Rod Adams runs an informative and gentlemanly blog called Atomic Insights. Mr. Adams is a nuclear engineer and a former submariner in the U.S. navy. His blog’s primary focus is fission power and its potential benefits. It was through Mr. Adams and his blog that I discovered Kirk Sorenson’s superlative Energy From Thorium blog. It has some great introductory papers to the wonderland that is thorium fission power. We’ll come back to both of them another day. For today we’re going to concentrate on an old Classical Values staple, Jeremy Rifkin. Mr. Adams recently attended a function in Washington D.C. where Rifkin was a featured lecturer. Your tax dollars at work.

Last night (May 22, 2006) I had the opportunity to listen to Jeremy Rifkin, the author of The Hydrogen Economy: The Creation of the Worldwide Energy Web and the Redistribution of Power on Earth.
The talk was hosted by The DoD Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics and the Office of Force Transformation as part of a continuing series of “conversations” about energy issues.

What was DOD thinking?

For those of us that were listening very carefully, Dr. Rifkin acknowledged that an energy system based on only natural flows would not be able to support a human population that is already more than 6 billion people with a growth rate that makes it likely to approach 9 billion in the next 50 years or so. He talked a bit about a gradual reduction in the world’s population but did not seem concerned by the drastic changes in human behavior that would be required to turn our population growth rate into a population reduction rate. Perhaps he would like the rest of the world to adopt China’s one child policy.
I took the opportunity provided by sitting in the front row in a rather small room to ask the first question following Dr. Rifkin’s talk. (As an aside, I am sure that others in the room noticed my fidgeting while waiting through at least three separate “finally I want to talk about. . .” from Dr. Rifkin. He managed to stretch his talk long enough to only allow for about 4-5 questions.)

That sounds about right. For those of you who would prefer not to read Birth Of A Notion, Rifkin Redux, or “Machine Gun For An Idiot Child” yet again, I’ve stripped out the snarky commentary and am re-posting some unadulterated Rifkin excerpts. This first batch comes from “Entropy: Into The Greenhouse World“. Think of it as a massive reference material dump for our newer readers…

