His books, from the end of work a empathic civilization since The Zero Marginal Cost Society a The Global Green New Deal , have been shaping the future for decades almost as much as their work as adviser to China, the EU and the US to lay out plans for a Third Industrial Revolution capable of tackling climate change. Now Jeremy Rifkin (Denver, 1945) publishes The age of resilience (Paidós), a roadmap towards a new era in which the keyword of the modern era, efficiency make way for the one who always presided over human life, adaptability . We are entering, he says, the era of resilience, in which we need to understand not only that we are part of the ecosystem, but that each one of us is an ecosystem. And that we must not only build new energy, communication and mobility infrastructures, but also change the instruction manual.
Economic crises, pandemics, wars, where are we now?
There has been a basic shift in consciousness as a species in the last 24 months. Probably the largest in history. We have begun to realize that this planet is much more powerful than we had thought and that it does not need us. We are going to go above 1.5 degrees, which was the red line, and we could get to 2, 2.3 or 2.5. Viruses are migrating, they are climate migrants. Our ecosystems are collapsing. The region with the most serious problem of uninhabitability is the Mediterranean. We are immersed in the sixth extinction. And there’s a misunderstanding about how we got here, it’s not just fossil fuels.
“In ‘Genesis’ God gave Adam dominion over all species, a mandate that remains among us”
What is it about?
Jews, Christians and Muslims are part of the Abrahamic tradition and in the Genesis God expelled Eve and Adam from Paradise but gave Adam “dominion over all species on Earth, over all living creatures on the planet.” That mandate has remained with us. The era of progress, during the last two centuries, is a combination of this idea. And the worldview and politics of the age of progress have driven us to extinction. For hominids our time orientation was adaptability until the last ice age came to an end 10,000 years ago.
The good weather has arrived. The Holocene. We settle. We created agriculture, pastoralism, the great hydraulic civilizations, the industrial revolution. We adapted nature to us and that culminated in efficiency, which is extracting great values from water, soil, and the biosphere, at a higher speed and in a shorter interval in order to consume them. And then we wonder why we have exhausted the planet. The age of progress is dead. The era of resilience is here.
“There are huge armies for fossil fuels. The last war is the one between Ukraine and Russia”
What should we do in the age of resilience?
We are entering the infrastructure era of the third industrial revolution. From the internet of communication and energy: millions already generate their solar and wind energy and share the surplus. Both converge with the internet of logistics and mobility, electric and fuel cell transport. And all intertwined with the internet of things. The housing stock will be intelligent with sensors. A revolution that will unite the planet as one great digital brain. These are the possibilities that are offered to us.
Getting there is a big problem because of the old interests, the fossil fuel industry, politicians reluctant to change. But the market is there: solar and wind are already by far the cheapest energies. The technology exists. And the money waits: investors have withdrawn billions from the fossil fuel industry and only find small pilot projects. Lack of political will.
But we are already moving from financial to ecological capital, from productivity to regenerativity, from intellectual property rights to open source and from globalization to glocalization, because the fixed costs of the digital revolution are coming down and you can interact with a person on the other side of the planet.
How likely are we to actually change?
We are a species that lives through its own stories. And those stories allow us to start developing the new infrastructures. We are, perhaps, the most adaptable species, with the exception of bacteria and viruses. Let’s use those empathic neural circuits to re-adapt to nature. We have huge armies for the industrial age of fossil fuels, to secure them. And the uranium. Millions have died for them. The last war is that of the Ukraine and Russia.
Has the era of empathy arrived?
The great Axial religions arose at the same time as the great hydraulic civilizations, which brought together many people who were guided by the tribal and found themselves enslaved to build dams, granaries and roads. They had no identity. Those religions became the father figure to empathize with and die for. Today young people raise their heads and a new affiliation is given: the awareness of biophilia. They are recognized as an endangered species, without further dividing lines, they consider the planet as their home, and their fellow humans as their family. And the others are there saying “no, no” because they see their identity threatened and they are not the future but they still have enough power. The reason I think there is hope is that in all weather disasters people come to the rescue of other people. To some degree, climate change is bringing us closer by empathy.