Today and tomorrow the Committee is hosting a conference, jointly organised with, among others, the Council of Europe, on the theme of ‘Cultures and the Policies of Change’. The keynote speech this afternoon was delivered by Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends and author of a number of ‘zeitgeist’ books, including The European Dream. As one fairly frequent speaker watching another, I could only admire his delivery, keeping an audience’s attention for over an hour, speaking authoritatively and in a perfectly structured fashion without consulting any notes. His basic thesis, a worrying one, is that humankind is probably on the verge of a steep decline because it is so dependent on finite and dwindling energy sources. The combination of over-priced oil and the increasing effects of climate change could tip our civilisation into inexorable decline and, ultimately, oblivion. All, however, is not lost. We are empathetic animals by nature, he argues, and the time has come to switch from geopolitical consciousness to ‘biosphere consciousness’. This switch must be accompanied by a new global cultural discussion and narrative for the human race together with a five pillar approach to energy in the developed world: renewables, local energy production through intelligent buildings, energy storage, the democratisation of energy through an ‘intergrid’, and a switch to electric transport. This was a sort of An Inconvenient Truth with knobs on! Rifkin provided much food for thought, in any case. It was an intellectually-challenging way to start the week.