How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World
* Book: Jeremy Rifkin. The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, Palgrave Macmillan 2011.
The Industrial Revolution, powered by oil and other fossil fuels, is spiraling into a dangerous endgame. The price of gas and food are climbing, unemployment remains high, the housing market has tanked, consumer and government debt is soaring, and the recovery is slowing. Facing the prospect of a second collapse of the global economy, humanity is desperate for a sustainable economic game plan to take us into the future.
Here, Jeremy Rifkin explores how Internet technology and renewable energy are merging to create a powerful “Third Industrial Revolution.” He asks us to imagine hundreds of millions of people producing their own green energy in their homes, offices, and factories, and sharing it with each other in an “energy internet,” just like we now create and share information online.
Rifkin describes how the five-pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution will create thousands of businesses, millions of jobs, and usher in a fundamental reordering of human relationships, from hierarchical to lateral power, that will impact the way we conduct commerce, govern society, educate our children, and engage in civic life.
Rifkin’s vision is already gaining traction in the international community. The European Union Parliament has issued a formal declaration calling for its implementation, and other nations in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, are quickly preparing their own initiatives for transitioning into the new economic paradigm.
The Third Industrial Revolution is an insider’s account of the next great economic era, including a look into the personalities and players — heads of state, global CEOs, social entrepreneurs, and NGOs — who are pioneering its implementation around the world.
By Mark Newton:
"The world is entering a crisis. Fossil fuels - the engine of the Second Industrial Revolution - have revolutionised the world economy. But from energy prices to the cost of food, dependency on fossil fuels has become so widespread; it has reached the point where it is threatening our livelihoods. As a result of the overuse of fossil fuels, climate change is now presenting us with the greatest challenge of our time and posing a real danger to many of the earth’s species. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the global economy is on the brink of collapse. In The Third Industrial Revolution, Jeremy Rifkin posits that the real economic crisis ‘that everyone missed’ wasn’t just about the collapse of the housing bubble in the US - it was really all about energy.
Rifkin argues that the problems we currently face present us with an opportunity and to seize it, we need revolutionary thinking. However, the tools at our disposal need not be the stuff of revolution - they’re already here. Rifkin explains that it is with renewable energy and Internet technology that we can find the solutions to these global environmental and economic crises. Not only will they help prevent runaway climate change; combined with the correct planning and philosophy, they can contribute with rebuilding the global economy in an entirely new way - one that benefits everyone as well as the natural world. It’s quite a claim to make.To do this, you need to go back to the basics of explaining how industrial revolutions occur in the first place. Rifkin’s theory is that when a revolution in ‘energy’ meets a revolution in ‘communications’, it helps create the larger event of an industrial revolution. So in Rifkin’s Third Industrial Revolution, this is where renewable energy and Internet communications (or, more accurately, Internet-like technology) can create an entirely new blueprint for the world economy. Rifkin bases his ideas on five core pillars that countries need to embrace not only on an economic level, but culturally, too – since to function his plan needs the participation of citizens on a much wider level.
The five pillars concern a major push for renewable energy; micro-generation of renewables in homes and workplaces; energy storage, particularly using hydrogen; the ‘Energy Internet’ which is an energy grid that would allow individuals to generate their own power and then distribute through the grid to others; and finally, a rethink on transportation, which ought to incorporate electric plug-in or hydrogen fuel cells on a large scale. In isolation, none of these points seem particularly radical compared to what we’ve heard before. For example, there are plenty of books on how to create a low-carbon economy - George Monbiot’s Heat: How To Stop the Planet From Burning being one such example - and much of the sensible green argument these days concerns encouraging governments to embrace renewable energy to help create jobs. But where Rifkin’s book succeeds is in connecting the dots and bringing this thinking together with a wide range of case studies. He follows up with an in-depth and wide-ranging examination of global green technologies and the various policies that have been trialed - all in line with his theories –along with taking a look at the many facets of life that will need to be reconsidered, even down to the classroom.
