Hello Etsy: An Introduction to The Third Industrial Revolution and the Urgency of Jeremy Rifkin

Dear Readers,

Remember, how I promised to cover every session at Hello Etsy? Well, this month I'm going to share the opening Keynote presentation by Jeremy Rifkin, a man of many hats. He is an adviser to the European Union and to heads around the world, a senior lecturer at the Wharton School's Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C., and author of The New York Times best selling book, The Third Industrial Revolution, How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World.

Friday night, March 22nd, the Main Hall at Pratt Institute was a buzz. Everyone in attendance was focused on the Keynote presentations opening this year's Hello Etsy.  Beginning with a warm welcome from the organizing Etsy Values and Impact Team, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, offered an inspiring presentation that included comments on his decision to take five weeks of paternity leave after bringing home his son.  I could spend more time on Chad's presentation including his mention of the 1936 film "Modern Times" by Charlie Chaplin (video clip is below) and the following quote by Mahatma Gandhi, "Production by the masses, not mass production," but I will not. Instead, I will focus on Jeremy Rifkin, who came on after, and who Chad did a great job of setting the stage for what was to come that weekend.

Mr. Rifkin from the beginning was a breath of honest air. Many, those who don't believe in climate change, that our government needs a shake up, or who believe that our economy is on the mend, would disagree with what he would go on to say, but I sat glued to my seat and experienced a range of feelings- troubled, scared, agreement, and hope. Over all, I felt a hope that the two hundred people sitting in that room would feel the urgency of Mr. Rifkin's message and turn that into inspiration to do more.

The first thing Mr. Rifkin said to the Hall was, "Everything in our current civilization is reliant on petrochemical (fossil fuels)." Not surprising to me given the time I've spent working with a large corporation on business interested heavily linked to petrochemicals, but for many others this may be a surprise.  According to data he shared, crude oil production peaked in 1979 and 2006. We had the most oil per capita in those two years.  However, with the Great Recession of 2008, things are different. According to Mr. Rifkin, two moments proving that the world we rely on fossil fuel is ending:

  1. July 2008, when the prices of everything increased
  2. The Great Sichuan Earthquake which resulted in the fall of the Stock Market

Not only are these statistics important to his presentation, but I think they give another perspective to those of you following current issues being battled by environmental groups in the US, Canada and even Europe - tar sands and fracking.

As he went on, he touched on climate change and what he considers the most terrifying piece of the topic-the water cycle. According to research, every one degree rise in temperature creates more moisture in the air. This leads to more destructive hurricanes and natural disasters (last year's Hurricane Sandy l, or this week's Oklahoma tornado, anyone?) that impact us all on a global scale.

After sharing these terrifying statistics and with full-on urgency in his voice, Mr. Rifkin turned to us and said, "what we need is a new economic plan for this world. It needs to move quickly to off-set carbon in 30 years, if we want hope."

He then went into discussing the Third Industrial Revolution (TIR) - a lateral power shift -favoring small business and the World.  In discussing how we need a lateral power shift to really create change, he used examples underway in the European Union currently. The EU is undergoing what they call the "disruptive revolution" focusing on the use of distributive energies such as wind, heat, sun, and waves. Where instead of relying on fossil fuels, we look to these new energies as a way of producing what we need, but also being able to store and share these energies with others on a more global scale.

He did mention how Etsy is allowing us small business owners to be part of this lateral power shift. Rather than selling through middlemen and relying on traditional business methods and practices, the use of the internet and sites like Etsy, have allowed us to directly target our market and share our products (that are often times not as energy dependent as goods created in a large scale factory) with those who want and value them.  Even greater, is that we're not just limited to goods, we're using this power to educate, and we're winning what might seem like a small battle, but is actually a much larger concern.

In line with this topic of a lateral power shift, Mr. Rifkin stated the following, "In the next 20 years, failure will have everything to do with energy costs, not labor costs." 

We need to focus on renewable energies in order to move the TIR forward. While there are parties actively creating and looking to the disruptive energies listed above, there aren't enough.  Not to mention the EU can not be the only government entity looking to move ahead with these ideas.

I'm not sure that any of us Etsy sellers will be creating renewable energies, but we are part of the class of entrepreneurs in this new revolution, and if we are going to help create a shift in consciousness within the next 25 years, as Mr. Rifkin asked us to, then we need to start thinking about this and our role in how to bring more change and responsibility into our businesses.  Then use that as a means to change the political spectrum. We can use our muscle to demand sustainable practices and better energy systems the same way that large corporations and their lobbyists demand and promote unfair and bad business practices.

These same large corporations now, they are all eagerly publishing catalogs on the "socially good" programs they are creating and money they donate philanthropically, but we need to see more change. Unlike those large companies, we small businesses can make these goals part of our mission statements and part of our every day habits and really mean them.  I'm not criticizing these large corporations too much. I know I've helped keep them going, but as a small business owner and an environmentalist who cares about my impact on the World, I need to be aware and make necessary steps to keep my business aligned with my beliefs.

I could spend pages on his presentation, but I am limited here and I don't want to overwhelm you with too much more.  Before Hello Etsy, we received an email that included an article by Mr. Rifkin in the World Financial Review on March 20, 2012, titled, "The Third Industrial Revolution: How the Internet, Green Electricity, and 3-D Printing are Ushering in a Sustainable Era of Distributed Capitalism." 

