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Paul Hawken - Complete Interview

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global oneness project Complete Interview The times we're going through, every generation thinks that they live at the most unusual time in history Paul Hawken - Northern California - Environmentalist, Entrepreneur, Author or the most special time or the most challenging time. That's a generational quality. And yet, one does have a sense now that there's something far beyond that vanity that exists in terms of the earth, the state of the earth, what we've done to the earth, the death not just of place but of culture. And I think we've reached a time where nobody can say with any prescience or accuracy what is going to happen in any rational, reasonable way. I don't think anybody knows where we're going, how we're going to get there, or what's going to happen. So it's extraordinarily unusual times for people. It brings up a lot of anxiety, understandably, and fear. It will bring up, politically, certainly a lot of demagoguery because it uses fear as its food; it feeds on it. All the shadowy qualities that each of us have will be, in a sense, uncovered by events, and we will truly know who we are and who we've become. The uncertainties most definitely are concentrated around climate because if it was just weather, then that would be just one factor, but we've never really understood weather as well as we do now and how it interlaces and affects everything we do from the economy to food to health to population to migration to fisheries, water, oceans, forests, die-offs, insects, disease. It goes on and on. All that is affected very powerfully by the climate and climate change. And I would say that the opportunity of this time that we're facing is to discover who we really are and to know who we are as people in a way which we never have before because I don't think we can surmount or even face what is coming at us and be the same people, the same culture, the same civilization, that we have been heretofore. As to how we disaggregated the environmental and social justice movements, that is a whole study unto itself because they're the same thing. And so it's interesting now that people are questioning as to how they're connected or how they're integrated, but how can you destroy a river and not destroy a people? How can you cut down a forest and destroy a watershed and not affect a civilization? How can you poison the food or your fish or put heavy metals into lakes and not destroy children? They are the same thing. I forget who said it--maybe it was Hillman--but first a culture dies and then nature dies. And as nature dies, then it further destroys a culture. So once you get into that cycle, there certainly is a difference between a tree and a person, between a building and a river, but the fact is that everything is connected, and the disaggregation of the environment has been, if you will, sort of a white person's vanity of the 20th century-- well-intended, we can understand how that came about-- but it really came about from privilege, from people who were very privileged and who had their personal needs met in terms of income and security and food and clothing and then looked at the environment and felt like, "Wow, I don't want to lose this amenity." "I don't want to lose this." And so they directed themselves towards the environment. but now what you're seeing, of course, is people understanding that you can't really address one without addressing the other. As long as you think nature is out there, then you have the basic separation that allows you to see the environment as other and people as distinct from that. And that separation is really what white man brought to civilization, was that separation of self from nature, and that is, again, the disease. It's the wound; it's the deep, deep wound that will be healed one way or the other in the decades to come. I thihk there's been a lot of fantasy about the future, and the future is sort of like it is today but only not as bad; in other words, it doesn't do harm, rather than people understanding that the construct we have, the civilizational construct that we have, is the harm itself. You couldn't design something that is more harmful to both people and place. And so when we think about the future, we have to really accept the concept that nothing will be as it is today except our hearts and our values and the things that have always made us humane. But in terms of the way society works or the way economies work or the way transportation works or the way banking works or the way cities work or all those kind of things that we take for granted now, nothing will be remotely similar to what it is that we see today. This is not like a fix. This is not like, "If we can just get the carbon out of our gas pipes or exhaust pipes," or, "If we can just get to organic farming," "or we can just clean up our waterways and skies," "or we can just make our cities green." All those things are necessary and needed, but they themselves do not in any way describe the future that is coming. It's the death of basically what the white, Indo-European civilizations have so successfully spread about the world; it is a dream, is a vision, is an idea, an ideal, if you will, that is not maybe corrupt in its intention, but it's certainly corrupt in its application, and it's corrupt in its effect on both