Each day we awake to a world that appears more confused and disordered than the one we left the night before. Nothing seems to work anymore?Our leaders are forever lamenting and apologizing?The powers that be continue to address the problems at hand with solutions that create even greater problems than the ones they were meant to solve… P 3
The Entropy Law has a special power. It is so utterly overwhelming that, once fully internalized, it transforms everyone it comes in contact with; it is this almost mystical attraction that makes the Entropy Law so frightening to take hold of. Yet…. few people can resist the temptation to do just that. The allure lies in its all-encompassing nature.The Entropy law is the assassin of the truths of the Modern Age…. Now those truths have metamorphosed into monstrous lies which threaten our continued existence. Pp 6-7
It should be emphasized that the Entropy Law deals only with the physical world where everything is finite and where all living things must run their course and eventually cease to be. It is a law governing the horizontal world of time and space. It is mute, however, when it comes to the vertical world of spiritual transcendence.
The spiritual plane is not governed by the ironclad dictates of the Entropy Law. The spirit is a nonmaterial dimension where there are no boundaries and no fixed limits to attend to. The relationship of the physical to the spiritual world is the relationship of a small part to the larger unbound whole within which it unfolds. While the Entropy Law governs the world of time, space, and matter, it is, in turn, governed by the primordial spiritual forces that conceived it. P 8
Every time you light a cigarette, the available energy in the world decreases. Of course, as already pointed out, it?s possible to reverse the entropy process in an isolated time and place, but only by using up additional energy in the process and thus increasing the overall entropy of the environment?A point that needs to be emphasized over and over again is that here on earth material entropy is continually increasing and must ultimately reach a maximum. That?s because the earth is a closed system in relation to the universe. With the exception of an occasional meteorite that falls to earth and some cosmic dust, our planet remains a closed subsystem of the universe?
The fixed endowment of terrestrial matter that makes up the earth?s crust is continually dissipating. Mountains are wearing down and topsoil is being blown away with each passing second. That is why, in the final analysis, even renewable resources are really nonrenewable over the long haul. While they continue to reproduce, the life and death of new organisms increase the entropy of the earth…
Every farmer understands that, even with recycling and constant sunshine, it?s impossible to grow the same amount of grass on the same spot year after year in perpetuity. Every blade of grass grown today means one less blade of grass that can be grown some time in the future on that same spot. P37-38
Finally, the idea that valuable resources could be mined and sent back to earth from other planets in the quantities needed is completely ridiculous. The cost of mining additional resources on earth is already becoming prohibitive. Even assuming we could locate planets with resources that would be usable in some way here on earth, there is no way we could ever afford the costs of mining and transporting the materials from these distant places. Pp 66-67
The faster we streamline our technology, the faster we speed up the transforming process, the faster available energy is dissipated, the more the disorder mounts? In short, we live in a kind of nightmarish Orwellian world. P 79
Addiction! There is simply no other way to accurately describe America?s energy habit. The statistics are overwhelming. With only 6 percent of the world?s population, the United States currently consumes over one third of the world?s energy. P 99
It has been said before that the world could not possibly support another America. Looking at these figures, it becomes apparent that even one America is more than the world can afford.
The remaining reservoirs of untapped nonrenewable resources are primarily in the hands of the poor Third World nations. These resources are their only remaining trump card to bargain for a more equitable redistribution of wealth between the industrialized countries and their own?
To those of us who have lived for decades on huge quantities of energy and resources provided by the Third World, it is easy to resent the squeeze that cartels will put on our economic system. A popular country-and western song of the summer of 1979 summed up the frustration many Americans felt over escalating OPEC oil prices: ?No crude, no food.? In other words, if the Third World won?t sell us its petroleum, then we should withhold food exports from the world?s hungry.
This kind of jingoistic attitude on our part is not only morally and politically indefensible, but it threatens our very survival. The choice is ours. We can either accept the new terms presented by Third World nations and cut back dramatically on our energy flow and material consumption, or we can intervene militarily to seize the resources we need? p 188
?as long as we in the United States continue to consume one-third of the world?s resources annually, the Third World can never rise to even a semblance of a standard of living that can adequately support human life with dignity. Those who are irate over the formation of resource cartels as an economic weapon to be used against rich nations like our own had best ask themselves what they would do if they were living in the Third World?. P 189
we must begin, now, voluntarily, to substantially limit our own material wealth. We must show our own willingness to accept hard sacrifices in the name of humanity. P 190
However, this too must be said: no Third World nation should harbor hopes that it can ever reach the material abundance that has existed in America over the past few decades.
To put its faith in Western-style development is a cruel hoax, simply because it is a physical impossibility even if there were a complete redistribution of the world?s resources?.
It is thus impossible for the rest of the world to develop as the United States has. In fact, as we have already seen, absolute resource scarcity makes it impossible that even the United States can continue at anything near its present level of energy flow. This is not, however, to dismiss the absolute necessity of fostering economic development in the Third World. The question is: What kind of development is appropriate to poor nations? Pp 190-191
?.It is clear that Third World nations must seek different forms of development from those used in the industrialized West. High-energy, centralized technology should be eschewed in favor of intermediate technology that is labor intensive and can be used in local villages?
