• Sharing takes on new meaning in SBS VICELAND’s mesmerising new doco. (SBS)Source: SBS
We need a "third industrial revolution" to stave off mass extinction.
Evan Valletta

6 Mar 2018 - 10:35 AM  UPDATED 7 Mar 2018 - 11:20 AM

Earth is in peril. Climate change is no longer a contentious theory, but a harsh reality that’s unfolding at an alarming rate in front of our eyes. If our current global economic system isn’t radically overhauled, and soon, then all that awaits our species is a whole lot of chaos on the way to mass extinction.

At least, this is the warning coming directly from Jeremy Rifkin, one of the world’s leading social and economic theorists. In his new doco, The Third Industrial Revolution: A Radical New Sharing Economy, Rifkin goes deep into the impending doom, then offers up a way to cut it off at the pass.


A man on many missions

At 73 years of age, Rifkin (above) is one of the most sought-after minds on the planet. He’s a long-serving adviser to the European Union, and has been a key figure in seeing both Western and Eastern nations shift their approach to climate change.

Chancellor Angela Merkel enlisted his services while formulating a sustainable vision for Germany’s future and Premier Li Kequiang publicly acknowledged that he used The Third Industrial Revolution (i.e. the original book on which this doco is based) as a blueprint for much of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan.        

At present, Rifkin is hell-bent on helping humanity face up to the mess we’re in, and on encouraging young people to take up the mantle of cleaning it up.


The mess we’re in 

According to Rifkin, the world is in far worse state than reported in the mass media. He’s emphatic that we’re on the doorstep of a mass extinction event and that the climate is changing at a rate nobody foresaw. Our ailing global economic system is the direct result of the second industrial revolution – one that’s entirely reliant on fossil fuels. Everything from agriculture and construction to pharmaceuticals and transport to heating and lighting are dependent on Earth’s dwindling supply of fossil fuels.

If we keep this up and fail to end our relationship with carbon, then over the next seven decades, we will lose over half the species currently alive on Earth. The planet will regularly fall victim to end-of-days kinds of storms the likes of which we’ve never seen before, and more and more populated coastline will end up swallowed by water. This isn’t a distant future kind of deal, but something today’s children will experience in their lifetimes.

Unless, of course, we embrace the third industrial revolution.


The third industrial revolution

Rifkin argues that the key to survival of our species is through a cultivation of the existing sharing economy to form a new, global, "smart" infrastructure (as in smart car, smart phone, etc.) – one that focuses on the distribution and redistribution of goods and services without interference and for marginal costs. He sees a world where individuals generate their own renewable energy, then link together in a stable, self-sufficient network; where shared, automated transportation negates the need for over 80 percent of the world’s vehicles.

He envisions a radical shift from purchasing and selling to providing and reusing, and in the subsequent plummeting of needless waste. He believes the free and open sharing of knowledge will replace undue competitiveness and foster more genuine empathy among people of all walks of life.

If this all sounds a little lofty and out of reach, rest assured that Rifkin has given his visions of the future great thought and attention, and based them on existing, tangible technologies. In fact, his efforts in Germany demonstrate the sharing economy’s potential and all but prove the seeds of the new industrial revolution have already been sewn.

If you’re looking for a doco that’ll not only give you hope for a safer and more desirable future, but also empower you to feel capable of contributing to its success, then let Rifkin’s documentary into your life.


Watch The Third Industrial Revolution: A Radical New Sharing Economy at SBS On Demand:

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