Hot, Flat, and Crowded is about two problems: the world’s problem, and America’s problem. The world’s problem is that it is getting hot, flat, and crowded. But what’s on my mind especially today is America’s problem. America has lost its way in recent years – partly because of 9/11 and partly because of the bad habits that we have let build up over the past thirty years, bad habits that have weakened our society’s ability and willingness to take on the big challenges.
As I put it in the book: “In some ways, the subprime mortgage mess and housing crisis are metaphors for what has come over America in recent years: A certain connection between hard work, achievement, and accountability has been broken. We’ve become a subprime nation that thinks it can just borrow its way to prosperity..."
I argue in the book that the best way out of this mess is an American commitment to what I call "nation-building at home," centered on innovation in clean energy. The crisis on Wall Street makes clear that America really does have a problem and that we really do need to commit to "nation-building at home," and fast. As the government asks all of us as citizens to assume responsibility for the financial crisis, what should we be asking of it in terms of "nation-building at home"? What should we be calling for on top of greater regulation of the financial markets if we are going to get our country back on the right track?