Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement In the World Came Into Being and No One Saw it Coming By Paul Hawken

A leading environmentalist and social activist’s examination of the worldwide movement for social and environmental change

Paul Hawken has spent over a decade researching organizations dedicated to restoring the environment and fostering social justice. From billion-dollar nonprofits to single-person dot.causes, these groups collectively comprise the largest movement on earth, a movement that has no name, leader, or location, and that has gone largely ignored by politicians and the media. Like nature itself, it is organizing fr om the bottom up, in every city, town, and culture. and is emerging to be an extraordinary and creative expression of people’s needs worldwide.

Blessed Unrest explores the diversity of the movement, its brilliant ideas, innovative strategies, and hidden history, which date back many centuries. A culmination of Hawken’s many years of leadership in the environmental and social justice fields, it will inspire and delight any and all who despair of the world’s fate, and its conclusions will surprise even those within the movement itself. Fundamentally, it is a description of humanity’s collective genius, and the unstoppable movement to reimagine our relationship to the environment and one another.


How the largest movement in the world came into being, and why no one saw it coming. Paul Hawken has spent over a decade researching organizations dedicated to restoring the environment and fostering social justice.
From billion-dollar nonprofits to single-person dot.causes, these groups collectively comprise the largest movement on earth, a movement that has no name, leader, or location, and that has gone largely ignored by politicians and the media. Like nature itself, it is organizing from the bottom up, in every city, town, and culture. and is emerging to be an extraordinary and creative expression of people’s needs worldwide.


Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, and author. His work includes starting ecological businesses, writing about the impact of commerce on living systems, and consulting with heads of state and CEOs on economic development, industrial ecology, and environmental policy.

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7 Questions That Can Change the World ~ Debbie Robbins

For me, the singular question that lies underneath everything that is happening right now — from Occupy Wall Street to the brutal famine in Somalia — is: WHAT KIND OF WORLD DO WE WANT TO LIVE IN?

Those of you who know me well know I do not engage in the “right/wrong game.” Everyone is entitled to their answer. Personally, I am giving this question more thought than ever before in my life.

Here are some six additional questions I am posing to myself:

What is my definition of wealth?

Is a wealthy country just its Gross National Product?

Is a wealthy person only the balance in their bank account?

Is a wealthy company solely their financial profitability, revenue and stock price?

Are we really that “connected” now, that every choice I make does affect someone else’s chance for prosperity?

If that answer is yes, what more can I be doing with my life to add, rather than detract, from the well being of others?

One of my closest friends, HuffPost blogger and relationship expert Heide Banks just shared this brilliant commencement address with me, given by Paul Hawken in 2009. In case you missed it, like I did, I invite you to take the time, amidst the complexities of your life, to read it. Paul is a renowned environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist and author. He has some important answers to the above questions.

The unforgettable Commencement Address 2009, excerpted for this blog:

Class of 2009: You are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil or air don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food–but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world…

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power…

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true. Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider. “One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,” is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world…

The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet.

At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.

The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable…

So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are. Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party.

Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life. What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past…

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years…The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.

Why Do Bad Things Happen? (Part 3) ~ Deepak Chopra

In the last post we arrived at a conclusion that will surprise many people: If the good parts of your life are to have meaning, the same must be true of the bad parts. This is a continual message delivered by the world’s wisdom traditions. It’s a fantasy to believe that being good will keep you from confronting the bad in life, or that there is ever enough pleasure to eradicate pain. The ills that visit every person’s life exist for a reason. Yet each of us is fostering a different set of reasons in our heads.

At a superficial level, you can indulge in a blame game that never ends. The world contains enough malefactors to keep blame going for your entire life. My parents made me this way; my boss hates me; corporations are evil, and so on. As we keep projecting blame outward, the short-term effect might be that you feel better. It’s crudely satisfying to judge, blame and hate. But even as the roster of villains proves endless, blame postpones the day when you have to face your own involvement. The world’s wisdom traditions are not superficial. There is no point in abandoning blame in order to feel better, to look good in the eyes of others, or to play the role of saint.

Rather, getting beyond blame is a way to actually solve the problem of suffering. In a sense, to act like a saintly martyr who turns the other cheek and patiently awaits for goodness to prevail is just as superficial as blaming other people. Life is dynamic and complex. If you are ever going to get to the bottom of your own suffering, you have to be alert, aware, and constantly flexible. Playing a role, like taking a rigid moral position, freezes the mind. Consider a harsh judge on the bench who gives the maximum sentence to every defendant and refuses to consider mitigating circumstances. Like a stopped clock, this judge may be right twice a day. There are malefactors who deserve harsh treatment. But what about the countless defendants who deserve to be treated flexibly, taking all their circumstances into account?

