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In the next 20 years, almost three billion people will join the middle class, propelling global demand for more and better housing, televisions, cars, food, water, energy, and myriad other goods and services. How, then, can the world sustain economic development and reduce poverty, without fueling an environmental catastrophe?

VIENNA – In the next 20 years, almost three billion people will join the middle class, propelling global demand for more and better housing, televisions, cars, food, water, energy, and myriad other goods and services. But, with increasing strain on the planet’s resources, meeting this demand could carry massive environmental costs from pollution and global warming. How, then, can the world sustain economic development and reduce poverty without fueling a catastrophe?

Answering this question is at the heart of the so-called “Third Industrial Revolution,” which seeks to integrate renewable-energy sources with Internet connectivity, develop digital manufacturing technology, and support green industry. In other words, the goal is to achieve sustainable production and consumption.

According to Jeremy Rifkin, the strategy’s main architect, industrial revolutions are driven by the convergence of changes in the type and availability of energy and in how people connect and share information. The first Industrial Revolution was driven by coal and steam power, combined with the printing press; the second was fueled by centralized electricity and the oil-powered internal-combustion engine, together with the telephone, radio, and television.

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