Saturday, January 7, 2012

Jeremy Rifkin on the 3rd Industrial Revolution

Jeremy Rifkin, a professor at Wharton business school, gives longer and shorter versions of this presentation on the Third Industrial Revolution that's coming (or already starting). This is a longer one from 2010, still current, covering pretty much everything. You can find shorter ones on YouTube, the gist is the same.

You can focus on the scary parts of his presentation, like this:

"We human beings, we are the youngest species in the evolutionary neighborhood.... Anatomically modern human beings have been here only 175,000 years. We make up only one-half of one percent of the entire living biomass of the earth. One-half of one percent. Right now this afternoon we are using 24 percent of all the photosynthesis of the earth. And we're heading from 6.8 to nearly 10 billion people. We're monsters. We're devouring this earth, and it's probably going to lead to our extinction unlesse we turn this around quickly. This is just not sustainable by any reckoning."

... or this:

"... in 1980 that was the first time we mentioned climate change.... And we continued to underestimate the speed and accelaration of climate change, all of us, for 30 years, because we can't anticipate all the feedback loops. That's what's terrifying us right now."

...or this:

"So our scientists say that we may see a 3 degree Celsius rise in temperature on Earth in this century. It could go much higher. That's a middle, negotiated scenario. But to put this in perspective, if we only go up 3 degrees, it takes us back to the temperature on earth 3 million years ago in the Pliocene. Different flora, different fauna, different ecosystems. And here's the key, that I wish Al Gore and others had talked about in their public campaigns. It is all about water. This is really all about the water. The hydrological cycle. And that is for every 1 degree Celsius that the temperature rises on this planet, the atmosphere absorbs 7 percent more precipitation from the ground. That's the key. That means the whole water cycle shifts: more floods, more droughts, more periods of infrequent rain. And so ecosystems that were developed over eons of time cannot adjust to this disruptive change in the hydrological cycle.

If we go 2-3 degrees, which is looking awfully optimistic, our scientists say we could lose between 23-24 percent of all the assessed species on Earth by the end of this century -- your kids' lifetime -- and on the upper end 70 percent or more extinction -- in the lifetime of babies who are here now."

... or the more hopeful, pragmatic parts:

"Peak oil, peak globalization, accelerating climate change. What do we do? What do we do? What we need now is a new economic vision, a new economic game plan that is powerful enough, practical, can be implemented in less than 40 years, and can move us to a complete post-carbon era by mid-century. Nothing short of that will do. And we have to do it now, because the window is narrowing every year.

"So we stepped back and we asked how did the great economic revolutions in history occur? That will give us a cue, as to what we need to do. The great economic revolutions in history occur, I believe, when two things come together. First, we change the way we organize energy on the earth. And we've done that many times. When we create new energy regimes, they make possible more complex civilizations. When that happens, it requires a communication revolution agile enough to manage these complex new energy regimes. When energy revolutions converge with communication revolutions, they change economic history. They change temporal and spacial orientation. They change the way we set up our living environments. As the Germans say, they change gestalt. And they change consciousness. Fundamentally."

Most interesting is his far-ranging review of human civilization to-date, when he describes how new economic forms required new communications methods and new consciousness in order "to extend empathy to cover new temporal-spacial boundaries."

Empathy is what he calls "the social glue." It's what organizes us, allowing us to live and work together. Empathy has so far extended from mythological-blood ties --> to theological-religion --> to ideological-nation states --> and now to psychological-modern. Rifkin wonders if empathy could extend to cover every human being on the planet within two generations?

This would sound like a lot of Kumbaya-hippie claptrap if it weren't so thoroughly and convincingly argued.

Without much fanfare in the media, the EU has committed to a Five-Pillar Infrastructure to build a new energy-communications economy. Rifkin advises them on their strategy. According to him, for us to survive, the future must be "flat, collaborative, and distributive" -- including our sources of energy. (Fast forward to 31:00 to hear Rifkin's explanation of "distributive energies.") It may seem risible now to think Europe will follow through, what with all their debt problems, but then again, if Rifkin is right, they can't afford not to. Neither can the U.S.

Uploaded by Green Home TV
April 26, 2011 | YouTube

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