Campus News

Rifkin discusses energy justice theory

By: Taylor Fulkerson ~Opinions & Editorials Editor~

Jeremy Rifkin is an advisor to prime ministers and governments, including Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel. He is the bestselling author of 19 books, which have been translated into 35 languages. He also has a message for Xavier.

“I was wrong for 30 years,” he said to an audience of Xavier students, professors, local community members and Cincinnati city officials. He claims that he “underestimated the consequences” of global climate change.

Rifkin’s lecture, “Energy Justice: Leading the Way to a Third Industrial Revolution,” on March 10, focused on the need to “change every aspect of the way we work and live,” and how that will come about. Rifkin, who taught at the Wharton School of Business, emphasized the role business ought to have in the transition away from an economy based on fossil fuels.

“It is the height of hubris to do what we have been doing and think we won’t suffer the consequences,” Rifkin said. “We need a new economic vision, and it has to be compelling.”

Rifkin’s theory proposes a “third industrial revolution” to replace the previous two, shifting from centralized power production to lateral power and information distribution. He stressed the importance of the internet and collaboration between governments and private enterprise in facilitating that shift.

The lecture was sponsored by The Eigel Center for Community-Engaged Learning, the Philosophy, Politics & the Public program, the Sierra Club, Green Umbrella Regional Sustainability Alliance and others. The public lecture drew a large crowd from both the local community and Xavier’s campus.

Questions after the lecture ranged from inquiries about the role of cold fusion in energy production to vegetarianism, and from the First World-Third World wealth gap to green transportation.

While the lecture made claims primarily about the role that governments and businesses need to play, the message was also directed towards students and average people.

“We are all consumers . . . we are all part of the system, as it now stands,” Xavier University Sustainability Coordinator Ann Dougherty said in an interview.

“The democratization and further protection of the social commons, the internet, is something that we can all work on. I think Mr. Rifkin is trying to speak truth and bridge some gaps in our thinking and doing.”

Rifkin’s message included everyday actions for bridging that gap, such as reducing consumption of meat and utilizing the internet as a network of information, goods and energy.

“I think what Rifkin is talking about is really all for the millennial generation and where the world is going and might go,” Dr. James Buchanan, executive director of The Brueggeman Center for Dialogue, said in an interview.

“His ideas of the relationship between the collaborative economy and capitalist economy, the internet of things, etc., are things that all students need to consider as they are thinking about their careers and their lives.”

Rifkin’s forthcoming book, “The Zero Marginal Cost Society: the Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Captialism,” will be released on April 1.