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Richard Florida

Richard Florida is author of the global best-seller "The Rise of the Creative Class." His latest books are the "The Great Reset," and "The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited,"[…]

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

Question: How will climate change affect the geography of our rncountry? 

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

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

So,rn I think one of the things we’re going to find is, if we can find a new rnway of life which is denser and combine that with environmental rnefficiency and by engaging people and being smart about it, we can do a rnlot better. But, boy oh boy, you know, I’d say it’s one of the two or rnthree big challenges of our time, but it may be, it may well be the rnnumber one challenge of our time... I think the important thing is not rnto draw a distinction between a natural environment and a human rnenvironment. And here’s the way I’d phrase it:

One of the things rnindustrialism did to us, which was so tragic, it had taught us, rnencouraged us to be wasteful. On the one hand, we could be wasteful of rnenvironmental inputs, we could be throwing stuff back into the rnenvironment that was toxic. We were just terribly wasteful because we rnwere producing these things with new technology. But it also encourages rnto be very wasteful of human resources. We treated workers like crap, wern saw them as cogs in the machine, we didn’t skill... I mean, Marx talkedrn about this and the alienation and exploitation, we can’t waste our rnnatural resources and we can’t waste our human resources and what gives rnme great hope, I say in the book, “The clock of history is always rnticking.” The competitive nature of capitalism means though who are lessrn wasteful win over time. So those who waste less natural resources get rnmore efficient. Those who waste less human resources and use human rncreativity and don’t neglect that talent, win. 

So I think rnthere’s something in the logic of capitalism that is at least pointing rnus, pointing us toward potentially a more efficient and more rncreative—and I say in the book, you know, “The history of capitalism, rnfor the first time now, economic development requires human rndevelopment.” You probably could add to that it requires to some kind ofrn natural resource cultivation as well. So I think all those three thingsrn point, at least point us in the direction of a better future. 

Recordedrn on April 27, 2010
Interviewed by Jessica Liebman