Episode 35: Hawken – Part 1 of Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
I’m Paul Hawken, the author of Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. One of the aspects and the expressions of this Movement is Living Dialogues, which you’re listening to right now. And I urge you to continue to do so to build this Movement.
As observed in my prior dialogue with Richard Moss (scroll down on this site), it is by evolving our consciousness that we will initiate transforming and sustaining ourselves and the world. As Einstein famously said: we cannot solve problems from the same level of understanding that created them. The whole of Living Dialogues are in this sense a kind of high-level “cliff notes”, accessible deep listening, for our required consciousness revolution, called forth by every part, inner and outer, of our alive universe. In this dialogue, Paul and I continue this evolutionary exploration through the non-hierarchical, self-organizing “human taxonomy” he has gathered, revealing the pattern of countless others of us worldwide engaged in this same resonant process – each active, diverse expression uniquely different, but amazingly none in conflict with each other, all harmonious with the evolving “immune response” of the whole.
“Blessed Unrest is exciting, compelling, and very important. It describes the growing unrest that I encounter around the world, the frustration and courage of those who dare to challenge the power of the corporate world. Paul Hawken states eloquently all that I believe so passionately to be true – that there is inherent goodness at the heart of our humanity, that collectively we can – and are – changing the world. Please read and share Blessed Unrest, a celebration of the awakening of the human spirit. It will inspire and encourage millions more to take action.” -- Jane Goodall, UN Ambassador for Peace
“This is the first full account of the real news of our time, and it’s exactly the opposite of the official account. The movers and shakers on our planet aren’t the billionaires and the generals -- they are the incredible numbers of people around the world filled with love for neighbor and for the earth who are resisting, remaking, restoring, renewing, revitalizing. This powerful and lovely book is their story – our story – and it’s high time someone’s told it. Nothing you read for years to come will fill you with more hope and more determination.” -- Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy and The End of Nature
Announcer: This program is brought to you by PersonalLifeMedia.com.
Paul Hawken: I'm Paul Hawken, the author of Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. One of the aspects and the expressions of this movement is Living Dialogues which is you’re listening to right now and I urge you to continue to do so to build this movement.
Duncan Campbell: From time immemorial, beginning with indigenous counsels and ancient wisdom traditions through the work of Western visionaries such as Plato, Galileo, and quantum physicist David Baum, mutually participatory dialogue has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness, evoking the flow of (++) flow of logos, mini beyond what any one individual can bring through alone.
So join us now, as together with you, the active deep listener, we evoke and engage in Living Dialogues.
Welcome to the program. I'm your host, Duncan Campbell, and with me for this particular program, I'm truly delighted to have as my guest, friend and colleague, Paul Hawken, author most recently of Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. Paul is known to many of you as an environmental activist, one of the leaders in the Ecological Consciousness Movement, also in the social justice movement. He had previously published The Ecology of Commerce and co-authored with Amory and Hunter Lovins, The Natural Capitalism.
In this particular book, Paul shows how in his experience and research traveling all over the world and doing great research on the Internet, he has discovered that there well over a million NGOs or informal organizations around the world that are doing the work of both environmental protection and social justice inspired by a sense of participation in a living universe which we all share and are under the radar in terms of medium, but nonetheless, are sourceful real genuine hope and optimism in our time.
So, Paul, with that introduction, I'd like to welcome you to the program.
Paul Hawken: Good morning, Duncan.
Duncan Campbell: It’s a real pleasure to have you here. I must say one of the ways I thought would be very good to begin would be for the audience who may not be familiar with you to have a sense of your evolution itself, your own personal evolution. Maybe talk a little bit about your childhood and an incident perhaps there that may be became a harbinger for the kind of life work you’ve evolved into.