people and culture and place. And so therefore, that is not something that you can amend or change or fix and then therefore, "Everything is going to be okay." "We just had a little course correction here in the 21st century," "and then we're going to keep going." That's not going to happen. I tend to see things sort of more practically. I'm not a shaman, I'm not a visionary, I'm just a person who looks at the world and tries to make sense out of it. And I think you see both phenomena. The fracturing of the world is happening very rapidly and has tremendous momentum and inertia. So that, to me, is the overwhelming impetus right now. It's not the coming together, it's not the healing so much as it is the revealing of how shattered we are, both inside and outside. And so the shattering of the world is what we're experiencing right now. And it encompasses and calls forth great grief. Often, actually, it calls forth numbness. It's too much. Yesterday a 54-year-old woman was assassinated in Pakistan. It's just horrific. These things do not make us weep, they make us hardened because it's too much for us to read day after day and to take in, and so we're seeing the shattering of the world. The soulful response to that, of course, is very different because the soul screams out for connection, for integration, and not the separation. So that then creates this response in us to reach out to another person, to a group, to a practice, to a teaching, to elders, to wisdomkeepers and those who, in a sense, have held a sensibility about the world that was so seemingly outmoded, so depasse, so useless in a modern world, and there is a slow--maybe picking up pace-- awakening that there are people and there are peoples who very patiently, very quietly, under much duress, under many times much persecution, just held on to this sense, this image, this dream, if you will, this knowledge, this wisdom that is our common legacy throughout the world. And people are turning to that. The things that are more true to their original nature tend to be the vestiges of wisdom, that tend to be where they're held, and those can occur in any living form, including human beings. Again, I want to make a real point here, which is that we distinguish human beings from life and we shouldn't. We're a life form, we're an animal, and we're a really unusual animal, but we're still an animal. And I don't say that to put us down so much as to connect us to all other forms of sentience on earth, whether they be butterflies or an oak leaf which is just behind you. These are forms of sentience that we have sort of pulled away from, and now we're starting to look back and say, "Wait a minute. I went too fast." "I got ahead of myself." There's beautiful stories about Lake Titicaca when the Spaniards came, and there was one island--I forget the name of the island-- where the priest was there and the Spanish were coming, and so he dumped everything into the lake--all the treasures-- so the Spanish couldn't find it, and they tortured him. But he had a dream where he was given a leaf, a magic leaf-- not magic but a divine leaf that would help their people survive the Conquistadors, and it would help them deal with the onslaught. And it was a coca leaf. But he said, "At the same time, this leaf will also destroy your oppressors." In other words, they will use it in a different way. It's kind of an interesting story and prophecy that has been there for hundreds of years about plant life, about how life can either enhance and allow us to become ourselves or we can take life, which we do in Western culture, and use it to destroy ourselves. Both are possible. I think the narratives that make sense to us now are older narratives. They're narratives that are timeless and not modern tales of woe and depression and fear and hungry ghosts and all that sort of stuff. The stories that really make us come alive are ancient. In my work I've tried to understand what the response is to the harm that is happening, that's been done, that continues to happen. And you do see people everywhere in the world organizing themselves to respond to the damage that is happening to place; that is, to their environment and the insults or assaults that are being waged upon their communities, their villages, their culture, their tribes. It's easy to look at that as sort of separate, distinct groups of people organizing themselves, primarily as nonprofits, to act, usually in lieu of a government or in lieu of an institution--the church or something that should really be there taking on these issues on their behalf and those institutions being so corrupt that people then organize themselves in new and novel but rather loose ways in order to address these sort of salient issues about water and poverty and justice and climate change and deforestation and all of these problems that we face. And so the metaphor that seemed to be most helpful to me was the immune system. In other words, this was humanity's immune response to political corruption, economic disease, and ecological degradation because if you look back in history at the kind of social movements that people have created, and there have been many, and the United States, oddly, has been the birth of most of them in the world-- most social movements have started here, but you wouldn't know that from going to school now. So at one point the United States really was the most progressive nation in the