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We’ve Reached the Tipping Point

Question: How will climate change affect the geography of our \r\ncountry? 

Richard Florida: Well, I mean, we made a \r\nmess of this. We made a mess of the earth, we made a mess of this \r\nincredible natural environment that God gave us. And it’s just tragic \r\nwhen you think about it. I mean, when you really think about what \r\nindustrialism has done to this planet, you almost say, “Were we aware? \r\nDid we have a giant stroke?” What happened to human beings, and maybe we\r\n invented these technologies that we just couldn’t fully understand, but\r\n we’ve destroyed so much of our environment. 

My hunch is, now \r\nwe've finally—and I’m not an environmental expert—we've finally reached a\r\n point where we understand we have to stop doing this. One, I think \r\npeople are much more aware. Most people are much more aware of their \r\nenvironmental impact, of being more energy efficient. There’s kind of a \r\nnew culture emerging where people are just more careful, a little bit \r\nmore careful, and we have to do much more, but I think the other thing \r\nthat’s really occurring in our society, is we just can’t afford the time\r\n of giant commutes, people are understanding their time is valuable, \r\nthey have to live in denser areas, and they, there’s a fabulous book by \r\nDavid Owens, and I quote it in my book, “The Great Reset,” called “The \r\nGreen Metropolis.” And when he looks at it, as counterintuitive it \r\nsounds, big cities like New York, like Tokyo, are much more energy \r\nefficient than these sprawled out, stretched out, suburban areas. 

So,\r\n I think one of the things we’re going to find is, if we can find a new \r\nway of life which is denser and combine that with environmental \r\nefficiency and by engaging people and being smart about it, we can do a \r\nlot better. But, boy oh boy, you know, I’d say it’s one of the two or \r\nthree big challenges of our time, but it may be, it may well be the \r\nnumber one challenge of our time... I think the important thing is not \r\nto draw a distinction between a natural environment and a human \r\nenvironment. And here’s the way I’d phrase it:

One of the things \r\nindustrialism did to us, which was so tragic, it had taught us, \r\nencouraged us to be wasteful. On the one hand, we could be wasteful of \r\nenvironmental inputs, we could be throwing stuff back into the \r\nenvironment that was toxic. We were just terribly wasteful because we \r\nwere producing these things with new technology. But it also encourages \r\nto be very wasteful of human resources. We treated workers like crap, we\r\n saw them as cogs in the machine, we didn’t skill... I mean, Marx talked\r\n about this and the alienation and exploitation, we can’t waste our \r\nnatural resources and we can’t waste our human resources and what gives \r\nme great hope, I say in the book, “The clock of history is always \r\nticking.” The competitive nature of capitalism means though who are less\r\n wasteful win over time. So those who waste less natural resources get \r\nmore efficient. Those who waste less human resources and use human \r\ncreativity and don’t neglect that talent, win. 

So I think \r\nthere’s something in the logic of capitalism that is at least pointing \r\nus, pointing us toward potentially a more efficient and more \r\ncreative—and I say in the book, you know, “The history of capitalism, \r\nfor the first time now, economic development requires human \r\ndevelopment.” You probably could add to that it requires to some kind of\r\n natural resource cultivation as well. So I think all those three things\r\n point, at least point us in the direction of a better future. 

Recorded\r\n on April 27, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman

Industrialism taught us how to be wasteful of material and human resources. We need to get out of this mess.

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