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Publishers WeeklyFor author and social thinker Rifkin (The European Dream, The Hydrogen Economy), an E.U. advisor and senior lecturer at Wharton's Executive Education Program, the central paradox of human existence is, and has always been, the conflict between empathy and entropy: while globalization brings together diverse people, the very good-a rise in "empathic awareness"-is counterbalanced by the very bad-"dramatic deterioration of the health of the planet," by way of the technology that drives progress. Though wordy, Rifkin provides a thorough, lucid overview of mankind's history along the "empathy/entropy" spectrum: Spencer's mischaracterization of "nature red in tooth and claw," replaced by a more sensitive understanding of the biological and sociological evolution; the progression of socio-economic communities-civilizations-from the Neolithic to the "Modern Market Economy"; the current "Age of Empathy," in which the dominance of one language (English), "backyard" energies (wind, solar, etc.), the biosphere education in classrooms, and other developments, shine the way forward. Despite windiness and occasional hyperbole, this is the kind of reading fans of Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins can sink their teeth into, with a contagious sense of urgency over whether we can "reach biosphere consciousness and global empathy in time to avert planetary collapse."
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