The First and Second Industrial Revolutions were not about sustainability. Significant changes to the way people approach production were made and an extensive infrastructure for fossil fuel energy use was built and exploited. However, this era is about to end, and the global community, including businesses, does not have a plan for addressing the upcoming crisis. The failure to recognize the need to revert to sustainable practices both in business and everyday life may cause significant harm shortly.
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After reading the works of Rifkin, Chouinard, and Moyer, and Stores, my view of sustainability has changed. Prior to reading Rifkin’s work, I was unaware of the pressing issues that still exist in our society. The author notes that almost one-seventh of the global population is facing hunger (294). Moreover, I did not recognize the main issues of the industrial economy, for instance, its impact on the environment and lack of accountability. My perspective on sustainability changed because I knew the problems that cannot be resolved with the current approach to the economy and business. Moreover, I improved my understanding of the energy resource supply and understood that “the flow of energy we used to take for granted may be in tight supply” (Moyer and Storrs, 302). This information made me rethink my views on sustainable practices and recognize the issues that are currently overlooked.
Renewable energy is a response to these ethical challenges because it allows addressing the disposition of energy and allows people to generate their energy supply in their homes. The way the European Union addresses the issue is by encouraging and investing in the construction of mini-plans capable of harnessing and distributing green energy. At the same time, no similar practice exists in this state. Rifkin describes this as a “system whose properties and functions are qualitatively different from the sum of its parts” (300). Rethinking the way humanity produces, uses, and shares energy – mainly by generating energy in small quantities, from each building, and creating a grid where the surplus can be shared can help address the discussed sustainability issues. Rifkin predicts a so-called “democratization of energy” when referring to green energy as the primary source for powering people’s homes and other facilities (295). Distributed energy is a term that describes the way people have been collaborating through the Internet to create new things – Wikipedia, blogs, and many others. Similar collaborations can change the way people get and use energy, which will inevitably transform that current industrial economy for the better.
Ethical Dimensions of Sustainability
The First and Second Industrial Revolutions were a breakthrough in the way manufacturing and production are viewed, but now the global community has to adopt a different way of thinking. Instead of overreliance on fossil fuels and production methods that require these resources, it is necessary to find sustainable alternatives. Rifkin refers to this challenge as “a new economic narrative” because of the broad scope of implications that the transition from fossil fuel use has ( 296). Mainly, the current economic practices create several ethical issues, including having starvation, job losses, and adverse environmental impact that cannot be resolved with the current system.
The first dimension of sustainability is the coexistence of humans and nature. Rifkin mentioned climate change as one example of the adverse effects humans have on nature (294). The use of fossil fuels contributes to pollution and environmental changes significantly. Moyer and Stores provide examples of the various resources, such as coal, which is thought to be inexhaustible, and the dates when humanity will no longer have these resources (300). However, many businesses require these fuels to operate and continue to generate profits, for example, oil and petroleum producers. The issue will persist until business managers do not begin to approach their work in a way described by Chouinard — emphasizing quality over the profits and teaching employees “business and environmental ethics” (346). Hence, sustainability can be achieved only if business owners recognize the need to focus on sustainable practices to save the environment. Otherwise, humanity will experience climate change and depletion of natural resources.
Another dimension is the industrial environment created by the over-reliance on fossil fuels. Mainly, Rifkin notes that unemployment is on the rise, and more people will lose their jobs soon (294). This is a byproduct of the current industrial economy, which fails to account for these people. The existing industrial environment and the systems and infrastructure developed around them do not resolve the problems of starvation and poverty, especially in developing countries. As with the previous issue, the resolution relies on the businesses’ ability to change their approaches to work.
Overall, this paper examined sustainability in the modern world and the prospects of the Third Industrial Revolution. My views on sustainability changed after reading the texts because I recognized that the current system creates various problems. The environmental and societal issues can only be addressed by focusing on sustainability, for example, by encouraging the use of green energy, the democratization of energy, and the reduction of environmental harm.
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Chouinard, Yvon. “Let My People Go Surfing.” edited by Christian Weisser, McMillian, 2019, pp. 343-346.
Michael Moyer and Carina Storrs. “How Much Is Left? The Limits of Earth’s Resources.” Sustainability, edited by Christian Weisser, McMillian, 2019, pp. 303-307.
Rifkin, Jeremy. “The Third Industrial Revolution: Toward a New Economic Paradigm.” Sustainability, edited by Christian Weisser, McMillian, 2019, pp. 294-301.