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Jeremy Rifkin is an immensely persuasive writer and a fine synthesizer of cutting-edge ideas Over the years hes taken on touchy subjects like the beef industry energy consumption green economics and the future of work As the president and founder of the Foundation on Economic Trends hes also been active in shaping public policy on a variety of ecological and technological issues In this book he explores how the last five centuries of human history have shaped our relationship to the natural world Its a history that bears directly on some of our most serious environmental problems today according to Rifkin The ideas here are not entirely original -- Rifkin borrows freely from the work of a wide range of innovative thinkers from Hazel Henderson and Vandana Shiva to Fritjof Capra and Charlene Spretnak But the book is well-organized convincingly argued and a pleasure to read Rifkin uses the metaphor of enclosure to trace the development of contemporary culture and its flawed relationship to the biosphere In the practice of enclosure which began in England in the 15th century and continued intermittently into the 18th century commons land was fenced in to provide sheep pasturage and subsequently privatized to accommodate the new economy Dispossessed peasants were deprived of their lands and relegated to abysmal urban lives of sickness and squalor Rifkin applies this metaphor to our modern world where the land sea and air the electromagnetic spectrum outer space and even the genes that program life itself have become subject to manipulation control and commercial exploitation The enclosure of the natural world is an outgrowth Rifkin believes of a worldview that emerged from Enlightenment thought Francis Bacon John Locke Rene Descartes and other leading thinkers of the day provided the philosophical justification for a separation of human life and the natural world With the Cartesian notion of the world as a giant clockwork mechanism Bacons emphasis on a new scientific neutrality that
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