Hot, Flat, & Crowded – a rare dip into politics for this blog…

As you regular MountainWorld Blog readers know, I generally stay away from politics. It's not that I don't have my opinions on them – those who know me well know that is far from the case! But, rather, I've opted to focus in this space more on mountains and their ability to inspire.

But, here in the USA with the 2008 election cycle in full swing, politics are all that we tend to hear about. And, for good reason, as this is a critical election no matter which side of the partisan fence you stand (and even is you prefer to straddle it).

I won't make comments here on the ideologies or policies of either major candidate. But, I was filled with frustration, in all honesty, during the coverage of the Republican National Convention when I watched an animated Rudy Giuliani lead a chant of "drill, baby, drill" to the crowd in Minnesota. Now, you don't have to be a liberal, or a greeny, or really anything at all to know that we simply cannot, cannot, drill our way out of the current oil problem. At best, increasing domestic drilling is akin to putting a Band-Aid on an aortal bleed: you might slow the problem a tiny bit, but you won't solve it. Just ask lifelong Republican T. Boone Pickens, who probably knows a bit more about oil and energy than Rudy.

Anyway, my point is that yesterday i listened online to a wonderful interview by Terry Gross with Tom Friedman, author of the new Hot, Flat, & Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution–and How It Can Renew America. It's a great, straightforward interview, and one well worth listening to – it helps get above the noise of this election cycle, the 5 second soundbites, slogans, and chants, and gets to the real energy issues facing us today.

Listen to Terry's interview with Tom Friedman here.

Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.

  1. Phil Summers
    Phil SummersSeptember 10,08


    Here in Australia, we could easily run the whole ruddy country off our geothermal, tidal or solar potential.
    Thin film titanium dioxide catalysed solar panel arrays in the deserts here powering synthesised hydrogen are particularly attractive and invented here. Remember Dr Who as well who said back in ’75;

    “Oil an emergency, its about time the people who run your little planet realised that relying on a mineral slime just doesn’t make sense”.

    Too right Doctor!.

    But you know what politicians are like…. meanwhile the drought here drags on for another year.


  2. Jake Norton
    Jake NortonSeptember 11,08

    Namaste Phil,

    I know what you mean – we have developed so much along the lines of renewable and new energy alternatives, the technologies have been there for decades now but haven’t gotten enough political support to be implemented and the corresponding infrastructure built. I look at NREL (National Renewable Energy Lab) down the street here in Golden, and they have been struggling with under-funding for a while now (at least the last 8 years :)). Anyway, with all this talk of “change”, it will be interesting to see if the politicians can actually take steps toward that seemingly mythical state.

    On another note, I would like to chat via email re: M&I and creating a place for some of the info and theories from you and others. Let’s chat!



  3. Phil Summers
    Phil SummersSeptember 11,08

    Hello Jake,

    Yes we have similar woes here in Australia.
    This thin film Ti02 catalysed solar panels was developed at Uni of NSW in 2004 and was the latest in a series of alternative energy ideas that have been ‘no shows’ for decades here.
    The Coal and oil industry are the problem here and they have the mining boom powering China with all the benefits accruing to Australia as a result stacked up in their favour.
    Hence little show for alternatives even though we’re ruddy well overflowing with energy here.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this issue, I’ll be in touch.

  4. Derek DiLuzio
    Derek DiLuzioSeptember 15,08

    great listen. thanks for posting jake.

  5. Spinner
    SpinnerSeptember 16,08

    Jake–good comments; I agree wholeheartedly, but I can’t help but feel a little sketchy about that T. Boone Pickens guy. His message is good, but I’m not sure that I totally trust him.

    Maybe this political season, or the fact that I live in Washington,DC, has just made me skeptical. I’d love to be proven wrong.

  6. Jake Norton
    Jake NortonSeptember 16,08

    Hi Spinner,
    I know what you mean. He doesn’t inspire total trust in me, but I guess I’ve reconciled it by assuming that he’s coming at the problem from a totally different perspective – one of business and finance rather than one of climate change and the deleterious effects of burning fossil fuels. My hunch is that he doesn’t really care too much about the environmental aspects of our oil dependence (or the humanitarian aspects for that matter, which is a whole other can of worms), but sees the issues through the lens of business, and is developing solutions through that lens.

    So, on the one hand, I applaud his energies (ha!) toward finding a solution, but, perhaps like you, do worry that should oil drop in price or something change to alter the current fiscal picture with regard to oil, Pickens would no longer be on the bandwagon.

    Like you, that’s my inner-skeptic speaking…and I hope to be proven wrong.


  7. Phil Summers
    Phil SummersSeptember 16,08

    Ayup Jake and Spinner,
    I’m still surprised (after years of seeing the folly of man consistantly overcome reason) at just how human beings have the capacity for missing the point.

    Its interesting to see this discussion on energy and related issues here and to see your thoughts, but I look with some dismay that the first energy crisis was back in ’73 (when the taps were turned off) and after some talk and small efforts on energy alternatives (which petered out when the oil price declined), yet the world is still over 30 years later still dependent on a finite mineral slime that we know intellectually must exhaust at some point.
    With petrol prices here in Australia hovering around $1.60 per litre and worse elsewhere, a lot of people here are openly asking why are we still dependent on oil and the internal combustion engine after all this time, when we’ve known since ’73 that ugly things can and do happen leading to the painful situation for people today.
    A related question asked by many concerned is, if only we had of pursued the alternatives years ago properly so by now we’d be less dependent and even free of oil.
    People here are concerned about the environment and do vote out politicians who don’t listen (like last year).
    The ongoing drought here tends to focus the mind especially where our rivers are nearly dry (the Murray-Darling system) and towns have no drinking water.
    In the public mind here, we are attributing this to global warming and combined with higher petrol prices, the talk is more toward alternatives (which we’re lucky to have ).
    The government now is planning an emissions trading scheme here (a carbon tax in essence) to lessen our Co2 ‘footprint’ by 2010, but I suspect its still going to be little change and the pain will continue.
    Looking at photo’s of the East Rongbuk glacier from the 1920’s compared to the present, I’m sure old Mallory, Somervell etc, would have something to say as the ‘shark fins’ dissipate inexorably….

    cheers squire,

  8. jason kenny
    jason kennyJanuary 16,09

    Personally I would put a lovely bench so all the squirrels could use it and maybe add a mini bar and a Jacuzzi at a later date just for the wildlife though!

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