The emphasis on economics is particularly interesting because there is an attempt to avoid the right/left dichotomy that takes over so many contemporary debates. Instead, to avoid this, Rifkin’s Third Industrial Revolution emphasises bottom-up, collaborative effort rather than large political structures. Such top-down structures are of course vulnerable to being targeted by corporate lobbyists aiming to prevent rapid growth and change (especially concerning energy policy in the US). With discussion ranging from the dynamics of markets to political theory both old and new, Rifkin questions many of our basic assumptions about economics but, moreover, the potential of quite literally redistributing power in its many forms.
The Third Industrial Revolution is a seductive book. Rifkin writes in an inspiring, can-do way and he always backs up his statements with a wide range of references. For those who may question, ‘Will it work?’ and need the practicalities highlighted, Rifkin does so with plenty of examples, all of which seem perfectly sound. He’s also a very savvy writer, aware of how these ideas need presenting to as wide a range of people as possible, no matter what their political bias or attitudes to the green movement. In fact, it’s the sort of environmental book that can easily be digested and accepted by those who take a deeply anti-environmental stance, because it is as much about creating jobs and wealth as it is about preventing natural disaster. And, as with all great environmental books, it is focused on future generations. Rifkin is no short-term thinker.
The Third Industrial Revolution, then, is a book of ideas, and the only problem with a book of ideas is that it needs people to implement them for it to become more than just a dream. It’s the sort of book that needs to be put in the hands of high-level planners and that means getting past industry lobbyists who are concerned with further entrenching the status quo. If it can do this, Rifkin’s opus could genuinely have the power to change the world for the better.
The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World by Jeremy Rifkin (£16.99, Palgrave Macmillan) is available from Amazon". (http://www.theecologist.org/reviews/books/1222135/the_third_industrial_revolution_how_lateral_power_is_transforming_energy_the_economy_and_the_world.html)
1. The Third Industrial Revolution
"Our industrial civilization is at a crossroads. Oil and the other fossil fuel energies that make up the industrial way of life are sunsetting, and the technologies made from and propelled by these energies are antiquated. The entire industrial infrastructure built off of fossil fuels is aging and in disrepair. The result is that unemployment is rising to dangerous levels all over the world. Governments, businesses and consumers are awash in debt and living standards are plummeting everywhere. A record one billion human beings--nearly one seventh of the human race--face hunger and starvation.
Worse, climate change from fossil fuel-based industrial activity looms on the horizon. Our scientists warn that we face a potentially cataclysmic change in the temperature and chemistry of the planet, which threatens to destabilize ecosystems around the world. Scientists worry that we may be on the brink of a mass extinction of plant and animal life by the end of the century, imperiling our own species' ability to survive. It is becoming increasingly clear that we need a new economic narrative that can take us into a more equitable and sustainable future.
By the 1980's the evidence was mounting that the fossil fuel-driven industrial revolution was peaking and that human-induced climate change was forcing a planetary crisis of untold proportions. For the past 30 years I have been searching for a new paradigm that could usher in a post-carbon era. In my explorations, I came to realize that the great economic revolutions in history occur when new communication technologies converge with new energy systems. New energy regimes make possible the creation of more interdependent economic activity and expanded commercial exchange as well as facilitate more dense and inclusive social relationships. The accompanying communication revolutions become the means to organize and manage the new temporal and spatial dynamics that arise from new energy systems.
In the 19th century, steam-powered print technology became the communication medium to manage the coal-fired rail infrastructure and the incipient national markets of the First Industrial Revolution. In the 20th century, electronic communications--the telephone and later, radio and television--became the communication medium to manage and market the oil-powered auto age and the mass consumer culture of the Second Industrial Revolution.