Several appropriate models for Third World development already exist. Before Mao?s death, the People?s Republic of China organized itself in a way that maintained the rural base of the society and favored labor-intensive production. China is not a rich society, but no one is starving to death–or is jobless or homeless, either.
More attention should also be turned to the Gandhian economic model?.Gandhian economics favors the country over the city, agriculture over industry, small-scale techniques over high technology. Only this general set of economic priorities can lead to successful Third World development. Pp 192-193
Accepting higher and higher prices for all nonrenewable resources means a steady contracting of the American economy. For the first time in our countries history we will have to deal with the ultimate political and economic question?redistribution of wealth?
The contraction of the American economy has already begun. On September 6, 1979, the Secretary of the Treasury warned the nation that it must go through ?a period of austerity?.? There is really only one viable solution: it is imperative that there be a massive redistribution of wealth and power in this society. Without that redistribution, the poor and working classes in America will rightly condemn any talk of austerity or economic sacrifice?
Without a fundamental redistribution of wealth, all talk of lowering energy flow and heeding our planet?s biological limits will result in nothing but the rich locking the poor forever into their subservient status The chic upper-class ecologists, with their hot-tubs, their quarter-million-dollar homes, their designer clothes, and their Mercedes Benzes, had best realize that their calls for clean air must be accompanied by meaningful actions that will lead to a redistribution of their own unwarranted economic abundance. If they do not voluntarily begin to make this economic adjustment, then others will make it for them. Pp 194-195
We have denied the qualitative, the spiritual, the metaphysical?We have gloried in the concepts of material progress, efficiency, and specialization above all other values. In the process, we have destroyed family, community, tradition?.Now our world view and social system are falling victim to the very process of their creation. Everywhere we look, the entropy of our world is reaching staggering proportions?. P 205
There is no doubt that we are in for a massive institutional realignment?.But before we can even begin to broadly outline the nature of agriculture, industry, and commerce in a low-entropy society, we must turn our attention to first principles?.the Big Questions of the past are destined to re-emerge in the low-entropy world that awaits us?.. p 206
The governing ethical principle of a low-entropy world view is to minimize energy flow. Excessive material wealth is recognized as an irreversible diminution of the world?s precious resources?. A low-entropy society deemphasizes material consumption…Human needs are met, but whimsical, self-indulgent desires?the kind pandered to in every shopping center in the country?are not.
In a low-entropy culture the individual is expected to live a much more frugal or Spartan life-style?.In the new age, the less production and consumption necessary to maintain a healthy, decent life, the better?.
In a low-entropy culture, work is understood to be an activity as necessary for the proper life-balance as sleep, contemplation, or play?.
But not just any kind of work can be considered appropriate. It must be designed, first and foremost, to provide dignity and purpose for the worker?. Pp 208-209
In a low-entropy culture the concept of private property is retained for consumer goods and services but not for land and other renewable and nonrenewable resources. The long-accepted practice of private exploitation of ?natural? property is replaced with the notion of public guardianship?.
Individual rights are protected, but they are no longer regarded as the dominant reference point from which to judge society. Instead, the notion of public duties, and responsibilities once again gains ascendancy as the dominant social motif, as it has been throughout most of history.
In a low-entropy society, our modern view of man and woman divorced from the workings of the ecosystem gives way to a holistic comprehension of the interrelatedness of all phenomena?. Once it is understood that human beings are ?one? with nature, then an ethical base is established by which the appropriateness of all human activity can be judged. P 211
Small-scale labor-intensive agriculture will require a massive shift of people away from the cities and back to the farms. The transition will not take place overnight?. Eventually the proportion of farm to city population will have to reverse itself if human life is to survive?.An agricultural way of life will dominate the coming Solar Age as it has in every other period of history before our own?.
Along with the scaling down of cities, transportation systems are also going to be vastly reoriented in the years to come. The high cost of energy is going to force a fundamental shift in the pattern of travel away from automobiles and trucks and toward greater mass transit and long-distance rail use?
Our social and economic life will undergo radical changes reflecting the change in transportation?.
Because of escalating energy and resource costs, industry will reverse its historical trend and convert back from energy- and capital-intensive production modes to labor-intensive ones?.
Agriculture, which will no longer be able to continue its mechanized farming techniques, will also become far more labor intensive?.
To recognize the extent to which production will be diminished, we have only to take a tour through a suburban mall and ask ourselves, ?How many of these products are even marginally useful in sustaining life?? Any honest appraisal is sure to conclude that most of what is manufactured in our economy is simply superfluous. P 218
The production that does continue should take place within certain guidelines in keeping with the low-entropy paradigm?.Of course, adhering to these guidelines will necessarily mean that certain items will become impossible to produce.
A Boeing 747 for instance, simply cannot be manufactured by a small company employing several hundred individuals. Thus, a new ethic will have to be adopted as the litmus test of what should be produced in the low-entropy society: if it cannot be made locally by the community, using readily available resources and technology, then it is most likely unnecessary that it be produced at all.
Many industries will not be able to withstand the transition to a low energy flow. Unable to adapt to the new economic environment, the automotive, aerospace, petrochemical, and other industries will slide into extinction.
?.the low-entropy age we are moving into will require a great reduction in world population. The massive explosion in world population is really only understandable when viewed in thermodynamic terms?.

