Foundation on Economic Trends
The Foundation on Economic Trends (FOET) is a platform for the neo-Luddite intellectual guru Jeremy Rifkin. Lacking scientific or technical background, Rifkin is a peddler of half-truths, suppositions, scare stories, and outright superstition. His real expertise is in organizing and inspiring uninformed activists, who take his science fiction as the gospel truth.
While most people think about food in terms of nutrition and taste, Rifkin proclaims that “eating is the ultimate political act” — and aims to impose his politics on the dinner plate. His primary targets are modern farming techniques, meat production and consumption, and all forms of genetic technology. Rifkin warns that biotechnology threatens “a form of annihilation every bit as deadly as nuclear holocaust” and calls beef a “new form of human evil.”
Unfortunately, Rifkin’s influence stretches far beyond the environmental and animal-rights activists who happily follow wherever he leads. He is a charmer, and a gifted rhetorician. Rifkin claims, accurately, to be an “advisor to heads of state and government officials around the world.” He testifies before Congress, generates significant press coverage for himself and his campaigns, and has been named by National Journal magazine as one of the 150 Americans with the greatest influence over federal government policy.
Attacking Genetically Enhanced Crops
National Journal included Rifkin’s name alongside real experts because he “skillfully manipulated legal and bureaucratic procedures to slow the pace of biotechnology.” Nobel Prize-winning scientist David Baltimore echoed this point in the October 1983 issue of MIT Technology Review:
I think Rifkin is trying to stop everything that’s going on in biotechnology. That’s why he’s focusing on trivial considerations instead of legitimate serious issues … And I don’t see why the whole world has to frame the debate around his particular myopic views.
The conclusions of Baltimore and the National Journal are corroborated by a $150,000 grant that FOET received from the John Merck Fund in 1999. The Fund’s tax documents state that the grant went “to file two federal lawsuits aimed at slowing the current rapid transition to genetically engineered agriculture in the United States.” It just so happens that in 1999 Rifkin organized a coalition of groups, including Greenpeace, to bring Monsanto to court for make-believe violations of anti-trust law.
Of course, Rifkin couldn’t care less if a biotechnology company somehow kept prices artificially high. He wants to ban genetically enhanced crops entirely. So this lawsuit, like so much of his anti-biotech activity, was simply legal monkey-wrenching intended to keep biotech firms busy fending off nuisance lawsuits. The 1999 lawsuit with Greenpeace was nothing new for Rifkin:
- In 1983, FOET sued to prevent a field test of Frostban, a harmless form of bacteria genetically altered to protect plants from freezing temperatures. Rifkin managed to delay the field test for three years, at which point Frostban was finally demonstrated to be safe, as expected.
- In 1986, simply by threatening opposition to a soil bacteria genetically designed to protect corn from worms, Rifkin got a crucial test cancelled. The EPA believed the “microbial pesticide was harmless,” according to The New York Times, but the test was prevented because of fears that “Jeremy Rifkin would sue.”
- In 1994, Rifkin organized protestors to dump milk in the streets. The unfounded fear this time? Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), an FDA-approved, lab-produced version of a naturally occurring cow hormone. Cows with more BGH produce more milk, so scientists have learned to supplement the animals’ natural supply. But Rifkin raised a red flag: “Whole communities will be devastated,” he intoned. But today, more than half of all dairy farms with 500 or more cows use rBGH — with no ill effects among humans or animals.
- Rifkin has used America’s current focus on possible bioterrorism attacks to promote his own agenda. In a Baltimore Sun op-ed, he wrote that genetic improvement technology “being used commercially in the fields of agriculture, animal husbandry and medicine today is potentially convertible to the development of a wide range of pathogens that can attack plant, animal and human populations.”
- Rifkin’s rhetorical scare tactics have reached well beyond U.S. borders. FOET brags that it helped “facilitate a European Union moratorium on the commercial introduction of genetically modified food crops in Europe.”
Dr. Henry I. Miller, the former chief biotechnology policy coordinator for the Food and Drug Administration, explained the practical effects of Rifkin’s anti-technology activism in the April 22, 1997 issue of the Journal of Commerce:
Rifkin … wants to banish biotech foods and pharmaceuticals and keep future products from being developed and tested. He has tried to interfere with the research, development and marketing of products that feed the planet and that prevent and cure fatal diseases. He has deluged government regulators with nuisance petitions demanding that biotech products be banned. During my years as director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Biotechnology, I regularly coordinated the agency’s response to his petitions. Along with other federal agencies, the FDA expended tens of thousands of man-hours responding to Mr. Rifkin. The time could have been spent prosecuting quacks or evaluating new drugs for approval.
Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute is even more blunt. He writes in the Washington Times that:
Mr. Rifkin is an eco-parasite, feeding on the fears of a nation that unfortunately has little understanding of food safety issues. Americans should feel free to choose their diets on the basis of nutrition and preference, not Mr. Rifkin’s hysterical headline-hunting.
The Spider at the Center of the Web
Jeremy Rifkin is the chief organizer of the anti-biotech movement. The New York Times’ Keith Schneider, who covered Rifkin for 15 years, says: “He is one of the greatest grassroots activists of his generation. Period.”
A consummate coalition builder, as early as 1983 Rifkin had organized an alliance of environmental groups to fight (in court and elsewhere) the testing of agricultural genetic technology. In 1986, he organized select farmers and animal-rights groups to fight against a hormone supplement now commonly and safely used in dairy cows. By 1987, Rifkin’s reputation had solidified, and Science Magazine wrote:
Predictably, social activist Jeremy Rifkin, head of the Foundation on Economic Trends, has played a central role in forming the loose coalition of animal patent opponents. So far, it consists of 14 animal welfare organizations, 13 farm groups, 5 religious denominations, and assorted other activists.
In 1995, Rifkin organized more than 200 groups in 40 countries to fight one particular genetic patent. That same year he brought together about 180 religious leaders from 80 denominations to issue a “Joint Appeal Against Human and Animal Patenting.” Rifkin was able to boast that it was “the broadest coalition of religious leaders in US history,” largely because the language of his “Appeal” was relatively moderate. But Rifkin turned the resulting media attention into coverage for his more radical “Coalition Against Life Patents and Biopiracy,” which called for churches and pension funds to divest from corporations involved in genetic engineering.
In 2002, Rifkin organized a coalition of (according to FOET) more than 325 civil society organizations in over 50 countries to fight for an international “Treaty to Share the Genetic Commons,” which would outlaw all patents on gene strands.
All these coalitions, appeals, and treaty proposals serve Rifkin’s goal of hampering the progress of biotechnology. Rifkin seeks to throw up as many barriers as possible to scientific development and production, including a proposed global tax on biotech drugs. Whatever flowery language Rifkin may employ, and whichever groups he may convince to join his coalition du jour, the real tangible goal of his activism is to halt technological progress in its tracks.
Activist Boot Camp
FOET has served as a training ground for Jeremy Rifkin’s many intellectual disciples, some of whom have gone on to run their own Luddite organizations.
- Ronnie Cummins directed, among other projects, FOET’s “Pure Food Campaign,” which recruited “more than 1,500 of the nation’s leading chefs” to protest genetically improved crops and organized “Global Days of Action” against biotechnology. This campaign was later spun off as the Organic Consumers Association, with Cummins as its national director.
- Andrew Kimbrell, a former FOET policy director, now heads the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) and its adjunct organization, the lawyer-run Center for Food Safety (CFS), both of which turn contributions from organic and “natural” food companies into campaigns against biotech foods and modern farming techniques.
- Joseph Mendelson was once a staff attorney at FOET. He went on to become a project director at Friends of the Earth, another environmental group opposed to modern farming. Mendelson is now Andrew Kimbrell’s partner and legal director, drafting lawsuits for both ICTA and CFS.
- John Stauber, co-author of the over-the-top panicky Mad Cow USA and founder of the anti-capitalist Center for Media and Democracy, worked for FOET from 1988 to 1993.
- Howard Lyman was executive director of Jeremy Rifkin’s “Beyond Beef Campaign” (Amazon.com will give you a discount if you buy Rifkin’s Beyond Beef along with Lyman’s Mad Cowboy) before achieving genuine infamy when he claimed on the “Oprah” TV show that mad cow disease would make AIDS “look like the common cold.”
His Beef with Beef
In 1992, Jeremy Rifkin published Beyond Beef, an unrestrained attack on the consumption and production of red meat. Rifkin described beef as a “malevolent force in the world,” and falsely blamed it for everything from hunger to global warming to spousal abuse. Redefining hyperbole, Rifkin even claimed that “a person is committing an evil act by growing feed for cattle or consuming a hamburger.”
