Three years ago I was obsessed with cutting carbon and carbon markets. The smartest and most inspirational people I was meeting at the time were blowing whistles at “pressure on ecosystems”. If in those times companies were getting shallowly into green business and coming forth with loads of disgusting greenwash, I was there wishing to pump out CO2. Nowadays, “pressure on ecosystems” with its corroborators, industrial agriculture, indirect land use change, the grave biofuel flop and other are the hype, hence not for large businesses or eco-chic puppets, in a full blown economic crisis. Jeremy Rifkin held a killer conference on his Third Industrial Revolution in Bucharest just before the European Climate Change Citizens’ Agora a couple of years ago. I had a nice conversation with him, me and my buddy, Mihai Stoica, about ’68, even got an autograph on my 68 Magnum Photoalbum.

Famous photoshot of Marc Riboud during the March on Washington in 1968

Rifkin was leading at the time the March on the Pentagon and recognized Marc Riboud’s famous shot of a hippie ‘planting’ flowers on the National Guard soldiers’ rifles (see photo on the right). It was the cornerstone image of the peace movement at its peak in the hippie era of the 60s. But that was a private talk, let us stick to environmental issues. There are dimmer lights in which environmentalism is molding on development and Rifkin says it right. Enjoy! (Raul Cazan)

RAUL CAZAN: Let’s talk about European reality and surpass a little the European Dream. I just came back from Brussels, there was the Green Week conference series and listened to a presentation held by Anders Wijkman. He is also approaching your holistic way of thinking, and, more importantly, he was also supported by Dimas. He mentioned the pressure on ecosystems and this would be more important than emissions and emissions trading. On the other hand Dimas (European Commissioner on Environment at the time) talked about sustainable consumption and production, which Europe kind of lacks now. It’s not such a rosy situation…

JEREMY RIFKIN: It’s not, dreams is what you’d like to be, it’s what you want to be, but the good news is that at least if you begin thinking what you want to be, than you got to do it. It’s a gap between dreaming and making it happen.

RAUL CAZAN: What about the terms, how can we get there?

JEREMY RIFKIN: I think that that’s why I was that tough about nuclear and coal because I think you got huge potential here, you got to move quickly with your renewables you got enough hydro here to do a lot, you got sun, wind, you got biomass and forestry waste, you got everything you need.
What Romania has to do is to get together the civil society and the business sector, the younger generation has to embrace the Third Revolution.
Romania has got 21 milion people, it’s a big elephant. Start moving the damn country.

RAUL CAZAN: Carbon trading, ETS. Linking ETS with the American trading scheme…

JEREMY RIFKIN: Let me say this about the carbon trading fact. I think that the carbon trading plan is part of the sollution, but if anyone thinks it’s the solution is kidding himself. It’s buying us time, it sets some standards. You know what the real value of carbon trading is? It’s a learning credit, what it actually allows people to do is understand that everytime I do something I affect the rainforest or other locations. I realise that what I do affects someone else. It’s actually a learning thing. People actually start to integrate into their mind that everything I do has an impact on everyone else. That’s actually the biggest benefit it has, to show that we are responsible for everyone else. In terms of the actual carbon trading it’s a small part of what we need to to, what we really need to do, we’ve got to get a tax on carbon, on feed grain, on meat production- The second major cause on global warming. No one talks about it, No 1 is buildings, No 3 is transportation, and No 2 is meat production. No one mentions that, no government leader.

Jeremy Rifkin, director of the Institute for Economic Trends in Washington, D.C. Photo: Mihai Stoica

39% of the grains in the world is feed grain for animals, a third of the land space and that’s a killer. We should talk about tax on feed grain, on meat production. So we are taxing cars and petrol, now we oughtta be taxing meat.

RAUL CAZAN: Green Hydrogen Initiative?

JEREMY RIFKIN: It was set out when Romano Prodi was president, I set down with him and I said you have to make a hydrogen programme to store renewables. He put together two billion dollar programme wich is now moving to a joined technology initiative to the market, it will be 500 million Bruxelles and 7 billion private this year. The programme has a 26 technology platform of R&D engines for industry. I brought in business leaders in December to meet with president Barosso, and after that meeting I was encouraged by the commission to star having a conversation with the other platforms. What we did, we located 13 platforms of the 26 technology platforms that would lay the basis for a Third Industrial revolution, like road, rail, sustainable chemistry, computing, hydrogen, construction, etc. and we asked their chair persons would they join the technology working platform group and they all did. We had two long meetings and we are now creating a NASA airbus model with all these industry platforms that are now interfacing to create a world map. It’s very exciting.

RAUL CAZAN: GMOs and biofuels?

JEREMY RIFKIN: Big mistake. The opposition on GM food started in my office in 1982, we brought the first lawsuit that stopped the first release of a GMO in the environment. We’ve been fighting Monsanto for years. The GMO makes no sense. But there is a new generation of weed search called marker assisted selection, which I m in favour of. It’s a cutting edge of genomic revolution. What you don’t know is that the majority of companies like Monsanto do most of their research now on marker assisted selection. Why? Because GMO doesn’t work. It doesn’t give you much. Moreover, MAS shall not be patented, it’s gonna be like file sharing on the internet or local virtual networks.

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