A noted activist elucidates the program of environmental and economic reform that is being largely ignored on Capitol Hill.
According to Rifkin (The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism, 2014, etc.), the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, we are within a degree or two of temperature rise before we see the cataclysm of “runaway feedback loops and a cascade of climate-change events that would decimate the Earth’s ecosystems.” The possibility of such devastation, he argues, is not lost on heartland voters who, though perhaps otherwise conservative, are increasingly alarmed by severe weather events and other clear signs of a changing climate regime, manifest in expensive destruction of life and property. Against this, Rifkin notes trends among younger citizens to participate in a so-called sharing economy, with shared housing, office space, vehicles, tools, and the like, “allowing the human race to use far less of the resources of the Earth while passing on what they no longer use to others and, by doing so, dramatically reducing carbon emissions.” It will take more than that, of course: Infrastructure must be overhauled, which would add jobs to the economy, and old ways of doing things must be cast aside. There’s not much time to do so. Rifkin projects that without change, “fossil-fuel civilization” has less than 10 years of life; he adds that this change “is inevitable, despite any efforts by the fossil fuel industries to forestall it.” The author then enumerates a 21-point program around Democratic proposals spearheaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, closing with the fond hope that a “biosphere consciousness" is emerging. A little hectoring alternating with wishful thinking goes a long way, but Rifkin’s point that something needs to be done—immediately—is well taken. Better a Chicken Little than a Pollyanna any day of the week.
An urgent endorsement of efforts to remake a doomed fossil-fuel economy before it’s too late.