I’ll take the nukes, thank you very much. And a big thanks but no thanks to Rifkin’s version of ghastly communitarian paradise. I think Cambodia has already beta tested it for us, and it had a few too many bugs to generate a solid market. I can’t believe the government is still listening to this guy.
Our next batch load is excerpted from “The Emerging Order“. It’s one of his earliest books, and in my sober estimation it’s also the looniest. If you’ve never encountered it before you’re in for a real treat…

Cancer is the new plague. It strikes without warning and seemingly without reason….
Cancer, like the plagues is a direct consequence of the changing economic period we’re living in. Seventy to 90 percent of all cancer, according to government studies, is caused by the environment of industrial capitalism…
p 220
If there is one element that has shaken public confidence in science and technology more than any other it would be the ineptness of the commercial health establishment and government in dealing with cancer…Today, with billions of dollars of tax money spent, a solution is no more in the offing than before. The reason is that the problem does not lend itself to a particular scientific cure…On the contrary, it is science itself that is responsible for cancer…Science created chemical pesticides, nuclear radiation, toxic substances, and all of the other ingredients that cause the disease…. p 220
While it is conceivable that the medical establishment could find a new technological cure for cancer, it is more than likely that the cure itself would merely serve to create an even greater set of problems in human biology at some future date. Ultimately, the answer to the problem of cancer (and other more sophisticated diseases that might replace it) lies in the establishment of a new world view based on an ecologically balanced steady-state economic system. Only by slowing down the entropy process and restoring the natural balance and interplay of nature can the problem of cancer be ultimately put to rest. Until that realization sets in, the popular response to cancer…is likely to ba a mixture of public resentment and hostility toward the scientific medical establishment (which is justified) and a search for alternative cures. That search has already begun…. p 221
Today, millions of Americans are professed adherents of faith healing as an alternative to medical science…. p 221
While we?ve already caught a glimpse of the revolutionary potential in the shift of faith from medical science to faith healing, the full gravity of what?s taking place only becomes apparent upon deeper examination of the underlying assumptions behind the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? p 222
One of the important aspects of special gifts is that they are, in fact, observable and repeatable, just like scientific phenomena. Unlike science, however, their manifestations do not depend on what the individual does, but what God (through the Holy Spirit) does. The individual is no longer in ?control? as with scientific truths. Instead, He becomes the faithful repository of supernatural truths. When a Charismatic ?lays hands? on someone, and in so doing, cures them of an ailment by the special gift of faith healing, there is no doubt that the results of the procedure are often observable-as observable as the results of a medical operation. But it is not the special skills or knowledge of people that cures the victim, but the indwelling spirit of God?. p 223
The Charismatics have replaced the scientific method with supernatural power?.They have taken the human being from a horizontal perspective to a vertical one…their challenge to the existing order is profound and could well end up turning the world upside down, just as the Reformation did a half millennium ago. To begin with, vertical experience provides an ahistorical context. The Charismatics believe that God can speak to each person today just as authoritatively as he spoke to the Apostles 2000 years ago. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit sets up a nonlinear frame of reference?His revealed truths are timeless. p 224
Technique is humanity?s way of trying to create a timeless world, a world of total unified being, omnipotent, all present and eternal. Technique is a horizontal race to a vertical finish. Of course, human beings can never win the race; in fact, we can never even finish it. The more people apply technique, the more we reduce the components of life to their particulars and the further away we slide from the universality we?re striving for. The age of expansion is characterized by the notion that people can overcome all limits. Time and space, however, are the very real limits imposed upon all life. By trying to overcome these limits, people try to become God; this failure is reflected in a world in shambles, destroyed largely by science, technique and our own hubris. p 225
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit eliminates the need for efficiency and technique. In so doing, it sets up conditions for return to a balanced ecosystem. With special gifts people can overcome this world?s time and space limitations and become one with God directly, now. Humanity doesn?t need to get sidetracked on a long and futile journey technologizing people and nature?Speaking in tongues is a more powerful form of communication than any satellite network?The gift of prophecy is more powerful than any computer information system?it is providential and inerrant. p 225
Special gifts, say the Charismatics, are God?s signs. In a secular sense, they are indeed signs-signs of the anxiety and hostility being engendered by the emergence of the new postindustrial order. Imagine, for a moment, the significance of tongues?.Speaking in tongues contradicts all communications theory?..If everyone spoke in tongues, it would be indecipherable according to communications logic. Yet millions of people are now doing just that. They are speaking in tongues and the evidence is that they are communicating more effectively with each other as a result. ?.p 227
Anyone can speak in tongues; it provides the kind of access that people feel is denied them by those who hold a monopoly over communications in this society. Speaking in tongues requires no special training. It is a universal language available to all men and women??It does not provide partial information, or inaccurate information, but the complete body of truths necessary for life. This is so because the truths are those revealed by God, and therefore all-inclusive.
Backed up by the most sophisticated communications hardware that money can buy, evangelicals are now threatening the long-standing hegemony over the airwaves previously enjoyed by CBS, NBC, and ABC?..All of this is just for openers, boasts Jim Bakker, head of PTL television network. PTL stands for both ?People That Love?and ?Praise The Lord?. p 106
During the show viewers are urged to call in and discuss their personal and spiritual problems with some of the 7,000 trained volunteers staffing some sixty regional telephone centers strategically placed across the country…
?..the studio lights darken, the camera scans the audience as heads are lowered in prayer?looking into camera left, the Reverend James Bakker, attired in an egg-blue suit, standing against a blue-velvet background, begins quietly:
?There is a prostate gland condition that God is healing right now ?there is a spinal condition, perhaps a missing disc that is being restored?someone to my left has a kidney ailment?there are growths and in the name of Jesus those growths are gone?you will not need surgery?there is something that goes into the marrow of the bone?and the Lord is healing it.?