In the mid-1990s, it dawned on me that a new convergence of communication and energy was in the offing. Internet technology and renewable energies were about to merge to create a powerful new infrastructure for a Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) that would change the world. In the coming era, hundreds of millions of people will produce their own green energy in their homes, offices, and factories and share it with each other in an "energy Internet," just like we now create and share information online. The democratization of energy will bring with it a fundamental reordering of human relationships, impacting the very way we conduct business, govern society, educate our children, and engage in civic life.
I introduced the Third Industrial Revolution vision at the Wharton School's Advanced Management Program (AMP), at the University of Pennsylvania, where I have been a senior lecturer for the past sixteen years on new trends in science, technology, the economy, and society. The five-week program exposes CEOs and business executives from around the world to the emerging issues and challenges they will face in the 21st century. The idea soon found its way into corporate suites and became part of the political lexicon among heads of state in the European Union.
By the year 2000, the European Union was aggressively pursuing policies to significantly reduce its carbon footprint and transition into a sustainable economic era. Europeans were readying targets and benchmarks, resetting research and development priorities, and putting into place codes, regulations, and standards for a new economic journey. By contrast, America was preoccupied with the newest gizmos and "killer apps" coming out of Silicon Valley, and homeowners were flush with excitement over a bullish real estate market pumped up by subprime mortgages.
Few Americans were interested in sobering peak oil forecasts, dire climate change warnings, and the growing signs that beneath the surface, our economy was not well. There was an air of contentment, even complacency, across the country, confirming once again the belief that our good fortune demonstrated our superiority over other nations.
Feeling a little like an outsider in my own country, I chose to ignore Horace Greeley's sage advice to every malcontent in 1850 to "Go West, young man, go West," and decided to travel in the opposite direction, across the ocean to old Europe, where new ideas about the future prospects of the human race were being seriously entertained.
I know at this point, many of my American readers are rolling their eyes and saying, "Give me a break! Europe is falling apart and living in the past. The whole place is one big museum. It may be a nice destination for a holiday but is no longer a serious contender on the world scene."
I'm not naïve to Europe's many problems, failings, and contradictions. But pejorative slurs could just as easily be leveled at the United States and other governments for their many limitations. And before we Americans become too puffed up about our own importance, we should take note that the European Union, not the United States or China, is the biggest economy in the world. The gross domestic product (GDP) of its twenty-seven member states exceeds the GDP of our fifty states. While the European Union doesn't field much of a global military presence, it is a formidable force on the international stage. More to the point, the European Union is virtually alone among the governments of the world in asking the big questions about our future viability as a species on Earth.
So I went east. For the past ten years, I have spent more than 40 percent of my time in the European Union, sometimes commuting weekly back and forth across the Atlantic, working with governments, the business community, and civil society organizations to advance the Third Industrial Revolution.
In 2006, I began working with the leadership of the European Parliament in drafting a Third Industrial Revolution economic development plan. Then, in May 2007, the European Parliament issued a formal written declaration endorsing the Third Industrial Revolution as the long-term economic vision and road map for the European Union. The Third Industrial Revolution is now being implemented by the various agencies within the European Commission as well as in the member states.
A year later, in October 2008, just weeks after the global economic collapse, my office hurriedly assembled a meeting in Washington, D.C., of eighty CEOs and senior executives from the world's leading companies in renewable energy, construction, architecture, real estate, IT, power and utilities, and transport and logistics to discuss how we might turn the crisis into an opportunity.
Business leaders and trade associations attending the gathering agreed that they could no longer go it alone and committed to creating a Third Industrial Revolution network that could work with governments, local businesses, and civil society organizations toward the goal of transitioning the global economy into a distributed post-carbon era. The economic development group--which includes Philips, Schneider Electric, IBM, Cisco Systems, Acciona, CH2M Hill, Arup, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, and Q-Cells, among others--is the largest of its kind in the world and is currently working with cities, regions, and national governments to develop master plans to transform their economies into Third Industrial Revolution infrastructures.