It is heavy on economic terms and he discusses 3-D printers, which I didn't even touch upon, but I think it's a great way to learn more about Mr. Rifkin and what he believes needs to happen if we are to shift consciously and save the planet. 

What do YOU think, readers? Do you think we can help shift the global conscious? Is there something you can do to help move the TIR? Or better yet, just change one thing in your business to help? Let me know below in the comments. I'm always interested in the what I can learn from all of you.  

As for Mr. Rifkin, I don't know if he'll come across this posting, but if he does, Thank you Mr. Rifkin for your overwhelming and educational presentation. I am still thinking about it! 

More on Hello Etsy to come!

"It Starts With You..." - Initial Thoughts On The 2013 Hello Etsy Conference

Hi Readers! It's been quite a while since you've heard from me. I'll get into the why I've been absent at a later time (aka future posts), but for now, I want to come back to the Etsy New York Team Blog with thoughts on the most recent Hello Etsy conference held at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York the weekend of March 22-24, 2013.

Image by Etsy

Two years ago, I covered the first Hello Etsy New York Event. I shared what I thought were the key tips from one session. This time around, I need to put out a full series of posts because the weekend in it's entirety was mind blowing!

This year's Hello Etsy conference was completely different from the first one I attended. Two year's ago it was a smaller spin off of the huge event held in Berlin, Germany. I can't write about the Berlin event, but I can tell you that where as there were maybe 40 of us in the Etsy Labs that September day, there were now hundreds of us walking across the campus of Pratt Institute.  The speakers at the event two years ago were interesting, large personalities from local communities across America, and they were a great way to introduce the concept of sustainability to "Etsypreneurs."   The line up of speakers alone at the 2013 Conference shows just how different of a ball game Hello Etsy has become and will continue to evolve as Etsy takes it's shift into a socially aware and responsible company serious.

Last year, I reflected on Etsy's announcement of becoming a certified B-Corp on this blog and talked about what it means for Etsypreneurs.  I talked about how great it was to see Etsy moving in this direction. To be quite honest, it brought me to tears. My business lives because of the hope of Etsy. My world depends on a clean and healthy environment. If Etsy is going to pave that path that I'm walking for me, then I'm going to walk along it and help them as much as I can.  Which is why two years later, even though I wasn't overwhelming impressed with the first Hello Etsy Conference in 2011, I spent $85 on a ticket as soon as the event was announced.

I talked to quite a few different people at the conference and was amazed by the assortment of people in attendance. There were Pratt design students, Etsy staff, team members from Etsy New York, and then a whole host of different level Etsy sellers. I was a bit shocked at first by the amount of new sellers that were hoping to learn something new for the event. Then I realized that while they may not get what they were hoping for, they'd get something a bit different, and hopefully eye opening to starting their business.

For those of you who don't know, I spent almost five years working in a corporate communications department that focused on environmental/sustainable/corporate social responsibility (CSR) and I learned a lot. It is why I laid down the foundation of environmental friendliness, concern, social giving and education at the beginning of my business dreaming and planning.  It is why I love that Etsy is taking the steps to share this path with all of their community, not just the sellers, but the buyers, the government (have you seen how Etsy has teamed up with the entire town and Mayor of Rockland, Illinois on craft entrepreneurship?), leaders in the environmental, technical, and social change worlds.

There is a firm, but fine line between setting up a business from the beginning with deeply rooted mission for change and responsibility, not just socially and environmentally, but on good business practices such as ethics and morals, and a business that does it after the fact. Yes, it is better to be "in" than to be out, but you have a much harder time understanding your focus if you switch it years down the line. Not to mention, you have to then prove and become credible to your followers, fans, and customers once the change takes place.

Now, I'm not saying this is improbable, because it isn't, but it takes a lot of commitment and hard work. No matter how many good intentions we have, in order to change our communities and even our own ideas and practices, we have to walk the walk-we have to take actions that lead the way and show others that it is possible and that there is hope. 

That is the key to what I took from this year's Hello Etsy conference: "It starts with you and it starts small, but from those small steps anything is possible and will happen."

Everyone who got on the stage to present gushed about Etsy. They talked about all the great things about Etsy and how they see it as one of the greatest tools of change that's come about in the last few years.

You are part of that.

They mentioned how we're now able to laterally connect and share our work and make livings that have nothing to do with the current business structure, but have everything to do with our humanness and the connections we build and create together.  They are absolutely correct. When I think about some of the sales I've made to people as far as Australia, I am floored that my little box, that I use to type this post now, connected me to that person and to the person she gave my item to.  It is life changing!

In my next few posts, I'm going to delve into presentations full on. I think it's worth sharing for those of you who didn't/couldn't attend the conference. Each presentation had a different topic, had different leaders weighing in on that topic, and were so varied that I want to share.

Until my next post, please leave your thoughts in the comments. If you attended the conference, what did you think? What do you think about Etsy's shift into the sustainable movement? Do you have any concerns for your shop or business? Please ask and share below. I'm excited to hear your thoughts. Not to mention, we need to continue this conversation!