world and led the whole idea of being progressive with respect to economic and social justice and later the environment. But today what we're seeing is a worldwide arising of movements-- Movement of Movements is what Naomi Klein calls it-- but if we try to say, "Well, where is the historical antecedent for this?" "Where have we seen this before?" We haven't. There's nothing quite like it; in fact, there's nothing even remotely like it in history. The metaphor I use is the immune system because it's the only one that begins to model or describe what we're seeing. The immune system is a network. Where is it? You can't find it. There's no organ that is the center of the immune system in the body. There's 500 little peanuts around your body called lymph nodes, and those are certainly part of it. It's in your blood; it's everywhere. And yet, no one's in control. There's nothing in charge of it. It works in very mysterious ways that we don't fully understand. And yet, it does something which is very similar to what this movement does, which is that as you breathe and eat and drink and touch, you come into contact with things that are not you, essentially. And some of those things are very nourishing and nutritious, and some of those things are neutral, and some of those things are toxic. And so what the immune system does is identify things as they come in as human. In other words, "Me, me, me, not me. That's a not me." Then it checks out the not me and says, "Oh, we've seen this before." "It's okay. It's cool. But it's not you." And then there's not me's it has never seen before, which are viruses or bacteria or heavy metals and things that are very dangerous to the body and damaging, and then the immune system gathers and tries to do something about it by isolating it and killing it and basically preserving the integrity of the human body. Well, what this Movement of Movements does--what this unnamed movement does-- is identify activities in society, and it says, "This is humane, humane, not humane." "This is not humane." So this goes back to this question of social justice or the environment. Is it humane to harm a child? No, it's inhumane. Is it humane to destroy a forest? No, it's inhumane. So when we really use that word as a kind of measure of what we do, then we look at this movement, and what it is doing is identifying and parsing the activity of the world, whether it be by business or whether it be by governments or by other institutions, religion, or what have you, and it's saying, "Humane, humane, not humane." And then what happens is when it identifies something that's inhumane, then people are gathering around that issue, that organization, that policy, or that pollutant and then trying to contain it, first of all, to arrest the rate of damage and the damage itself and then, at the same time, to create means to prevent it from happening again in the future so that such an inhumane activity is stopped forever. And, of course, the greatest inhumane thing we do is war itself. So one of the key parts of this movement is the peace movement, but the peace movement itself is being redefined because we understand now that it's not just about the prevention or the absence of war but it's about the cultivation of peace within oneself, within one's heart, within everything that one does, how one thinks, how one addresses another person, how one relates to nature, how one relates to the soil, how one relates to other animals and so forth. And we now understand that peace is actually, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, in every step; in other words, it's in every single activity that we do, and all of us fail every day; there's no question about it. But in that mindfulness of understanding that our path and that our future lies within making peace with ourselves and everything we touch is really at the very heart of this movement. The book "Blessed Unrest" started in 1999 in Seattle, and I was there, and when I left I read articles that had been written in "The Post" and "The Times" and "Newsweek" and I thought they were so off the mark, and in some cases written by people who weren't even there; they just happened to call news feeds and then make a whole myth about it, and so I wrote a piece about it. One thing led to another and I thought I should write a book about what I saw, not just at Seattle, but I thought something happened there that was very unusual, which is that there were really thousands of organizations that came together or that, in a sense, fed what happened in Seattle. It was not just a group of protestors, as has been often said. And the method of organization in Seattle really arose from the encuentras in 1990 and 1992 in Quito, Ecuador, where the indigenous peoples of the Americas got together for the first time to meet since the conquest. And they used a Mayan form of organization and process for those meetings, and that became the methodology used in Chiapas by Subcomandante Marcos and also was the methodology used in Seattle, and I thought, 'This is really fascinating. Something's going on here.' 