Rampant unemployment, rising food prices, a collapsed housing market, ballooning debt -- to Jeremy Rifkin, the American economist and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, these are not simply symptoms of a temporary economic malaise. Rather, they are signs that the current world order -- long infused with and defined by fossil fuels -- is collapsing around us.
In its place, decentralized systems of advanced, clean-energy production and digital power distribution are already starting to rise, Rifkin suggests, and they will reorder not just the way we turn on our lights, but how whole economies -- indeed, whole societies -- operate. Why? In a nutshell, Rifkin argues that as the ability to tap, generate and distribute power shifts from the exclusive province of governments and lease-holding corporations toward individual actors and communities armed increasingly with solar panels and wind turbines and smart grids, so too will bedrock relationships between producer and consumer, the government and the governed, be forever changed.
In such a world of democratized energy, cooperation trumps control, and the drive toward productivity is replaced by a quest for sustainability.
Rifkin's new book, the The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World.
What Obama is lacking is a narrative. We are left with a collection of pilot projects and siloed programs, none of which connects with the others to tell a compelling story of a new economic vision for the world. We’re strapped with a lot of dead-end initiatives, wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money with nothing to show for it. If President Obama clearly understood the underlying dynamics of the five-pillar infrastructure of the next great industrial revolution and how the parts connect, he might have been able to sell the American public on a comprehensive economic plan for the country’s future.