Thomas Friedman recently filed an editorial from, and about, Madagascar. In a new piece for Salon, we point out the flaws in his thinking – flaws that mirror his shortsighted and trend-infatuated view of the domestic economy.
Friedman is an ideal exemplar of neoliberalism’s latest dress-up game, one that costumes an inequitable worldview with misdirection, trendiness, and gimmicky ideas.
Global wealth inequality is, in fact, a major challenge to environmental protection. The poverty of local peoples makes the preservation of environmental resources a luxury they feel they cannot afford, since such resources are typically either edible, drinkable or sellable. This is an understandable position, and it’s why eco-policing an impoverished majority will always be a losing battle. The more efficient – and more just – approach is to eliminate the poverty that drives desperate people to despoil the land.
But addressing that means confronting certain economic truths – truths the Friedmans of the world prefer to paper over with feel-good nostrums about “involving communities in ecotourism.” Yes, such efforts are pleasant, and sometimes even laudable. But ecotourism can’t solve the problems of global poverty, any more than AirBnb and the so-called sharing economy can solve the problems of poverty and growing wealth inequality in Friedman’s native United States.
Oh, right. He believes that too.
It’s important to see through Friedman’s self-created mythos, and that of people like them. He and his clique are not innovators, nor are they creating or transmitting innovative ideas. They’re selling old wine in new bottles, hoping that people who drink it won’t see what’s going on in their country – and their world.