Paul Hawken: Well, I think, the most significant in terms of my family of this generation Californians which is not a long time in one place, but is a long time in California because prior to that, there was Spanish and then Native American. So, as the invaders, we go back to the early 1840s. In our family, we have records, letters and oral memories that really what California was like and how fast it has changed in the last 158 years. The rate of development and the rate of – with this polite word – destruction that has occurred up and down the state and throughout has been really astonishing.
If you read the early histories of the people who came to California, they were quite astonished. The Silicon-Sacramento Valley was to them looked like Hyde Park. It was like great flows of grassland punctured by these huge oak trees and great herds of nonetheless (++) that were so unintimidated by people that you can just make your way through them and huge masses of lilies that native Americans have planted for food, that they’ve always planted more each time and they took some of the bulbs for food.
It really was a kind of a garden, sort of a (++)cultural paradise it had evolved over many centuries. Too often and far often, the picture we have of the past is a grubby one. Then, Europeans bring cultured civilization and the Europeans who came here did not have that impression. (++) agriculture in a civilization that was quite apt and quite extraordinary in the way it basically garden the state and transformed it into really a place where, I think, the (++) and other tribes would only have to work on one or maybe sometimes two days a week to get everything they needed to live their lives.
Duncan Campbell: So, what this calls to mind actually is Joni Mitchell’s well known song, We’ve Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden.
Paul Hawken: Yes, yes.
Duncan Campbell: There was that kind of awakening in the 1960s, you know, with Rachel Carlson in 1962, publishing Silent Spring, and that created a real revolution of consciousness that kind of woke up the culture in the United States from the sleepiness and the desire for rest and security of the fifties coming after World War II. It was the beginnings of a realization that our technology and our way of manipulating agriculture and our food source for one thing, was somehow in need of a greater clarity and a sense of mimicking nature itself of allowing nature to be what it is in an intelligent way and not trying to overly interfere with it and manage it and direct it and control it as an expression of human, we might say, even unconscious hubris here. That’s one of the great things you pointed out in the ecology of commerce is that the very business economic model that we’ve set up in our culture is very distorted from that of natural processes of biofeedback and renewal within the natural world.
So perhaps you could take us now to the next realization in your own evolution, having had that experience of being embedded, at least from a historical sense, in a kind of natural Eden there in California even within your lifetime.
Paul Hawken: Well, it wasn’t an Eden where I grew up that there’s only parts of it and they still are.
Duncan Campbell: That’s what I mean, yes.
Paul Hawken: Yes, and you could see it going, there were farms that is going up for this now. Big, big, huge (++) building, housing in the Silicon Valley front. When I was young, I had asthma in my life and nothing really touched it, medicines that suppressed it but they didn’t get to the cause. I changed my diet when I was 20 years old and got rid of the asthma. Then, beyond to look around at the food industry is 1966, and at that time, they were health food stores where people, those women with white hosiery like nurses selling pills and (++) and things like that you couldn’t actually (++). You couldn’t go there and eat for a week or a day. You could just get crackers and find them and get two and things.
So, I did start one of the very first natural food stores in the country. At that time, but you know, at that time it’s like I was so naïve in business. I never sit in self gloss when I started, and these two guys were talking at the coffee shop and I was there in the morning. One of the guys said, “Hey, man, I'm sorry about the fire in your warehouse last night.” He says, “No, it’s tomorrow night.” I was so naïve, I was like, “Wow! This is how they do inventory control the stuff off.”
So, there was kind of this “What’s business?” and I just thought we new better food and these MBAs would come from Harvard and MBA Canada and did a thesis on the company and I spent a lot of time in interview. Then, they gave their thesis and I was (++) because the company was getting pretty big by that time. We had some employees and several stores and warehouse and rent cars. You know, we were going and they were presenting these documents and it was undecipherable to me. You know, “What are they talking about? Different charts and glass.”
So, the way I evolved in this is really to get something done. Actually, I've never been a big fan of business. I think business is a place where fools really crash and illusions proliferate. It’s always had that Midas problem that people hope that if they can touch something, it will turn to gold. I’ve always saw the business as really about making a difference and you had to make enough money to do it. But, if you say that you make money in business, you would probably fail. If not, you might not fail financially but I think you’d fail in some greater way.
