In his new book "Hot, Flat, and Crowded," bestselling author Thomas L. Friedman examines climate change and competition for energy, and their potential effects on the world.
Read an excerpt of the book below, and head to the "GMA" Library for more good reads.
When the Market
and Mother Nature
Hit the Wall
Why Citibank, Iceland's Banks,
and the Ice Banks of Antarctica
All Melted Down at the Same Time
On June 15, 2005, as the global economy was booming, the satirical newspaper The Onion carried the following story about Chinese workers and all the stuff they make for Americans. Though a fake story, like many in The Onion it actually spoke some essential truths:
FENGHUA, CHINA—Chen Hsien, an employee of Fenghua Ningbo Plastic Works Ltd., a plastics factory that manufactures lightweight household items for Western markets, expressed his disbelief Monday over the "sheer amount of [crap] Americans will buy." "Often, when we're assigned a new order for, say, 'salad shooters,' I will say to myself, 'There's no way that anyone will ever buy these,'" Chen said during his lunch break in an open-air courtyard. "One month later, we will receive an order for the same product, but three times the quantity. How can anyone have a need for such useless [crap]?" Chen, 23, who has worked as an injection-mold operator at the factory since it opened in 1996, said he frequently asks himself these questions during his workweek, which exceeds 60 hours and earns him the equivalent of $21. "I hear that Americans can buy anything they want, and I believe it, judging from the things I've made for them," Chen said. "And I also hear that, when they no longer want an item, they simply throw it away. So wasteful and contemptible." Among the items that Chen has helped create are plastic-bag dispensers, microwave omelet cookers, glow-in-the-dark page magnifiers, Christmas-themed file baskets, animal-shaped contact-lens cases, and adhesive-backed wall hooks. "Sometimes, an item the factory produces resembles nothing I've ever seen," Chen said. "One time, we made something that looked like a ladle, but it had holes in its cup and a handle that bent down 90 degrees. The foreman told us that it was a soda-can holder for an automobile. If you are lucky enough to own a car, sit back and enjoy the journey. Save the soda beverage for later." Chen added: "A cup holder is not a necessary thing to own." Chen expressed similar confusion over the tens of thousands of pineapple corers, plastic eyeshades, toothpick dispensers, and dog pull-toys that he has helped manufacture. "Why the demand for so many kitchen gadgets?" Chen said. "I can understand having a good wok, a rice cooker, a tea kettle, a hot plate, some utensils, good china, a teapot with a strainer, and maybe a thermos. But all these extra things—where do the Americans put them? How many times will you use a taco-shell holder? . . ." Chen added that many of the items break after only a few uses. "None are built to last very long," Chen said. "That is probably so the Americans can return to buy more . . ."