New York Times columnist discusses sustainability as value system

Addressing a crowd of nearly 2,000 people in ASU’s Gammage Auditorium, renowned journalist and author Thomas Friedman contended that maintaining our freedom is going to require a major value adjustment.

The Pulitzer Prize winner, who visited ASU on Feb. 26 as part of the Wrigley Lecture Series, explained that society has been built on situational values – do whatever the situation allows. He connected these values to devastating events like the 2008 housing collapse, as well as our current climate concerns.

“We’ve been practicing the same faulty accounting in the market and mother nature,” Friedman said.

In his lecture, "Sustainability as Freedom," Friedman discussed the many similarities between society and nature, illustrating how both are complex systems of interdependencies. Unlike nature’s, however, society’s interdependencies are often unhealthy.

“The only way you can choose healthy independencies is if you base them on the right values,” Friedman said. “We will not be free if we don't choose sustainability and sustainable values now. Please don't tell me you'll do it later. Later is officially over."

"Later," he said, "will be too late."

The bestselling author’s next book, already underway, will delve deeper into nature’s lessons for humanity. His New York Times column, which covers foreign affairs, globalization and technology, also addresses the subject.

The impactful talk marked the first of this year’s Wrigley Lecture Series, which serves to engage the community with thought leaders from around the world. It also signifies the largest in terms of attendance, and the first held at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium.

The Wrigley Lecture Series is made possible with the support of Julie Ann Wrigley, and is hosted by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

Note: An earlier version of this story originally reported the audience to be nearly 3,000.