MOTHER's Newsworthies: Jeremy Rifkin, Ellen Burstyn and Erich Kunzel

Learn how Jeremy Rifkin talks about the second law of thermodynamics, Ellen Burstyn learns more about Eastern philosophies and mysticism and Erich Kunzel builds his dream home on Swan's Island.

| November/December 1980

Brief: Jeremy Rifkin

For several centuries now, our society has clung to the notion that science equals progress, and that technology continually creates a more ordered world. However, economist, sociologist, and author Jeremy Rifkin — in his newest book, Entropy: A New World View ( Viking Press) — says that our current outlook (which, he claims, is founded upon seventeenth century Newtonian mechanics) will soon break down and be replaced.

The " new " concept, Rifkin explains, takes its cue from the second law of thermodynamics. That principle — the Entropy Law — states that all energy flows from order to disorder. In other words, it moves automatically from its usable and available state to its un usable and un available state.

"Whenever a semblance of order is created anywhere on the earth or in the universe," according to Mr. Rifkin, "it [causes] an even greater disorder in the surrounding environment." The whole universe, then, "is irrevocably moving toward random chaos and waste."

Rifkin relates the entropy paradigm to all aspects of modern life, arguing that this irreversible flow of energy is responsible for runaway inflation, environmental pollution, rising unemployment, and the threat of nuclear warfare.

However, there is some hope. A drastic shift in our world views, as we move from the Industrial to the Solar Age, will bring with it profound changes in the way we live ... changes that may allow us to survive, Rifkin writes. Our agriculture will become based upon regional organic farms, our industrial production will be scaled down to labor-intensive activities ... and both the giant metropolis and the multinational corporation will cease to exist.

In short, we can survive the end of the Industrial Age, Rifkin tells us ... but, he warns, "The movement from a high-entropy to a low-entropy system will transform our values, our culture, our economic and political institutions, and our day-to-day lives."

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