Whew! 1979. Wasn’t that a time? Let’s just decompress a minute and then wrap up with a little juxtaposition that I found too good to pass up. First, some more shallow historical analysis from “Entropy”. Any emphases are my own…

Imagine a time warp that could put us face to face with a medieval Christian serf. The thirteenth century is not so very long ago…Still, even without a language barrier we and the serf would have very little to say to each other after the usual chitchat about the weather. That?s because we would probably be interested in finding out what his goals in life were…Of course, we shouldn?t expect much in the way of a response. In fact, if all we see in his eyes is a blank expression, it?s not because we?re talking over his head, or because his mind isn?t developed enough for the exchange of ideas. It?s just that his ideas about life, history, and reality are so utterly different from our own. The Christian view of history, which dominated western Europe throughout the Middle Ages, perceived life in this world as a mere stopover in preparation for the next…the doctrine of original sin precluded the possibility of humanity ever improving its lot in life…There were no personal goals, no desires to get ahead or leave something behind. There were only God?s decrees to be faithfully carried out.

Right, right. Devout Christians all, and this life is but a mere prologue. So just how accurate is this account? As you might imagine, not terribly. In fact, it’s downright cartoonish, being so simply rendered as to be useless.
I was reading up on the Hanseatic League, a mercantile alliance active during (surprise!) the thirteenth century and found the following synopsis of a trading dispute…

Waldemar Atterdag, King of Denmark, was envious of the wealth the Hansa was taking from the herring fisheries off the coast of Scania. Waldemar felt, perhaps rightly so, that the revenues from the fisheries in his territories should be more under his control and did his best to reduce the privileges his predecessors had given to the Germans. In 1361, just after the counsellors from the Hansa had returned to Luebeck after re-negotiating the rights to the herring fisheries, news came that Waldemar had sacked the city of Wisby on the island of Gotland.
The leaders of the Hansa in Luebeck, who had the greatest interest in the Wisby “counter”, were outraged and pushed for war. The Wendish third was in favor of the war, but the Rhennish third saw no interest to be gained from it and the Prussian third were forbidden to take part by the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, who was a friend of Waldemar’s…
Despite the lack of support from the other thirds the Wendish third decided to undertake a campaign against the Danes, who they saw as pirates…
The campaign was initially quite successful and the fleet sacked Copenhagen and took with them the bell from the main church. They then went to attack the Danish fortresses on the Scania coastline of the sound. The plan was to meet with an army provided by Magnus Erikson, King of Sweden…
When the Hansa fleet arrived there was no Swedish army to be found and Johann Wittenborg made a grave error in taking the men-at-arms off the ships in order to besiege the fortress. Several days later, with the soldiers all on land, the Danish fleet sailed into view, and with only skeleton crews on most of the German vessels most of the German ships and Provisions were either sunk or taken captive…
The Hansa, in the terms of peace, was forced to cede most of its revenues from the herring fisheries to the Danish crown.
Waldemar was a cunning man and he felt that since only the Wendish cities had taken part in the war with him he had only made peace with the Wendish cities and not the Prussian ones. Therefore, Danish attacks against the Prussians increased through the next decade causing the Prussians to repeatedly call for a reopening of the hostilities, but the Wendish cities, who had lost so much in the first war without the support of the Prussians and the Rhennish third, were not in any hurry to take the risk again.
Finally the situation became totally intolerable and the Wendish cities were persuaded to join into a unified campaign which would include all of the cities. This time the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, who had lost revenues to Danish attacks, did not interfere with the Prussian cities’ involvement…Waldemar was forced to flee Copenhagen and stay as a guest of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order…
The Germans gained control over the revenues from the herring fisheries, control over the fortresses of the sound, the right to be the only ships allowed to enter the port of Bergen with their tops in place (Haakan Haakanson, the Norwegian King, had allied with Waldemar), and the right to veto any person’s ascension to the Danish throne for fifteen years.

That’s some “prologue”. Onward Christian soldiers, hey? But where is Rifkin’s conception of the medieval God in this mundane jockeying for economic and military advantage? It all sounds depressingly familiar and comprehensible. They fought a war for herring revenues.
Jeremy Rifkin, mangling the historical record since 1979.