Suicide Interventions

Paul Hawken

A pioneering environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist and author, Mr. Hawken is one of the world’s foremost environmental leaders. He has invested his life translating his commitment to justice into action. Starting his activism during the civil rights expansions in Selma, Alabama when he was 19 years old, he has founded multiple businesses including Smith & Hawken and now heads the Natural Capital Institute. He is an widely sought speaker internationally, has contributed to and appeared in countless media outlets, has written international classics include The Ecology of Commerce, Natural Capitalism (with Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins), and Growing a Business, which Mr. Hawken also took to television. He calls California home.

We are witnessing an enormous transition from a world created by and for privilege to a world created by and for community, says environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hawken. Small actions and big ideas are at the heart of what Mr. Hawken describes as a movement that has no name. It is bottom-up because, he says simply, the top-down world is corrupt and this is the only way to prevent the end of life on earth. Yes, crises abound. Add fundamentalisms, especially free market fundamentalism, to peak oil, peak water, peak soil, peak fish, peak everything.

But he says, in response, people are beginning to realize that our friends and solutions lie close by and are on all sides of us, among our neighbors and our communities; that in order to be resilient, durable, strong, meaningful and able to absorb the shocks that may be coming in the future, we need to re-organize. Stop importing our lives. Recognize what we have always known -- our lives and all meaningful culture are homegrown. Create a world without inequality, wealth without plunder and a future without fear.

He calls this response a social movement because it involves people and society, but it is like no other and he’s seen many. So he has reached for biological metaphors like “quickening” to describe what is happening -- the largest movement the world has ever seen. He’s certain it exceeds one million organizations and may be as large as two million -- that’s organizations -- people in every culture and city and country in the world addressing mega-problems and confronting mega-institutions while recreating life the way nature does: from the bottom up, and using information.

This movement is about dispersing power, not concentrating it, Mr. Hawken says. He’s convinced this is why corporate mass media has neither seen nor reported this massive movement. Instead of a few rigid ideologies like those that consumed the 20th century and cost 120 million lives, he says, this movement is fueled by many ideas which in turn are open to more ideas. It is arising, recreating and reimagining what true democratic process is.

Today’s moribund top-down stories have Americans grappling with helplessness, hopelessness, depression, oppression and suppression of self, Mr. Hawken knows. He offers new stories of individuals and groups controlling the only thing any of us can control – our own intentions, guiding our own actions, in our own lives. Seemingly inconsequential acts piling on top of each other over time, he reminds us, are part of the many, many, many, many, many, many small acts that do change history. It works the same way biological evolution does, he says -- tiny shifts culminating in great changes.

Consider how slavery was abolished in the British Empire. It began when 12 people gathered in 1787, convinced it was time, in spite of the fact that 3 out of 4 people on earth at that moment were either slaves or indentured servants. Or think of Joanne Robinson. Few know her name, but this Alabama college teacher created the context from which the pivotal Montgomery Bus Boycott launched the great civil revolution in America, eventually bringing the Jim Crow era to an end.

We are now at the end of an age of giants, he concludes, citing mega-statistics from Big Oil’s Exxon-Mobil to Wal-Mart to neo-conservatives. Remember, he says. In evolutionary terms, giantism usually is the end of the line, the end of power and not its beginning.

[This Program was recorded May 23, 2007, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.]

                                   Complete Program Video in 6 parts:                                                                                           

Conversation 1

Paul Hawken describes the vast, historical social movement he sees quickening around the world and tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell about this “movement with no name”. Today’s meta-ideology is fundamentalism, Mr. Hawken says, defining it and including free market fundamentalism.

Conversation 1 RealAudio8:46 

Conversation 2

Mr. Hawken recalls the origins of Blessed Unrest and Seattle in 1999 -- the moment civil society belled the cat of free market fundamentalism, he says, providing striking stories. He puts the title of the book in context, eager not to constrain this movement he sees afoot -- at least one million, maybe two million organizations around the world, people in situ re-imagining true democratic process, addressing and solving issues where governments have failed -- poverty, climate, water, sanitation, economic polarization, the ravages of globalization, the death of the oceans and soil, and more.  He makes clear why this movement is not being covered by corporate mass media.

