Author Jeremy Rifkin’s latest book, The Empathy Civilization, traces the empathic evolution of the human race and the profound ways it has shaped our development and will likely decide our fate as a species. Rifkin’s alternative view of evolution is very similar to the evolutionary path that we refer to as LOVEvolution our new book, Healing Developmental Trauma. This heartful path is characterized by the ability to keep one’s heart open and to give and receive unconditional love. The concepts of empathy and compassion are at the core of we call the LOVEvolution path.

Psychologist Carl Rogers once described empathy as the ability to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the “as if” condition. Thus, it means to sense the hurt or the pleasure of another as he senses it and to perceive the causes thereof as he perceives them, but without ever losing the recognition that it is as if I were hurt or pleased and so forth. Rifkin cites the human capacity for empathy as the cornerstone of what he is calling the Third Industrial Revolution.

What is the Third Industrial Revolution

Rifkin describes The Third Industrial Revolution as both a distributed energy revolution and a new economic game plan. His visionary plan of the Third Industrial Revolution contains 4 pillars: 1) Developing Renewable Energy Sources, 2) Utilizing Buildings as Positive Power Plants, 3) Creating Hydrogen Storage Technology, and 4) Building Smartgrids and Plug-in Vehicles.

Homo Empathicus and A Shift in Consciousness

Rifkin says that this new structure will not allow us to limit our notion of extended family to national boundaries in which Americans empathize with fellow Americans, Chinese with Chinese, and so forth. He also says that a truly global biosphere economy will require a global empathic embrace that requires us to think more globally as a species as “homo empathicus” to create an empathic civilization that is energetically embedded or located in our shared biosphere. An example of this global empathic experience is the recent worldwide response to numerous natural disasters. Small daily acts of kindness that happen all over the planet are the result of empathy and compassion, but never make the news.

According to Rifkin, this global shift in consciousness is essential if humans are going to survive as a species. If our true human nature is Homo Empathicus, as both we and Rifkin are suggesting, then it is time to begin creating new institutions and systems–parenting styles, relationship structures, educational and business models–that truly reflect our true nature.

Two Tracks of Evolution

According to our Developmental Systems Theory, the consciousness in most human institutions is influenced primarily by a second evolutionary track that we call Developmental Trauma. The effects of this invisible, compelling, trauma-driven system is disrupting and stalling the evolutionary expansion of all human systems, from individuals, to couples, to parents and families, to all other larger and more complex human structures. It is important that humans recognize the devastating impact of hidden and unhealed developmental trauma on their evolution and take steps to heal it. Only then is it possible to shift to Rifkin’s Homo Empathicus.

Our book, Healing Developmental Trauma, outlines these two evolutionary pathways and presents practical ways to help microsystems shift from the Developmental Trauma track to the LOVEvolution track of evolution. We and Rifkin believe this shift is essential for the survival of the species.

The Third Industrial Revolution

According to Rifkin, The Third Industrial Revolution will create a pathway to a post-fossil fuel era. It was the first Industrial Revolution that integrated print and literacy with coal steam and rail travel. The second Industrial Revolution combined the telegraph and telephone with the internal combustion engine and oil. The core of the Third Industrial Revolution is the integration of distributed energy revolution utilizing the power of computers and renewable energy sources.

Rifkin believes everyone can create their own energy, store it, and then distribute it to each other. He also believes that empathy will help us see our common global dilemma. In 25 years, millions of buildings will operate as power plants that load renewable energy. He says, We will load solar power from the sun, wind from turbines and even ocean waves on each coast. We can also make the power grid of the world smart and intelligent; we call it inter-grid.

According to Rifkin, millions and millions of people will load power to buildings, store it in the form of hydrogen and distribute energy peer-to-peer; just like digital media and the Internet. The first inter-grids are going up in the United States this year in Houston, TX, Boulder, Colorado, and Southern California. The city of San Antonio, TX is planning a distributed energy program that will make it the largest city in this country to implement this approach.

Rifkin has been consulting with European Union countries to actively move on this evolutionary path. Seventeen of the 27 EU countries have begun projects that implement his Four Pillars of The Third Industrial Revolution.

The Four Pillars of The Third Industrial Revolution

Pillar 1: Developing Renewable Energy Renewable forms of energy solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, ocean waves, and biomass make up pillar one of the Third Industrial Revolution. While these energies still account for a small percentage of the global energy mix, they are growing rapidly as governments mandate targets and benchmarks for their widespread introduction into the market and their falling costs make them increasingly competitive. Billions of dollars of public and private capital are pouring into research, development and market penetration, as businesses and homeowners seek to reduce their carbon footprint and become more energy efficient and energy independent.

2: Pillar 2: Using Buildings as Positive Power Plants

The construction industry is the largest industrial employer in many countries, and buildings are the major contributor to human induced global warming. Worldwide, buildings emit 30 to 40 percent of CO2 emissions and are responsible for consuming 30 to 40 percent of all energy. New technological breakthroughs are making it possible to design and construct buildings that create all of their own energy from locally available renewable energy sources, even re-conceptualizing buildings as “power plants. In twenty-five years, millions of buildings homes, offices, shopping malls, industrial and technology parks will be renovated and constructed to collect and generate energy to provide their own power and produce surplus energy.

Pillar 3: Creating Hydrogen Storage

As renewable energy is intermittent the sun isn’t always shining, the wind isn’t always blowing it is necessary to develop storage methods that will store and convert this energy. Batteries, differentiated water pumping, and other methods can provide some storage capacity. One storage medium, hydrogen, is the universal method to store all forms of renewable energy, for both power generation and transport. Hydrogen is the lightest, most abundant element in the universe, and when used as an energy source, the only by-products are heat and water. Spaceships have been powered by high-tech hydrogen fuel cells for more than 30 years. When renewable energy is abundant, electricity can be used to extract hydrogen from water, and it can be stored for later use.

Pillar 4: Building Smartgrids & Plug-in Hybrids

The fourth pillar has two components: one is updating the current electricity transmission system to a smartgrid. In the same way that people currently produce and share their own information on the Internet, businesses and homeowners will produce and share their own energy. A smart grid makes producing and sharing energy more efficient, reliable, and safe.

The second component is plug-in and hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicles that become “power stations on wheels.” Since the average vehicle is parked much of the time, when demand for electricity is low, vehicles can be plugged into electricity network to provide power back to the grid. Electric and fuel cell plug-in vehicles become a way to store renewable energy that can be sent back to the power grid in the form of electricity.

Building A Sustainable Future

Rifkin claims, “We have the science and technology to make these changes, but it will mean nothing unless there is a change in will.” We believe that what Rifkin is proposing is entirely possible. Achieving his vision will require that each of us make some sacrifices and also look at exactly what in our lifestyle is unsustainable: the car we drive, the place where we live, the relationships and social structures we create, and how we spend our time and money.

We have worked very hard in our almost 30 year relationship to heal our developmental traumas, and to keep our hearts open to each other so that we can give and receive unconditional love. We have been driving a hybrid automobile since 2004, car-pooling where possible and have been averaging about 45 miles per gallon, while producing low carbon emissions.

Recently, we decided to move into an ecovillage in Asheville, NC where we can live more sustainably. We believe that this ecovillage can be a model of what Rifkin is talking about. All of the houses are required to meet the Energy Star requirements for green buildings. When fully operational, the energy systems at the Villages at Crest Mountain will be totally renewable and sustainable, including recycling the Villages water and returning power that can be used in a Smartgrid as Rifkin suggests.

You can read an excellent review of Rifkin’s book at Huffington Post here.


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