Jeremy Rifkin and the Call for EmpathyPosted by Lisa Franzetta, ALDF's Director of Communications on January 29, 2010
Jeremy Rifkin is a bestselling author, adviser to the European Union, founder and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and senior lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School’s Executive Education Program. Don’t feel intimidated or anything. If you attended ALDF’s last Future of Animal Law conference, at Harvard Law School in 2007, you got to hear Rifkin deliver a keynote address in which he discussed, among other urgent issues, the link between meat eating and climate change. (You can watch video from that speech, and check out a Q&A that ALDF did with the author of “The Hydrogen Economy,” “Beyond Beef,” and, most recently, “The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis,” on aldf.org.)
Truth be told, I idolize Rifkin and his wife, Carol Grunewald, an animal rights and environmental activist herself, and during many of the panels at the 2007 conference, I found my eyes wandering to where the brainy couple sat in the lecture hall, fantasizing about the fascinating conversations they must have while eating breakfast.
Imagine my delight as I was listening to the radio earlier this week to hear a full-hour interview with Rifkin discussing his newest book, in which he argues that our future rests on our ability to function as an empathic society. About 40 minutes into the interview, he addresses how incorporating animals into our circle of empathy is a critical part of his call, and explains that both he and his wife are animal rights activists and that he is a vegetarian, and says he spends quite a bit of his book discussing that empathy for animals is a critical step toward what he calls “biosphere consciousness.” I’m geeking out here; I can’t wait to read it! (My birthday is in March, just FYI.)