'There's kind of a connection between these organizations in the world,' 'that is sort of underground and quiet and not secret but simply unremarked upon.' And so I started to think about writing about it, and I went through title after title after title, and none of them worked at all; they just seemed off. And then when I was in Namibia--I was in Africa-- I came across this Martha Graham quote, and it seemed to me blessed unrest was a term that had arms big enough to hold the diversity and the depth and the heart of this movement. It came about according to Agnes de Mille, who had dinner with Martha Graham one night, and Agnes de Mille was kvetching, complaining about a show she had choreographed called "Rodeo" she had won awards for, and she came back six months later and it was a mess and she was ashamed that her name was on the marquee. When they walked back to Martha Graham's house and they stopped at her stoop, Martha Graham turned to Agnes de Mille and said to Agnes de Mille, "We are artists." Like, hello. "We are never satisfied; there is always this queer dissatisfaction, this blessed unrest that makes us march and makes us more alive than the other." And I thought, 'Um-hmm. That's right. She got that one.' And that, to me, was the description, that was the thing that was common everywhere I've been in the world where I've seen people, seen organizations, seen groups, is that this queer dissatisfaction, this blessed unrest, makes us more alive. In a way, it's like the Bodhisattva vow, it's, "I'm here to save all sentient beings." And in a sense, people have taken that vow all over the world. What is so extraordinary is that people are working on behalf of people they don't know, and they're working on behalf of people from whom they will never receive benefit, and they're doing this in a really selfless way. I'm not trying to extol or to place them on pillars or anything; I'm just saying that this is what's happening. And that movement itself goes back, really, to the abolitionist movement that started in the 1780s in England, where people got together to really stop a horrific activity, which is the trade in slaves, undertaken by the British Empire at that time. They were laughed at, they were made fun of, they were derided, they were told they had wrecked the British economy, they were misunderstood, people said, "Why would you work on behalf of people you don't know or never see?" "You're not going to benefit from it. Don't you have a job?" They were called the same names that we hear today: the radicals, do-gooders, they were meddling in affairs they had no business in, they didn't understand the importance of slavery. All that sort of stuff was thrown at them, and what's so important about the abolitionsts for us today was not just that they succeeded but that it was the first time that people organized themselves on behalf of others they would never know and from whom they would not receive benefit. More and more of us want to do that, and we know that what we need to do is act in such a way that allows other people to be free. That's happening in every city, every culture, every country. There is no place in the world where this is not happening. There are places where it's occurring where it's dangerous. It's happening in places where people get killed and shot more often. It's happening in places where the governments try to control the NGOs and nonprofits, like in China. But there is no place where it is not occurring. It's the largest social movement in the history of humankind, by far. Nothing compares to it. Nobody knows how it's organized, no more than we know how the human body is organized. We do not understand how the human body works. We understand a lot about the workings of it. I want to make that very clear; scientists are brilliant. But if you step back and say, "Well, really, how does it all work?" We have no idea. The human body is composed of a hundred trillion cells, and that's the human cells. There's another 900 trillion which are nonhuman. There's a quadrillion cells, and in any given moment in the human body, there's one septillion activities going on, which is the one with 24 zeroes, which is ten times as many stars and planetary bodies in the whole of the universe. And that's going on every second in our body right now, and we have no idea how it organizes itself to be able to sit here and have a conversation. It's a complete mystery. What we know is that we have a name for it, though, and we call it life. But what we also know, when we are honest with ourselves, is we have no idea how life really works. There are certain principles, like life tends to organize from the bottom up. It's not a top down organization. And so what we're seeing is this movement is the same thing. We're seeing a human arising, if you will, of heart, of conscience, of intelligence, arising from the bottom up. And we who have been well-schooled in hierarchies and wars and military and corporations and CEOs and presidents and fame and fortune still have our eyes turned towards the top down world when, in fact, the birth of the world is coming up from the grassroots. It's hard to know that because it's not validated by anything we see. It happens by the use and abuse and the concentration of money, and that is probably the greatest cause of damage in the world today. We have an economic system that concentrates capital, and that capital then seeks to grow. We had the divine right of kings, that we didn't question the so-called divinity of emperors and kings, that they descended from the heavens and the gods and what have you and were not to be questioned at fear of death. And now we have the divine right of money, which is money has a right to grow unabated, and as long as it's