America changes first is not shaken at all. On the face of the book, he seems to be an artless, naive pro-environment protester, but, a closer look reveals that the book is sporadically filled with ‘American centrism.’ Thus, Friedman’s ‘green’ is actually not green but still ‘red, white, and blue.’

America achieves “Enlisting Father Profit to Save Mother Nature”

The energy, climate, and environment connected to a huge interconnected system interact together in a complex manner; thus a nation achieving a Green Revolution need not only high technology and immense capital but also a strong government and innovative policies. In other words, a “Green Revolution” becomes successful when three distinct components, politics, environment, and business harmoniously intersect at a single point. Friedman’s conclusion implies American centrism in the book. He trusts that America is the only country which possesses all the necessary and sufficient elements of the Green Revolution, and progressively and effectively applies the market functions. Friedman implies America should take the role of Noah and build the Ark, the system, and save the world. He dreams a renewed America and the renewed world.

America the Clever and China the Chaser

In my personal perspective, the sincere purpose of the Green Revolution for America is not to protect environments and to achieve sustainable developments. Those things may be the alternative, showing reasons to America. It looks as the “Green Revolution” is an inevitable, prerequisite choice for America to remain as the only hyperpower in the world. Friedman continuously stresses that China is different from America although China is a growing superpower.

There is an economics research that human’s marginal utility is not absolute but relative; therefore, America will finally choose the Green Revolution, because although American’s absolute power decrease, its relative power will increase compared with China, in Code Green. America is a very clever nation. In order to protect their omnipower, America is ready to deny the old method that they have utilized and apply a totally new method that they have rejected. America, moreover, may start to proudly mention ‘Green America,’ because the manufacturing industry of America is decreasing due to China, India, and other developing countries.

“What kind of America would you like to see?”

I am not cynical and pessimistic about this green movement that rises in these days. As a member of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement[6], I have waited for the green movement, and I truly am thankful for seeing a book like Hot, Flat, and Crowded in the bestseller corner of a book store. But I believe that an elaborate check over the genuine purpose of the American green movement and its criticism are strongly needed, because if there is no sincerity in being green, the Green World can be the 21st century version of Pax Romana[7]. As many colonials are sacrificed for the peace of the Roman Empire in the 1st century, many developing countries will be sacrificed for the harmony of the developed countries in the 21st century. I also trust that the Green Revolution, without sincerity, would not be successful, because people would use the color green to satisfy their red desires.

Barack Obama, who became the 44th President of the United States, has stressed the importance of “the Audacity of Hope.” In a similar vein, Friedman emphasizes that America should be regenerated by the leadership of hope for the world. The true leadership of hope I expect of America is being truly humble, taking down the eagles pride, and sharing sincerity and love with the nations that have worse situations than America. That is my answer for the question that Friedman repeatedly asks, “What kind of America would you like to see?”

Postscript

Friedman’s insight into the “Green Revolution” is deep with his abundant imagination and detailed practice strategies. Individuals, corporations, and policy makers at great pains must read this book to prepare a sustainable, future, survival strategy.


[1] After the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, some political commentators felt that a new term was needed to describe the United States’ position as the lone superpower. French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine popularized the term hyperpower in his various criticisms of the United States beginning in 1998. (Wikipedia)

[2] The year that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) collapsed.

[3] (In the economics of Adam Smith) An unseen force or mechanism that guides individuals to unwittingly benefit society through the pursuit of their private interests. (Dictionary.com)

[4] The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, an international environmental treaty with the goal of achieving “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. (Wikipedia)

[5] of, relating to, or involving a combination of social, political, and economic factors

[6] The first environmental non-governmental organization in Korea founded in April 1993

[7] The terms of peace imposed by ancient Rome on its dominions (Dictionary.com)

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