So I've always said, “I'm not (++) in the business world” and when I wrote Natural Capitalism, I coined that term, not Amory Lovins. I wrote an article two years prior to that with Mother Jones called Natural Capitalism, but really the book was about natural capital which is a term that E.F. Schumacher coined.
Duncan Campbell: Exactly.
Paul Hawken: Yes, and he referred to resources. He was trying to give a term to resources that economists, to that point, considered to have no value because a point classical point of view, a tree had no value until it’s cut, a mineral had no value until it is mined. So, here’s I know how intrinsic value is called natural capitalism, not natural capital. So, natural capital-ism really has nothing to do with capitalism. It has everything to do with ideas “What happens to a culture where the limiting factor to development is natural capital.” In other words, a culture that’s distilling down its water and its minerals and its trees, its forest, it’s so fast that it’s going to wake up one day and find out that you can’t eat money as the native American saying goes.
So, the book was, again, not about capitalism or even business so much. It really was about a societal response to limit the same thing that Donella Meadows talked about in Limits to Growth.
Duncan Campbell: That’s very interesting because the natural world is naturally limited. In other words, it has all sorts of feedback cycles and ways of winnowing itself. But, it’s all based on the recognition of limits and it recalls to my mind the deep understanding of economics which very few economists actually recognize or talk about. But when Adam Smith and Ricardo first were talking about the invisible hand of the marketplace, there was this faith at that point, as naïve as the faith that you had in how business works when you were in South Boston being surprised at overhearing that comment in the fire. They thought that human nature was also naturally self-limiting. As they were created, economic arrangements and systems in the marketplace to more fairly distribute the wealth and to give some sense of relative abundance and sustainability to people of all classes that at some point, this economic engine that was making this restructuring of the feudal society possible would actually begin to hum along at a kind of a sustainable level that people would realize when enough was enough. And for that reason…
Paul Hawken: That was a cultural contacts, too, which I imagine…
Duncan Campbell: Yes, and then that’s why I was very interested being there in the Cambridge, Boston area when you were there talking about this, that you’re company was called Erehwon which I thought was very clever. I understood it to be nowhere spelled backward that you already had in a very early instinct that we were heading nowhere and we needed to reverse this whole trend. So, it was kind of sale secret thing among us that we’re too (++) into that in your vision at that time.
Paul Hawken: Well, actually (++) succeed, first of all, the name is irrelevant in terms of some branding that it is (++)
Duncan Campbell: It’s a concept, yes.
Paul Hawken: It’s a nanogram for nowhere, with the H and W reversed. It really comes from a book by Samuel Butler and Samuel Butler wrote a book called Erehwon: The Ventilator Erehwon Revisited which is to be required reading in the decades ago but now, it’s not that they were just sent up of industrial England about a man who goes to a country, actually New Zealand they call the country and discovers another civilization that has banned the machinery because it slays people and, it’s just said backwards, you know. When you’re sick, you go to jail because you violated the laws of nature, but to commit a crime, it means you're actually sick and then you're sent to a doctor.
It’s just a parody really of (++) from industrial England. I thought the pressure, so that’s why I did (++) because at that time, our culture and our food system is definitely nowhere, definitely upside down or backwards, definitely the low point in terms of Americans being willing to eat swell and canned and packages that was just actually made up of the cheapest possible ingredients meant to tender to the worst part of our taste buds, you know, salt and sugar and fat. And, all of which you need, we don’t need them in the way they manufacture them. So yes, there’s definitely sort of kind of statement in the name.