A Los Angeles Times reviewer labeled Beyond Beef “atrocious,” calling it “one of those maddening books in which dozens of major issues keep getting whizzed in a mental food processor along with nonstop histrionics and virtuoso displays of ignorance in 20 disciplines.” The review continued:
Not one sentence of this very noisy and self-righteous tract suggests that the author has ever seen a cow or steer or talked to a farmer … Getting your information from books is all very well if you know how to use them. Rifkin, however, is a truly awful researcher … The result is a scholarly disaster. Far out of his depth in agronomy, religion, anthropology, medicine and the history of ideas … The author’s use of numbers is as loopy as his way with other evidence. He is one of those polemicists who ransack all manner of statistics in order to come up with shockers.
Even some “alternative” media outlets had a hard time swallowing Beyond Beef. A “wellness” publication called East West Natural Health declared: “This new book is simply not credible.” And Joan Gussow, a natural Rifkin ally who hopes to restrict access to only “locally grown” foods, called Beyond Beef a “really bad book.” She suggested that “it was badly written. To say that the prairies are going to be restored to the buffalo and flowers will bloom again and all this is like magic is not going to happen.”
The headline of one review read “Rifkin doesn’t appear interested in being consistent or coherent.” And the Houston Chronicle’s reviewer saw through Rifkin’s polemic:
Rifkin’s beef is not really with cattle at all but with capitalism. He fully admits he has chosen beef cattle for his attack because they are the historic symbol of wealth and portable capital. In the America Rifkin envisions, beef cattle and capitalism are banished, the buffalo roam, the deer and the antelope play and Americans eat peas and corn bread in poverty but in solidarity with their Third World brothers.
Beyond Beef‘s hostile reception had much to do with the fact that many of Rifkin’s alarmist statements about the “damage” done to the modern world by beef production are demonstrably false. The American Council on Science and Health debunked his central claims shortly after Beyond Beef was released, writing:
- Reducing beef production would lead to a decrease in the demand for feed grain, but it does not necessarily follow that the grain would become available to the world’s hungry people … Grain typically constitutes only 15 to 20 percent of the total feed consumed by beef cattle in the U.S. The remainder consists of grasses and other cellulose-rich materials that humans and non-ruminant animals cannot digest. The raising of ruminant animals is the only way to transform these plant materials into food for human consumption.
- There is little relationship between fast-food hamburger consumption in the U.S. and the destruction of rainforests in Central and South America. Only about 0.6 percent of the beef consumed in the U.S. comes from Latin American rainforest areas, and much of that is imported as cooked, canned products rather than as ground beef.
- Cattle can be raised entirely on grass, with no grain at all. This is the custom in many developing areas. In the U.S., however, it makes good economic sense to “finish” cattle on grain because it is readily available at a reasonable price. Despite Beyond Beef’s frequent references to “precious grain,” there is a surplus rather than a shortage of grain in the U.S. Many American farmers who could not otherwise make a profit by growing grain are able to stay in business because they can sell their crops to livestock producers.
Rifkin conveniently ignores the fact that the world grows far more grain than it can consume, and predicts “starvation, war, and disease … more frightening and sinister than anything that has come before” arising from lack of food. And his preoccupation with supposed grain shortages in Beyond Beef are all the more baffling when one considers his inflexible opposition to the very technology that promises vastly improved crop yields.
Son of Beyond Beef
Within a year of Beyond Beef‘s release, Jeremy Rifkin and Howard Lyman launched the “Beyond Beef Campaign,” an activist crusade aimed at cutting worldwide beef consumption in half (and then “beyond”). One campaign tactic was called “Adopt-A-McDonald’s,” for which protestors would continuously pester specific restaurants. Another involved relentlessly suing the Department of Agriculture. Rifkin wanted the agency to mandate such scary health warnings on beef that consumers would be permanently frightened out of eating it.
Laying the groundwork for later activists like Yale University’s Kelly Brownell, Rifkin’s Beyond Beef Campaign rhetoric included the frequent accusation that beef represents a public health danger similar to tobacco. “It has taken twenty years to make it clear that this pack of cigarettes is deadly,” he declared during one speech. “I am here to tell you today that this Big Mac I hold in my other hand is just as deadly over the long term.”
