The Pulitzer Prize winning columnist has a radical idea – he wants to make the market greedy for sustainability.


Thomas Friedman explains why harnessing the profit motive is the only way to a sustainable future. For all the talk of greed, Friedman still believes in small town values. Find out why he asks us to look at his country standing on our head “from the bottom up” and what few people know about him.

Leader of the Week,
Episode 01 – Thomas Friedman

Thomas Friedman wants to disrupt sustainability with greed. The Pulitzer Prize winner fears we can never reach the UN Global Goals at the current pace, so he argues for a radical new approach. Governments should make markets “do the right thing for the wrong reason”. Politicians can spark massive investment in sustainability by leveraging corporate greed, he tells The Sustainian.

There is only one force bigger than Mother Nature, and that is Father Greed.

The world is far behind on the 2030 Global Goals, so Friedman wants government policy to incentivize sustainable market investment. “I don’t see how you get scale on clean energy, on decarbonizing, without leveraging the market. There is only one force bigger than Mother Nature, and that is Father Greed. Only the Market can take on Mother Nature.” says the New York Times columnist. Friedman stresses his radical approach needs key players like the USA, China, the EU and Brazil to scale up decarbonization with policies like carbon tax, regulatory reform or mandates for new homes with solar power as in California.


The columnist believes that sustainability needs strong leadership from the USA. He is furious that Donald Trump is promoting coal instead of clean energy and asking business leaders to change the President’s mind. “I’ve done all that I could, but getting global business, American business to persuade the President that our future is not in coal jobs, that our future is in clean energy jobs. I’m afraid nothing is more important. Donald Trump is a moron, that’s a real problem right now for us and for the world.”

Those billion people are going to burn up, heat up and choke the planet far faster than even Al Gore predicts.

Defusing the looming population timebomb is high on Friedman’s list. He warns of environmental chaos from the projected one billion more people added to the planet by 2030. He worries many would want “to live in American-sized homes, drive American-sized cars and eat American-sized Big Macs. And if we don’t find ways to deliver them cleaner power, more efficient power, those billion people are going to burn up, heat up and choke the planet far faster than even Al Gore predicts.” The New York Times columnist calls on companies to seize the market opportunities that these challenges bring.

They are not paying a lot of attention to all of the nonsense that the adults are peddling.

Friedman believes that the world looks much better “standing on your head, looking from the bottom up.”  That is where communities are building partnerships with business, philanthropy, local government and social entrepreneurs to respond to growing challenges. He is not optimistic about sustainability but believes in “applied hope” because so many are applying themselves, especially young people. “They are not paying a lot of attention to all of the nonsense that the adults are peddling. We saw that after the Parkland shooting here in America… They’ll do it on their own, but we can really accelerate it.”  

However, Friedman cautions that sustainability needs massive scale that can only be delivered by the market. That is why he is issuing an urgent call for governments to disrupt sustainability with market greed. “The next great global industry has to be clean energy, clean water and energy efficiency, otherwise, we are going to be a bad biological experiment.”


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