within the law, then we consider it to be not only a right but actually even a badge of honor if someone does that. And we worship it. We worship it just like we worshipped kings. We look back now at the fawning sycophantic courtiers and people worshipping these corrupt royal figures and we laugh, but we'll look back at this time just as surely and wonder how did we ever get to the point where we worshipped currency and bankers and men, primarily, who amass great fortunes and then we're just riveted by everything they do, both foolish and otherwise? And this is where we are. And so you look at the environmental and social damage that's occurring in the world, and there's a wave of money, like a tsunami, that precedes all damage that we see in the world. The exploitation of nature is never of nature, it's always of people exploiting other people, and nature is the instrument of that exploitation. And it's always in order to concentrate capital someplace else. One of the things I think Donella Meadows said is as long as we study what's being bought as opposed to studying what's being fulfilled, then we're always going to come up with the wrong conclusions because really, the proper study of economics is fulfillment, not consumption. So it doesn't matter how you measure it, you're measuring the wrong thing. So it doesn't even matter if it's a quote, unquote green product or a green car or a green house or home. It's still consumption, and we're measuring the wrong thing. It doesn't matter how many organic cotton T-shirts were sold. What matters in this world is the fulfillment of people's needs and the fulfillment of their aspirations to grow, develop, and become everything that is laden in potential in each of us. And that measuring stick has never been fashioned, economically speaking. You can't measure it using quantitative metrics, and that's why economists eschew it and don't even want to talk about it because it drives them nuts because it's not a replicable, unitized metric. But the fulfillment of human beings is witnessed by how they act to each other, how they relate to their children, how they relate not only to their community but to the greater community, which is the community of life itself. So as we separate ourselves from that community of life, from each other, from our children, then our enemy, our depression, our fear, our sorrow, all grow commensurately, there's a great sadness. What do we do then? We harm, we buy, we consume, we build houses that are more like castles, and we create communities that are more like places where we isolate ourselves, not where we come together. We are afraid of each other. We're afraid to be human again because we've lost our way. We've lost the path, we've lost the track, we've lost the traces of it, and yet, the deepest longing we have is to be reconnected to each other, to be in community, and that's the greatest security we can have. And so fulfillment, really, is going to be measured by our connection and our connectivity to those things that matter. And we know what those are because those are universal. I think we should be a little careful about fantasies of a hopeful future. I think we should be equally careful about fantasies of a dire future as well. Those are very easy to create, to describe. And the hopeful ones tend to be projections of, with all and profound due respect, white people. And I think they prescribe and they limit. They actually don't necessarily open up because then we start to perceive the present through the lens of the future, and I think that's upside down and backwards. The only reason you ever try to imagine any type of future is to give you a better sense of how present you are, how authentically you are living in the moment you are living, in the times you live. And so I don't have a hopeful future, and I try not to have a dire future. I'm just like everybody else. I have real fears and concerns. I'm a father; I have children. And even if I didn't, I would have the same fears. But they're more pressing because of that, like any parent knows. And for me, I keep going back to myself, which is am I the person, am I the human being, that will create a livable future? In other words, am I that person? And I fail every day. And what I think I know--and I used to work at SRI and wrote books on the future-- is that it never happens the way you think it will, and it never happens when you think it will, and it never happens how you think it will, so you can just forget about it anyway because it just never happens that way. It is fundamentally unknowable. Unknowable. And the gift, if you will, of climate science, of the predictions that are certainly there now, that are based on physics, are that they change how we see ourselves, how we see today, who we are, what we're doing. But I am very wary of sort of semi-Panglossian attempts to paint a future that is humane and livable and good and comfortable because that's not how it works. I think it comes right back to the original vision, which is changing the dream. Now, the dream isn't the dream of the future. The dream is the dream of the present. And we often think of dream as being prophetic dreams. That does happen to certain people. They have this ability to cross time and space in a way that they can see the future. But for the rest of us it doesn't happen. It's not a valid thing to attempt. For us it's about the dream of who we are