The Third Industrial Revolution vision is quickly spreading to countries in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. On May 24th, 2011, I presented the five pillar TIR economic plan in a keynote address at the fiftieth anniversary conference of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, attended by heads of state and ministers from the thirty-four participating member nations. The presentation accompanied the rollout of an OECD green growth economic plan which will serve as a template to begin preparing the nations of the world for a post carbon industrial future.
In designing the EU blueprint for the Third Industrial Revolution, I have been privileged to work with many of Europe's leading heads of state, including Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany; Prime Minister Romano Prodi of Italy; Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain; Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission; and five of the presidents of the European Council.
Is there anything we Americans can learn from what's happening in Europe? I believe so. We need to begin by taking a careful look at what our European friends are saying and attempting to do. However falteringly, Europeans are at least coming to grips with the reality that the fossil fuel era is dying, and they are beginning to chart a course into a green future. Unfortunately, Americans, for the most part, continue to be in a state of denial, not wishing to acknowledge that the economic system that served us so well in the past is now on life support. Like Europe, we need to own up and pony up.
But what can we bring to the party? While Europe has come up with a compelling narrative, no one can tell a story better than America. Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley excel at this. What has distinguished America is not so much our manufacturing acumen or military prowess, but our uncanny ability to envision the future with such vividness and clarity that people feel as if they've arrived even before they've left the station. If and when Americans truly "get" the new Third Industrial Revolution narrative, we have the unequalled ability to move quickly to make that dream a reality.
The Third Industrial Revolution is the last of the great Industrial Revolutions and will lay the foundational infrastructure for an emerging collaborative age. The forty year build-out of the TIR infrastructure will create hundreds of thousands of new businesses and hundreds of millions of new jobs. Its completion will signal the end of a two-hundred-year commercial saga characterized by industrious thinking, entrepreneurial markets, and mass labor workforces and the beginning of a new era marked by collaborative behavior, social networks and boutique professional and technical workforces. In the coming half century, the conventional, centralized business operations of the First and Second Industrial Revolutions will increasingly be subsumed by the distributed business practices of the Third Industrial Revolution; and the traditional, hierarchical organization of economic and political power will give way to lateral power organized nodally across society.
At first blush, the very notion of lateral power seems so contradictory to how we have experienced power relations through much of history. Power, after all, has traditionally been organized pyramidically from top to bottom. Today, however, the collaborative power unleashed by the coming together of Internet technology and renewable energies, fundamentally restructures human relationships, from top to bottom to side to side, with profound implications for the future of society.
The music companies didn't understand distributed power until millions of young people began sharing music online, and corporate revenues tumbled in less than a decade. Encyclopedia Britannica did not appreciate the distributed and collaborative power that made Wikipedia the leading reference source in the world. Nor did the newspapers take seriously the distributed power of the blogosphere; now many publications are either going out of business or transferring much of their activities online. The implications of people sharing distributed energy in an open commons are even more far-reaching.
Like every other communication and energy infrastructure in history, the various pillars of a Third Industrial Revolution must be laid down simultaneously or the foundation will not hold. That's because each pillar can only function in relationship to the others. The five pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution are (1) shifting to renewable energy; (2) transforming the building stock of every continent into micro-power plants to collect renewable energies on-site; (3) deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies in every building and throughout the infrastructure to store intermittent energies; (4) using Internet technology to transform the power grid of every continent into an energy-sharing intergrid that acts just like the Internet (when millions of buildings are generating a small amount of energy locally, on-site, they can sell surplus back to the grid and share electricity with their continental neighbors); and (5) transitioning the transport fleet to electric plug-in and fuel cell vehicles that can buy and sell electricity on a smart, continental, interactive power grid.
The critical need to integrate and harmonize these five pillars at every level and stage of development became clear to the European Union in the fall of 2010. A leaked European Commission document warned that the European Union would need to spend €1 trillion between 2010 and 2020 on updating its electricity grid to accommodate an influx of renewable energy. The internal document noted that "Europe is still lacking the infrastructure to enable renewables to develop and compete on an equal footing with traditional sources."