There’s a harsh judge inside each of us. Freud labeled it the superego, an aspect of the psyche absorbed in early childhood when the wrath of a parent seems absolute. Young children understand morality in black-and-white terms. They are praised for being good and punished for being bad. As a person matures, shades of gray enter the picture. One adapts to the truth that there is good and bad in everyone and reasons for actions that blur the line between right and wrong. But some part of us retains the memory of a black-and-white world. On that basis, there are millions of people who hold on to a clear-cut scheme of morality. This scheme is sometimes called Old Testament or fundamentalist, yet religion doesn’t necessarily dictate its terms. Childhood punishment probably plays just as big a part.

When bad things happen, all of us refer to our inner compass. We compare the present moment with a model of good and bad. In the case of people driven by the superego or by rigid religious teachings, the following principles are basic:

1. Two universal forces contend for control of creation, one being good, the other evil. Human beings are caught in this titanic struggle between light and darkness.
2. Forgiveness is provisional, blame is permanent.
3. Guilt tells you when you have done something wrong.
4. Judges, both inner and outer, have the right to assign guilt and blame.
5. God is the ultimate judge, keeping an eye on all sin and wrongdoing.

When this scheme is embedded in your psyche, your reaction to bad things is predictable because you have so little room to maneuver.

1. Your first instinct will be to look for someone to blame.
2. You will generalize that bad things are done by bad people, not by people who made a mistake or had a moment of weakness.
3. You will not be satisfied until someone is punished.
4. Random misfortunes will seem like hidden messages from a watchful God.
5. Self-esteem will depend on how perfectly you obey the rules.
6. Breaking the rules is always wrong, even when there are mitigating circumstances.
7. Anyone who challenges your dogma is morally suspect.
8. Life contains hidden punishments delivered by God.
9. Temptation comes from the devil or the dark side of creation.
10. You must defend good in order to prevent evil from gaining the upper hand.

This is the scheme that millions of people applied to the problem of terrorism after 9/11, at a time when “us versus them” thinking was encouraged by a right-wing administration. Other voices and more reasonable views were drowned out. But it wasn’t just the right wing, which sees itself in charge of moral values for the rest of society, who reacted that way. Because we all have a harsh inner judge inside, the vestige of a child’s black-and-white view of the world, the voices of fear and revenge came to the surface.

As long as you believe that universal good is warring with universal evil, you cannot escape constant vigilance, which brings with it several very negative things. Vigilance is stressful and leads to tension. The fact that vigilance is unrelenting makes it fatiguing, and to fend off fatigue, you must become rigid in your watchfulness. That’s why in times of crisis, authority becomes harsher and more demanding. Everyone has to be watched; no one is exempt. Except for the watcher himself, which is how society arrives at paranoid watchdogs like J. Edgar Hoover, who become monsters of morality while keeping their own failings a deep secret, even from themselves.

We can call this whole scheme moral fundamentalism; it is the most basic view of the universe and our place in it. What are the benefits? To a fundamentalist, there are many.

1. The scheme is simple. You know where you belong in it.
2. No troubling ambiguities exist.
3. Your sense of goodness is reinforced by clear rules about sin and virtue.
4. Justice comes down to retribution, which satisfies our primitive desire for revenge.
5. Society knows who should be included and who should be excluded.

To see the fundamentalist model at work, one doesn’t need to live among hard-core religionists. Watching a baseball or football game suffices, because sports are a field where the enemy is clear, the goal is unquestioned, and the rules must be followed or you incur a penalty. The rise of religious fundamentalism in the past few decades has also caused moral fundamentalism to seep into politics, which is why, in the present divisive landscape, it becomes necessary not simply to defeat your opponent but to turn him into an immoral culprit.

To get beyond a black-and-white world requires more than growing up. The whole scheme starts to fray, and ultimately break down, only when certain key insights begin to dawn.

1. Good people do bad things, and vice versa.
2. Revenge doesn’t solve the problem of wrongdoing.
3. Judging against others opens you to their judgment.
4. Everyone is alike in being tempted; everyone is alike in wanting to be forgiven.
5. A punishing God cannot be reconciled with a loving God.

At first these insights are troubling. No one likes to feel the ground shift under their feet. From the outside, it’s hard to comprehend just how disturbing it can be for a fundamentalist to change. The simplest kind of compassion and sympathy actually feels dangerous and wrong. Live and let live feels like an invitation to let sin run riot. Lowering your guard means you will be attacked. Loosening the rules will automatically leads to depravity. Here we have a clue to how fundamentalism is enforced, not by the sheer satisfaction of knowing that you are good but from the hidden terror of falling from grace. Hellfire and damnation are totally necessary, because they justify the fear you feel. Only when you realize that you have set yourself up as both judge and victim does the scheme of fear and guilt break down. It dawns on you that you are divided against yourself, and then your goals change. Instead of constantly watching out for evil and guarding against attack, you long for a new kind of security that also includes peace and forgiveness.

(To be continued)

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