Duncan Campbell: In the name itself. Now, this is (++) a flash forward now, 40 years later. All of a sudden, on the media scene and everywhere, we’ve got the big food crisis. Are we eating poison? Are we eating poison? Are we drinking poison? And, you think about the power of the industrial state to co-opt terms. There was that book by Thomas Frank about the 60s, you know, called The Co-optation of Cool where all of the attempts to create a renewed form of social interaction were co-opted by the advertising industry. You wind up with Guess jeans advertising Jack (++) and William Burr revels if you only wear Guess jeans, then you're cool and you have that Bohemian consciousness, the word sustainable, the word green, even now, the word organic are themselves getting polluted by the economic power here.
So, that has caused a lot of people, Paul, to feel somewhat pessimistic. Everywhere we turn and we try to do something, it gets co-opted. It’s almost getting swallowed in the great mob. What Allen Ginsberg politically called the “machine mollica(?)” of our industrial civilization.
Paul Hawken: I will know, (++) cosmic joke. The thing is that as the hypocrisy, you know, you have to start somewhere, and people often start by lies. You know, you tell them self lies and, but the drawings step out. It’s OK, it’s human nature. But, I think, what it does is it actually pushes and calls the high standards to keep all that (++). I think that we should have a standard in this country called biologically produced which is what the Europeans foods but the USDA main organic as much as they want because the service changed anyway.
So, I just feel like you just keep raising the bar. I mean, very much so in the way that we’re talking now about not just how food is produced or where. Who really wants to buy organic food that’s flown in. Sorry, but Whole Foods on big 747s. It actually counts them in, every single principle underneath the food revolution because whatever chemicals are saved and not put on the food were admitted into. I'm not sure about the airplane and then some.
So, localization now is happening very powerfully. Until the big, big Waldorf’s and the big Whole Foods came out, you put out really put out businesses in many, many farmers of the country who were supplying local food stores. Now, you're saying to see these localization movement, the farmers markets, stores like the Seasons in Portland really, really honor place, really honor the local pro-vendors and providers and artisans. This is a very, very powerful movement in this country and it has a lot of momentum and are very, very enthusiastic about it. This is a remarkable power criticize on Mackie and Whole Foods. Now, they have bags that say, “Oh, buy local foods.” The fact is, it’s very difficult for a firm, $4-5 million firm to buy blueberries from a local grower. So, people are moving on, and at the same time, big business is trying to – I won’t say co-opted – but trying to move to where the people are. And, as long as the people keep moving, it’s a dance, it’s a game.
Duncan Campbell: That’s what I meant about saying this sort of temporary despair because what you've uncovered here in your great new book, Blessed Unrest, is that there is this great movement literally and moving energy that’s happening underneath the radar, your subtitle of the book is how the largest movement in the world came into being and why no one saw it coming. You actually name in the book, went back to a quotation that came from Martha Graham where she said that, “It’s this blessed unrest that keeps us moving, that keeps us marching, that keeps us being creative. It’s that which is really the life force.” And I quote, at the beginning of your book, that comment in its entirety, it says that “There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. Because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime. There is only a queer divide dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the other.”
Paul Hawken: Yes, and a great quote.
Duncan Campbell: It’s a wonderful quote, and you know, I see it as being very biological in that sense that you've talked about, Paul, in that there’s a kind of organic, dialectic we might say, where as an organism, intensifies in a certain particular direction. If it starts to become toxic or non-evolutionary, it will call forth its anti-thesis or its dialectical opposite as a source of renewal unless it becomes actually cancerous. It could be a tipping point in an organism where this desire to expand without limit, which we call a tumor, actually takes off on its own and the entire organism in which it is situated is unable to stop this sort of runaway tumor, this limitless desire to expand and not be part of a whole and then the host dies.
But, there are times, you talk about it as an immune system in the context of the movement where our body will set the limits. It will get activated when something happens that’s going to be extreme or not in balance for the overall organism, yet evokes the immune response. You describe this largest movement in the world as humanities, and we might say even the earth’s immune response to this kind of runaway industrialism.
For full transcript, please contact Duncan Campbell