The European Union is expected to draw one-third of its electricity from green sources by 2020. This means that the power grid must be digitized and made intelligent to handle the intermittent renewable energies being fed to the grid from tens of thousands of local producers of energy.
Of course, it will also be essential to quickly develop and deploy hydrogen and other storage technologies across the European Union's infrastructure when the amount of intermittent renewable energy exceeds 15 percent of the electricity generation, or much of that electricity will be lost. Similarly, it is important to incentivize the construction and real estate sectors with low interest green loans and mortgages to encourage the conversion of millions of buildings in the European Union to mini power plants that can harness renewable energies on-site and send surpluses back to the smart grid. And unless these other considerations are met, the European Union won't be able to provide enough green electricity to power millions of electric plug-in and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles being readied for the market. If any of the five pillars fall behind the rest in their development, the others will be stymied and the infrastructure itself will be compromised.
The creation of a renewable energy regime, loaded by buildings, partially stored in the form of hydrogen, distributed via smart intergrids, and connected to plug-in, zero-emission transport, opens the door to a Third Industrial Revolution. The entire system is interactive, integrated, and seamless. When these five pillars come together, they make up an indivisible technological platform--an emergent system whose properties and functions are qualitatively different from the sum of its parts. In other words, the synergies between the pillars create a new economic paradigm that can transform the world.
To appreciate how disruptive the Third Industrial Revolution is to the existing way we organize economic life, consider the profound changes that have taken place in just the past twenty years with the introduction of the Internet revolution. The democratization of information and communication has altered the very nature of global commerce and social relations as significantly as the print revolution in the early modern era. Now, imagine the impact that the democratization of energy across all of society is likely to have when managed by Internet technology.
The Third Industrial Revolution build-out is particularly relevant for the poorer countries in the developing world. We need to keep in mind that 40% of the human race stills lives on two dollars a day or less, in dire poverty, and the vast majority have no electricity. Without access to electricity they remain "powerless," literally and figuratively. The single most important factor in raising hundreds of millions of people out of poverty is having reliable and affordable access to green electricity. All other economic development is impossible in its absence. The democratization of energy and universal access to electricity is the indispensible starting point for improving the lives of the poorest populations of the world. The extension of micro credit to generate micro power is already beginning to transform life across the developing nations, giving potentially millions of people hope of improving their economic situation.
There is no inevitability to the human sojourn. History is riddled with examples of great societies that collapsed, promising social experiments that withered, and visions of the future that never saw the light of day. This time, however, the situation is different. The stakes are higher. The possibility of utter extinction is not something the human race ever had to consider before the past half-century. The prospect of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, coupled now with the looming climate crisis, has tipped the odds dangerously in favor of an endgame, not only for civilization as we know it, but for our very species.
The Third Industrial Revolution offers the hope that we can arrive at a sustainable post-carbon era by mid-century. We have the science, the technology, and the game plan to make it happen. Now it is a question of whether we will recognize the economic possibilities that lie ahead and muster the will to get there in time." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeremy-rifkin/the-third-industrial-revolution-_b_964049.html)
2. Distributed Capitalism
"Energy regimes shape the nature of civilizations... how they are organized, how the fruits of commerce and trade are distributed, how political power is exercised, and how social relations are conducted. The locus of control over energy production and distribution is beginning to tilt from giant fossil fuel based centralized energy companies to millions of small producers, who are generating their own renewable energies in their dwellings and trading surpluses in info-energy commons.
The new era will bring with it a reorganization of power relationships across every level of society. While the fossil fuel-based First and Second Industrial Revolutions scaled vertically and favored centralized, top-down organizational structures operating in markets, the Third Industrial Revolution is organized nodally, scales laterally, and favors distributed and collaborative business practices that work most effectively in networks. The "democratization of energy" has profound implications for how we orchestrate the entirety of human life in the coming century. We are entering the era of "Distributed Capitalism."