today, right now. And I don't mean to, in a sense, dismiss those visions because I think aspirations are hopeful, but I think in some ways that they can take us away from the grief that we need to feel. I actually feel it's in our grief that we find our connection to each other, to ourself, to the smallest things that we overlooked, and that we can start to see the world again with new eyes, through those tears that wash away the illusions that separate us from each other. And really, let's ask ourselves, "What is useful?" We talk--I do--about being better connected, being connected, that it is all connected, so therefore, a conscious response is going to be grounded in a sense of connection and connectivity to other people, to life itself. But do we do it? And to me, one of the most useful things that we can do is really forge those connections and that means those connections with people with whom we do not agree with, for whom our vision of the future is anathema, with those who worship different gods, different religions, who dress differently, talk differently, think differently, vote differently. And what is it that connects us to them? What is the language? What are the values? What is it that allows them and us to accept those differences but look past them and understand what is common? And as I said earlier that I believe the gift of the rate of change that's occurring now in the world, which is a cascading and growing set of problems and assaults and depredation and suffering, is that it makes that conversation more and more possible. And it is not possible when you have the illusion that everything is going as it should and that we live in the best of all worlds, and there are many people who think that right now. We don't live in the best of all worlds, we don't live in the worst of all worlds, but we do live at this time when so much is being lost, and in that loss, in that knowledge, we have the ability, we have the grace, if you will, given to us to then reach out to others because there aren't two lifeboats--we can sink that one; we're on the other one. We're in one boat together. Buckminster Fuller said that this spaceship was so ingeniously designed that we don't know it's a spaceship, but it is. We're all in this together. And there are those who say, "Let's get rid of Walmart," "and let's get rid of Exxon." "Let's get rid of all the things that we project out as our shadow," and I'm saying, "127 million people go to Walmart every week," "so let's be careful about who we demonize." Let's not demonize anybody because that is the process, that is the acts that got us to where we are today. So it takes more courage to go out from there naked, if you will, instead of clad in thought forms about the other because as long as we do that, then the other truly becomes separate and distinct, and we are separate from ourselves. You could say that it's just perfect the way it is, and the reason you can say that is because it is. Because what it is right now is actually the way it is right now, and we did it, all by ourselves, all 6+ billion. So therefore, how can we then look at it as being this or that or this and that and it doesn't work and it should be this way. So no, this is what we created, an amazing moment in time that we live in. And I think it was Oren Lyons--I may be mistaken--who said, "Yeah." Somebody was talking about the population problem, and he said, "Well, okay. Yep." "But isn't it interesting that we've all come here at the same time? "Why are we here?" You know? We've all come to the earth, all these souls, incarnated souls. Why are we here? I have no idea. But it couldn't be a more interesting time. >>That's right. Yeah, a blessed unrest. When I wrote "Blessed Unrest," I realized that what I was writing was a love story, and I know that for myself because when I've written other books it was more like cautionary stories or maybe solution stories but it wasn't love stories. So I think about how to fall in love right now. I think about how do we teach each other--ourselves--to fall in love with the world? I think we've fallen out of love. And we all have in our lives. We've been in love and we've been out of love, and we know what the difference is and what it feels like. When I think of teachers like Janine Benyus and people like that, why do we respond to her? We do we respond to her teachings and her manner and the qualities that she embodies? And it's because she's in love. She just loves the world around her. She's a biologist in this case, but it doesn't matter. You can be a poet or a singer, anything you want. So I think more about writing love stories--not romance but about the world as we know it and how beautifully it is all connected, how beautiful it is right now the way it is. I just feel like we can forget that because we get so driven by our fear, we get so driven by wanting to do good, we get so driven by wanting to save the world that we can lose that real quality that absolutely transforms the world, which is love itself and being in love. And who do we want to be around, really? We want to be around the person who's in love. - Footage courtesy of the Pachamama Alliance

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Duration: 47 minutes and 40 seconds
Country: United States
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Posted by: global on Sep 28, 2009

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