I’ve just come out of a conference in Brussels were Jeremy Rifkin outlined his plan of a “Third Industrial Revolution for Europe”. It is a convincing and cutting-edge blueprint, endorsed also by the European Parliament and the European Commission. Bottom line: rethink the fundamental pillars of the European economy by getting our societies off fossil fuels through massive infusion of renewable energies and by turning each and every building in the ‘old continent’ into an energy hub, capable of producing energy and feeding any surplus back into the grid for others to use it. His proposal is to shift the system of energy production away from centralized control and turn it into an ‘Internet’ of small producers, which create and share energy. Not a new idea, but fundamentally revolutionary. European officials were staring at him but most probably did not really get the point.
Rifkin is a visionary and a fundamental believer in the power of technology. Yet, his assessment is not naive. He is aware of the challenge and the entrenched powers that would oppose such a transition to a non-carbon economy. He is calling for a profound revolution of our governance systems by advocating a new model of social order shaped around the example of the Web, where peers cooperate, co-produce and share.
Amid the worst crisis ever since its inception, the EU should listen carefully to Mr Rifkin. We need to stop the madness of these endless austerity plans that only serve the purpose of keeping a defunct economic system on life support. What we need is what Rifkin calls “a new economic narrative”. If Europe finds the courage to change, it may very well find itself in a leading position in the world. Instead of mocking others (e.g. the US) as it has done for the past two decades.