Changing for the Future Demands an Open Conversation Now: Jeremy Rifkin

An Inspired Future delegates are encouraged to light the spark for a thriving, sustainable future.

Changing for the Future Demands an Open Conversation Now: Jeremy Rifkin

One-resource economy challenges transformation

Now is the time for an open conversation in Canada about the future and surviving the global economic and environmental crises, Jeremy Rifkin says.

There’s about 40 years left to shift from the carbon-based energy civilization of the sunsetting Second Industrial Revolution to the emerging Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) based on renewable energy and a democratized economy, he notes.

“Where do you want to be 20 years from now in this country?” Rifkin asked the hundreds of attendees in his keynote address at An Inspired Future 2014, a forum for change created by the integrated real-estate management services firm Brookfield Johnson Controls Canada.

“Do you want to be in sunset energies and technologies . . . and the business model of a dying 20th century? Or (do you want to be) in sunrise energies, technology and the business model of a sustainable and more democratic 21st century?” Rifkin asked.

The author, adviser to heads of state on sustainable development and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C., shared his TIR plan for an environmentally and economically sustainable future — a long-term plan which is being embraced and implemented in varying degrees and scales in Europe and China.

With a number of pillars of the TIR already in existence or emerging, such as 3D printing technology and the sharing of goods and services on the Internet, Rifkin said it is “a prescription for disaster” for Canada and the U.S. to deny the TIR and stay siloed in the 20th century.

In a later question-and-answer session, Rifkin said the challenge to transformation for Canada is its one-resource economy anchored by the oil sands.

“When you become a one-resource economy you’re very vulnerable,” Rifkin said, adding Russia is also relying on one commodity to run the country.

“This makes no sense for Canada,” Rifkin said, noting the country is home to world-class businesses and industrial, commercial and service industry expertise that could help to drive the change needed for a more sustainable and prosperous future.

He suggested all parties, including Alberta representatives, engage in an intelligent conversation about the transition from a fossil fuel culture to a renewable, sharing narrative.

He said it is possible for the Second and Third Industrial Revolutions to exist side by side now, as there is a 40-year buildup for economic transformation to take hold.

“If Europe and China are moving that way and we’re moving to energy that’s near zero marginal costs and clearly not polluting, why would we continue to stay in energy that’s polluting and the prices are volatile and impact whether the economy moves or not at any given moment?

“It just doesn’t make sense from a business point of view,” Rifkin said.

He told those at An Inspired Future that they could be the springboard for sustainable change and its possibilities by establishing a TIR master plan in the GTA region — similar to what is already taking place in northern France through customization and highly collaborative process.

“Show the country what we can do to create a more prosperous economy and let this move across Canada,” Rifkin said.

“This is a mission not only for your country but for your children and grandchildren. Maybe we have enough time to address climate change. I hope we do.”

Rifkin said the TIR model can work given the progress made thus far.

“Hopefully our grandchildren live in a world that’s healing and replenishing, a world with all sorts of economic opportunities based on their entrepreneurial skills and deep social networks, so they can feel like they each are a participant in their own future,” he said.

“It’s a worthy mission.”

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