A report issued by the Beyond Beef Campaign was equally laughable. Among its many false claims one can find this quote from a man named Neal Barnard:
The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of “real food for real people,” you’d better live real close to a real good hospital.
Barnard is listed in the Beyond Beef Campaign literature as President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). What Rifkin didn’t tell you is that PCRM is a quasi-medical front group for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA has funneled over $800,000 to Barnard’s group to insert animal-rights messages into the medical mainstream.
It’s not surprising that Jeremy Rifkin would align himself with animal-rights activists. In a 2002 op-ed, he argued that humanity is “long overdue for a global discussion of how best to promote a diversified, high-protein, vegetarian diet for the human race.” And in his foreword to a collection of essays titled A Primer on Animal Rights, Rifkin spoke of “our quest to extend the golden rule to our fellow travelers, the many animals who share this moment on earth with us.”
More Analysis from Rifkin Detractors
From a Los Angeles Times editorial (April 17, 1986):
Who is this Rifkin, and what are his credentials? He has a long history of opposing things, but as to credentials, he has none. Perhaps you remember Rifkin as the author of “Entropy” (Viking: 1980), which a Los Angeles Times reviewer described as “flagrant flimflam” and “logical garbage.” Or perhaps you remember him as the author of “Algeny” (Viking: 1983) described in our Book Review as “a shameless potpourri of misinformation and faulty logic.”
Somehow this man has emerged as the single most influential person in the country on genetic engineering. He has finally found an issue that he can ride. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it’s the wrong one. Knowledgeable scientists (Rifkin is neither) were right to worry about the potential harm of genetic engineering more than a decade ago. The government was right to insist that precautions be taken. Careful tests were done and redone. Rifkin’s scenario of disaster from an unleashed new organism is groundless.
From TIME magazine (December 4, 1989):
Rifkin’s performance, which he delivers on average 90 times a year, is a mixture of Jimmy Swaggart, Phil Donahue and Werner Erhard. Twenty years of teaching, preaching and raising consciences — some would call it rabble-rousing — have refined this show to the point that it has a slick, thoroughly professional sheen …
The problem is that Rifkin frequently presents his case in such a shrill and occasionally unscrupulous manner that in the debates he hopes to encourage, fear and anger frequently replace information and reasoned judgment …
Indeed, Rifkin’s success at blocking research projects led one biotech newsletter to label him “the Abominable No Man.” Says W. French Anderson, a gene-therapy researcher at the National Institutes of Health (and a Rifkin target): “Jeremy is a professional activist, and he says and does whatever he needs to do to draw attention to his position … Jeremy is constantly threatening catastrophe.” But there is good reason to question the fairness of Rifkin’s angriest assaults on scientists as mad magicians and unethical disciples of Dr. Strangelove. When Rifkin is most successful, he may slow basic research, delay a medical advance, perhaps even damage the economy.
From a Washington Post book review of Rifkin’s The Biotech Century (May 11, 1998):
The abysmal track record of pessimistic pundits has never impaired their popularity — which explains Jeremy Rifkin’s lucrative career as a gene-splicing alarmist, even though none of his horror scenarios has come close to reality, while research continues safely under severe restraints and promises huge benefits ranging from cancer cures to new crops that will fight Third World hunger …
“The Biotech Century” purports to be an objective guide, but this is a deliberate deception. Rifkin makes no attempt at a fair or balanced assessment, and does not reveal to the reader his long record of anti-science activism. His “survey” of the next century is an endless catalogue of horrors, real or imagined, and he offers no suggestions for solutions.
From The Washington Post (January 17, 1988):
Rifkin’s arguments have been called dangerously simple-minded and sometimes downright specious. He has been accused, in effect, of demagoguery, of targeting the emotions at the expense of the mind. His intellectual honesty has been challenged. David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate molecular biologist, has refused to debate Rifkin, saying flatly, “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Environmental activist Barry Commoner has accused him of “hokum.” … Jeremy [Rifkin] himself is engaging. But he is also an alarmist and an absolutist, with little or no trust in humans to think for themselves. One shudders for a world in which Rifkin is king.
