BIOSPHERE POLITICS: A New Consciousness for a New Century

BIOSPHERE POLITICS: A New Consciousness for a New Century

by Jeremy Rifkin
Crown Publishers, New York. 1991; paperback.

Lobbyist and lecturer Jeremy Rifkin , an articulate and aggressive advocate of environmental protection, described technology as a destroyer endangering the local, regional, and global ecosystems during decades when humanity has become severed from life-sustaining nature.

Forging a new environmental ethic upon the anvil of ecological necessity, Rifkin resounds with a righteous indignation when he complains quite correctly that senseless and unreasoned rapine has brought Planet Earth perilously close to irreparable disaster. His complaint emanates from his perceptive observation that has now become commonplace, an awareness that the industrialized West has severed itself from unsullied nature.

The author locates several specific causes for this impending catastrophe. Rifkin contends convincingly that the Roman Catholic Church's concept of purgatory legitimized and ultimately encouraged the development of usury. Without the threat of eternal damnation, moneylending became a thriving enterprise. Capitalism, he contends, ensued. Modernizing tendencies followed a characteristic modus operandi during the enclosure movement that commenced in England during the fifteenth century and persisted on the continent into the eighteenth century. Under this system, commons land became fenced in an attempt to pro vide pasture for grazing sheep; newly dispossessed peasants were forced onto the roads to congregate among the homeless. Rifkin argues that under such systems, land, sea, and air are relegated as marketable commodities. The author indicts John Locke, Rene Descartes, and Francis Bacon who "promised future generations that greater consumption-material progress-would mean greater personal security. Instead we find ourselves more isolated and less secure-at war with the environment, at odds with our fellow human beings, and without an alternative approach to securing ourselves in the world."

Although Rifkin's causal reasoning becomes fuzzy and his causes might be simply symptoms for an even greater social dislocation, he paints a vivid and alarming picture describing ecological disaster. More than acting as a prophet pronouncing gloom and doom, he envisions a possible future in which humans attain a new developmental stage of consciousness and "reparticipate with nature out of an act of love and free will, rather than out of fear and despondency. "Rifkin imagines a time when nature becomes "resacralized" and humans discover themselves "secure in the fulness of their grounding inside the biosphere."

Biosphere Politics describes a new consciousness capable of bringing a beleaguered humanity into balance with nature and advances a much needed understanding of how homo sapiens can halt the mindless race toward disaster. Rifkin sketches a hope-imparting and inspiriting scenario in which the human community secures sufficient food, shelter, and comfort while simultaneously restoring a broken balance with the natural environment.


Spring 1992