The partial shift from markets to networks establishes a different business orientation. The adversarial relationship between sellers and buyers is replaced by a collaborative relationship between suppliers and users. Self-interest is subsumed by shared interest. Proprietary information is eclipsed by a new emphasis on openness and collective trust. The new focus on transparency over secrecy is based on the premise that adding value to the network doesn't depreciate ones own stock, but, rather, appreciates everyone's holdings as equal nodes in a common endeavor.
In industry after industry, cross-sector networks are competing with autonomous transaction-based business models, and peer-to-peer business practices conducted in commercial commons are challenging competitive business operations in siloed markets.
Distributed capitalism ushers in new business models, including 3D printing in the manufacturing of durable goods and performance contracting and shared savings ventures in the service and experiential sectors, which greatly reduces capital, energy and labor costs, and increases productivity. In the new lateral economy, the exchange of property in markets is increasingly subsumed by just-in-time access to goods and services in networks, purchased in the form of leases, rentals, timeshares, retainer agreements, and other kinds of time allotments.
When thousands of businesses -- large companies, SMES, and cooperatives -- connect with one another in vast networks, the distributed power often exceeds the power of standalone giant companies that characterized the First and Second Industrial Revolutions.
The emerging Third Industrial Revolution is not only changing the way we do business, but also the way we think about politics. The struggle between the older hierarchical power interests of the Second Industrial Revolution and the nascent lateral power interests of the Third Industrial Revolution is giving rise to a new political dichotomy, reflective of the competing forces vying for dominance in the commercial arena. A new political script is being written, recasting the very way people will view politics as we move deeper into the new era.
When was the last time you heard anyone under the age of twenty-five rant about his or her ideological beliefs? Something very strange is happening out there. Ideology is disappearing. Young people aren't much interested in debating the fine points of capitalist or socialist ideology or the nuances of geopolitical theory. Their political leanings are configured in an entirely different way.
Our global policy team began picking up on this phenomenon as we became more engaged in the political process in Europe, the United States and other countries. We have come to discover what we suspect is a new political mindset emerging among a younger generation of political leaders socialized on Internet communications. Their politics is less about right versus left and more about centralized and authoritarian versus distributed and collaborative. This makes sense.
The two generations whose sociability has been formed, in large part, by Internet communications, are far more likely to divide the world into people and institutions that use top-down, enclosed, and proprietary thinking, and those that use lateral, transparent, and open thinking. As they come of age, they are affecting a shift in political thinking--one that will fundamentally alter the political process in the twenty-first century.
While the First and Second Industrial Revolutions were accompanied by national economies and nation-state governance, The Third Industrial Revolution, because it is distributed and collaborative by nature, scales laterally along contiguous landmasses, and favors continental economies and continental governing unions. Continentalization is becoming the new path to globalization.
Sharing renewable energy laterally, in power, communications and transport networks that stretch across continents, like we now share information virtually in social networks across the internet, is going to radically transform the political world. The new energy relationships will require governing jurisdictions that are similarly lateral and networked and that encompass the outer limits of the TIR's geographical reach, which are the edges of continents. If not inevitable, it is at least highly likely that continental unions will become the new governing jurisdictions to regulate emerging continental markets around the world in the 21st Century.
The European Union is the first continental economy and political union to begin transitioning into a Third Industrial Revolution. Continental unions have recently been formed in Asia (The ASEAN Union), Africa (The African Union) and South America (The Union of South American Nations). In North America, the fledgling political associations forged between the northern states and Canadian provinces are a precursor to a potential continental union.
Although localities, regions, and national governments will not disappear in the coming century -- they will actually be strengthened -- continental unions provide an expansive political framework for overseeing integrated continental markets.
* From Geopolitics to Biosphere Politics
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)