From an Edmonton Journal review of Rifkin’s The Hydrogen Economy (October 27, 2002):
Taking specific laws and concepts from physics and applying them to sociology is always a bad idea, but Rifkin trundles on, misfiring on all pistons … Rifkin’s history is worse. In just one and one-third pages he provides a potted survey of civilization from 10,000 years ago to the industrial age, filled with statements such as “Women invented pottery.” A book I read while still in bibs entitled A Child’s History of the World demonstrated more intellectual rigour …
From the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould’s review of Rifkin’s Algeny in Discover magazine (January 1985):
I regard Algeny as a cleverly constructed tract of anti-intellectual propaganda masquerading as scholarship. Among books promoted as serious intellectual statements by important thinkers, I don’t think I have ever read a shoddier work …
Rifkin’s assertions bear no relationship to what I have observed and practiced for 25 years … How can Rifkin construct a world so different from the one I inhabit and know so well? Either I am blind or he is wrong — and I think I can show, by analyzing his slipshod scholarship and basic misunderstanding of science, that his world is an invention constructed to validate his own private hopes … Rifkin shows no understanding of the norms and procedures of science: he displays little comprehension of what science is and how scientists work …
Rifkin does not respect the procedures of fair argument. He uses every debater’s trick in the book to mischaracterize and trivialize his opposition, and to place his own dubious claims in a rosy light …
Foundation on Economic Trends (FOET) president Jeremy Rifkin has been prophesizing economic and environmental catastrophe for decades. His speeches and books are littered with these doom and gloom predictions. He argues that mass unemployment and mass starvation loom on the horizon, and he has even suggested that genetic technology will mean “the end of the natural world.” Needless to say, Rifkin’s predictions are consistently wrong.
Writing in the April 1993 issue of The American Spectator, law professor Jonathan Adler called Rifkin an “apocalypse abuser” for turning “the art of delivering horrendously inaccurate predictions into a cottage industry. Each year the predicted catastrophes fail to occur, and each year the next round of horrible predictions is eagerly embraced by an environmental press desperate to produce startling stories with enticing headlines.”
Award-winning Canadian author Rod McQueen made a similar point in the Financial Post: “The dilemma facing Jeremy Rifkin [is that] if previous predictions didn’t come to pass there better be a new theory with sufficient sizzle to make people forget the failed earlier promises.”
A Newsday columnist summed it all up by condemning “anti-scientist Jeremy Rifkin’s doom-filled hyperbole.” The following are just a handful of Rifkin’s false claims and horrendously inaccurate predictions.
- In his 1979 book, The Emerging Order, Rifkin wrote: “The age of expansion with faith in unlimited economic growth and the governing truths of science and technology, is about to give way to a new age of scarcity and economic contraction, an age so utterly different from our own that any serious attempt to give form and substance to it all but boggles the mind.” Reality check: In the years since Rifkin wrote this, nearly every country in the world has achieved significant growth in their gross domestic product. And our faith in the “governing truths of science” shows no signs of letting up.
- In 1986 Rifkin warned that Frostban — a harmless bacteria genetically engineered to protect plants from freezing temperatures — “could irreversibly affect worldwide climate and precipitation patterns over a long, long period of time.” Reality check: Far from causing worldwide climate changes, Frostban has had no adverse effects on the environment.
- In 1987 Rifkin petitioned the NIH and the USDA to investigate a possible link between the cow disease Bovine Immunodeficiency Virus (BIV) and AIDS. According to a New York Times account: “In his petition, Mr. Rifkin speculated that the AIDS virus might have evolved from cattle viruses, or that the cattle virus might itself have played a role in the development of AIDS. But researchers at the Federal Centers for Disease Control today discounted the possibility that the cattle virus was related in any way to acquired immune deficiency syndrome in humans.”
- In his 1992 book, Beyond Beef, Rifkin was at it again, calling BIV “Cow AIDS” for the shock value. He wrote: “The economic impact of BIV on the beef and dairy industries is likely to be devastating in the years to come.” A column in The Washington Times responded: “Worse is Mr. Rifkin’s mendacious exploitation of AIDS and cancer hysteria. He notes that the bovine AIDS virus (BIV) and the Bovine Leukemia Virus (BLV) are ‘widespread among dairy cows and beef cattle,’ and then quotes a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study out of context, insinuating that humans might contract AIDS or leukemia from eating beef. In fact the USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health have all corresponded with Mr. Rifkin to inform him in the text of one letter that ‘the available scientific evidence does not support the concept that either BLV or BIV have any adverse impact on human health in the United States.'”
