Paul Hawken first came to my attention with the publication of The Ecology of Commerce in 1993. In the book, he said (my interpretations) that in The Silent Spring, Rachel Carson was right, but that the situation was worse than she had said. We did not just face imminent danger, but rather the endocrine systems of our planet’s living organisms had already been compromised by the way we were engaging in commerce and industry on the planet. Secondly, he said, we could give up the idea that the situation could be remedied by governments, agreements among governments, or regulation. There was, he said, only one force on the planet up to the challenge we faced: we had to transform the way that we understood and did commerce and business.
In his new book, Blessed Unrest, working from the same concerns, he reflects on something that “is going on in the background.” From the perspective of more than a decade of talking to people around the world about what is going on in the world of the environment, he discovered that there is a huge social movement underway that does not fit anyone’s picture of a movement. He calls it a vast network of organizations that are operating ‘without a white male vertebrate running the show,’ and addressing the questions of human rights, social justice, and environmental restoration in what he understands now as a unified phenomenon.
I recommend the book. In this video, you can hear him talking about the book for a little over 5 minutes. In this video, you can watch his presentation of the book at Google’s offices, and a wonderful conversation after the presentation with Dr. Lawrence (Larry) Brilliant (about an hour long).
I think Paul’s work is important for understanding many things about our modern world, possibilities for transforming cultures, designing businesses, and building new ethical enterprises. I am convinced that he is distinguishing something “new” in a very solid way. As Michael Salveson said to me when I told him about the book, “But of course, de Tocqueville told us that when he wrote Democracy in America: every major change in this country begins in the communities. The big changes are not generated by the institutions.”
What do you think?