Biosphere Politics

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Discussion

Jeremy Rifkin:

"The intercontinental era will slowly transform international relations from geopolitics to biosphere politics. A new approach to political life on the planet is just beginning to emerge, based on operating principles and assumptions that are more compatible with the dynamics of a Third Industrial Revolution economic model, and the ecological constraints imposed by the Earth's biosphere.

In the geopolitical world of the fossil fuel-based First and Second Industrial Revolutions, the Earth was conceived in a mechanical and utilitarian fashion. The planet was viewed as a container -- a storehouse -- full of useful resources ready to be appropriated for economic ends. Nation states were formed to compete with one another in the market and on the battlefield, to seize, secure, and control elite fossil fuel energies and rare earth resources.

The shift in energy regimes from elite fossil fuels to distributed renewable energies will redefine the very notion of international relations more along the lines of ecological thinking. If the earth functions more like a living organism made up of layer upon layer of interdependent ecological relationships, then our very survival depends on mutually safeguarding the well-being of the global ecosystems of which we are all a part. Because the renewable energies of the Third Industrial Revolution are ample, found everywhere, and easily shared, but require collective stewardship of the earth's ecosystems, there is less likelihood of hostility and war over access and a greater likelihood of global cooperation. In the new era, survival is less about competition than cooperation, and less about the search for autonomy than the quest for embeddedness.

The old geopolitics was accompanied by a scientific paradigm that viewed nature as objects; the new biosphere science, by contrast, views nature as relationships. The old science is characterized by detachment, expropriation, dissection, and reduction; the new science is characterized by engagement, replenishment, integration, and holism. The old science is committed to making nature productive; the new science is committed to making nature sustainable. The old science seeks power over nature; the new science seeks partnership with nature. The old science puts a premium on autonomy from nature; the new science, on re-participation with nature.

The new biosphere science takes us from a colonial vision of nature as an enemy to pillage and enslave, to a new vision of nature as a community to nurture. The right to exploit, harness, and own nature in the form of property is tempered by the obligation to steward nature and treat it with dignity and respect. The utility value of nature is slowly giving way to the intrinsic value of nature. This is the deep meaning of sustainable development, and the very essence of biosphere politics.

Biosphere politics facilitates a tectonic shift in the political landscape; we begin to enlarge our vision and think as global citizens in a shared biosphere. Global human rights networks, global health networks, global disaster relief networks, global germ plasm storage, global food banks, global information networks, global environmental networks, and global species protection networks, are a powerful sign of the historic shift from conventional geopolitics to fledgling biosphere politics." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremy-rifkin/the-third-industrial-revo_b_981168.html)


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