- In his 1995 book, The End of Work, Rifkin predicted that automation, mechanization, and computerization would cause massive unemployment within America in the near future. Reality check: Unemployment is lower now than it was in 1995. A columnist for the Financial Post remarked in 2003: “Who can forget the jeremiads of that great intellectual flim-flam man, Jeremy Rifkin, whose book, The End of Work, said it all. And what ensued? The greatest bout of job creation in post-war history!”
- In a 1999 Boston Globe op-ed, Rifkin incorrectly predicted that biotech crops will “run amok”; that they will create “super bugs”; and that they will lead to farmers using “greater quantities of herbicides.” Reality Check: There is no evidence that biotech crops have done anything like creating “super bugs.” While variation exists, farmers generally use fewer herbicides on fields of biotech crops. Moreover, eight biotech crops have already reduced annual US pesticide use by 46 million pounds, including insect resistant corn and cotton, herbicide tolerant corn, cotton, soy, and canola, and virus resistant papaya and squash.
- His 1999 book, The Biotech Century, went even further into the realm of fantasy. Rifkin wonders whether the use of biotechnology might “risk a fatal interruption of millions of years of evolutionary development? Might not the artificial creation of life spell the end of the natural world? … cause irreversible damage to the biosphere, making genetic pollution an even greater threat to the planet than nuclear or petrochemical pollution?” Reality Check: After more than a decade of consuming foods from biotech crops, we’re still here.
Perhaps Ron Bailey, science correspondent for Reason magazine, said it best, writing in January 2001 about “that venerable fount of biotech misinformation, Jeremy Rifkin’s Foundation on Economic Trends.”
In Beyond Beef, Foundation on Economic Trends president Jeremy Rifkin wrote that giving up steaks and burgers is “a revolutionary act” heralding “a new chapter in the unfolding of human consciousness.” Which is exactly what Rifkin hopes to achieve — a new human consciousness.
Rifkin’s anti-technological creed is so radical, and his aims so ambitious, that one reviewer of Beyond Beef argued: “the real thrust of Rifkin’s work … is not scientific but religious. In six sweeping pages of messianic prose in his final chapter, Rifkin announces the dawning of ‘the new world that is coming.'”
Rifkin seeks to bring about that new world by inspiring, energizing, and organizing neo-Luddite activists and anyone else who will listen to his anti-technology gospel. He tells them that “a new political spectrum is emerging,” wherein the lunatic crusades of Greenpeace and its ilk will achieve mass appeal.
One side of this “new political spectrum,” Rifkin proclaims, will embody everything that he rejects: convenience, efficiency, objective science, and technological progress. The other side will “re-sacralize our relationship to each other, fellow creatures, and the planet.” Rifkin’s attacks on biotechnology and meat consumption are mere battles in the greater war to tilt society toward option number two.
At the root of Rifkin’s opposition to technological progress — he blames it for nearly all of our social ills, including the Holocaust — is his starry-eyed nature-worship. He unabashedly promotes a “new, post-modern view of science,” based on “empathy with the environment.”
These beliefs echo the philosophy of Deep Ecology, which holds that human beings are no more important than flora and fauna. No wonder, then, that the biggest donor to Rifkin’s Foundation on Economic Trends is the Foundation for Deep Ecology, which financed the “Second Luddite Congress” in 1996.
True to Luddite form, Rifkin scoffs at the strides humanity has made, preferring the distant past to our present levels of relative wealth and security. “Progress is only for that small, little group … who have reaped the benefits at the expense of our fellows,” he argues. In Beyond Beef, Rifkin likewise asserts that for most of the world “Modernity has brought only hunger and disease and an increasing sense of hopelessness and despair.” According to a New York Times review of his 1991 book Biosphere Politics:
[Rifkin] romanticizes the lot of the feudal serf by presenting him as living in a state of “communal self-sufficiency” on land that for hundreds of years provided him with “spiritual as well as economic security.” In fact, the life of the feudal serf was truly nasty, brutish and short.
The world Rifkin seeks to bring about would likewise be nasty, brutish, and short. Where his anti-technology creed holds sway, and objective science is derided, Americans would, as one reviewer put it, “eat peas and corn bread in poverty but in solidarity with their Third World brothers.”