Conversation 1 RealAudio11:57 

Conversation 3

Reminding us that in evolution giantism is usually the end of the line, Mr. Hawken enumerates today’s destructive age of giants, from Enron to Wal-Mart. He shows why he is confident we are seeing the sunset effect of power in many manifestations, including today’s neo-conservatives, then continues with stories contrasting the rigidness of ideologies and the welcoming openness of ideas, aided by modern technologies. Corporate concentration of media is a civilizational death wish, Mr. Hawken insists, because democracy requires two things -- participation and access to information. He gives examples.

Conversation 4

Mr. Hawken traces the roots of this emerging movement-with-no-name back to the Code of Hammurabi, applauds Rachel Carson role, then concentrates on the widely ignored and revolutionary ideas of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Henry David Thoreau and his 7,000 page journal enter the conversation, Mr. Hawken pointing to clear parallels between Thoreau’s rejection of injustice and today’s activists inspired by his Civil Disobedience. Mr. Hawken brings Emerson and Thoreau into the present, with the story of how profoundly history is changed by many, many, many, many seemingly tiny, inconsequential acts.

Conversation 1 RealAudio11:29 

Conversation 5

With a personal story -- industrialist Ray Anderson reading The Ecology of Commerce -- Mr. Hawken offers yet another example of small individual acts adding up. Don’t take on the burden of the future, he says, it’s enough to control your own intentions -- the only thing we can control, he reminds us. He recounts how Joanne Robinson in Montgomery, AL, created the context for the heroic Montgomery bus boycott, changing America in much the same way 12 people meeting in London in 1787 ended slavery in the British Empire. Climate change is re-creating colonialism and imperialism, he shows.

Conversation 6

Mr. Hawken closes with stories built on James Carse’s big idea of “finite games” (Wall Street and the NBA and politics) and “infinite games” (the whole point is to keep the game going) and offers a suicide prevention strategy for life on earth.

Conversation 1 RealAudio5:23 



Life on earth is indebeted to Paul Hawken. His strong and compassionate voice, his willingness to put into action his passion for justice, his life are shining examples of what we can -- and must -- be and do to sustain life on earth. Amory Lovins, with whom Mr. Hawken wrote Natural Capitalism is another example of putting our best selves forward on behalf of all.

Yet another splendid example of the "little things" that add up to a lot -- many years ago, Jeff Gates put us in touch with Paul Hawken and from that day forward, we have all worked to bring this Conversation to you. We deeply appreciation Jeff’s own continuing commitment to a better world, wish him well and look forward to reconnecting with him when the time is right.

While doing a semi-routine update of this page, we came across the following item from 2003:  Paul Hawken Resigns from Green Business Network over McDonald's Issue. Seems to us a principled response to the flood of greenwash now threatening to undermine or diminished the work of people and organizations genuinely acting to preserve the liveability of Earth.

Related Links:

Blessed Unrest:  How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming is published by Viking.

For more on Paul Hawken, visit his website. He cordially invites you to visit the website for Wiser Earth and for the organization he now heads, Natural Capital Institute .

James Carse is the author of Finite and Infinite Games:  a Vision of Life as Play and Possibility and, in 2008, The Religious Case Against Belief.

Ray Anderson, the founder of Interface, Inc., is working to make his company, not only sustainable, but restorative ... and to serve as an example to all industrialists and business people.

Philosopher Frederick Ferré provides a solid philosophical basis for Paul Hawkins assestment of the direction we must choose if the species is to survive.

The eminent scientist Edward O. Wilson speaks of one of our species' finer attributes:  biophilia, a profound love and respect for life.

           Quick buttons

© 2007 The Paula Gordon Show.
All materials contained on this website are
copyrighted by The Paula Gordon Show and may
not be used in any way without the express,
written consent of Paula Gordon.