Paul Hawken


American Environmentalist, Entrepreneur, Journalist and Author, Heads the Natural Capital Institute (NCI), a founder of WISE (World Index for Social and Environmental Responsibility), and WiserEarth - an online community directory and networking forum for 1.5 million-plus groups around the world that are working on environmental and social justice issues

Author Quotes

A viable future isn’t possible until the past is faced objectively and communion is made with our errant history... The movement is not coercive, but it is relentless and unafraid. It cannot be mollified, pacified, or suppressed... All people and institutions, including commerce, governments, schools, churches, and cities, need to learn from life and re-imagine the world from the bottom up, based on first principles of justice and ecology... What will guide us is a living intelligence that creates miracles every second, carried forth by a movement with no name.

Life tends to optimize rather than maximize. Maximization is another word for addiction.

We are the only species without full employment, again defying the nature of nature.

The movement offers a solution-creating methodology from below that is inclusive, a process that mimics biological adaptation and evolution. Every physical activity the human body sustains is part of a cyclical, biological system with a self-correcting bias.

People are asked to place their faith in economic and political systems that have polluted water, air, and sea; that have despoiled communities, sacked workforces, reduced incomes for most people in the world for the past three decades, and created a stratosphere sufficiently permeated with industrial gases that we are, in effect, playing dice with the planet.

Five hundred years of ecological mayhem and social tyranny is a relatively short time for humanity to have learned to understand its self-created patterns of systematic pillage. The insanity of human destructiveness may be matched by an older grace and intelligence that is fastening us together in ways we have never before seen or imagined... We live in community, not alone, and any sense of separateness that we harbor is illusion.

If anything can offer us hope for the future it will be an assembly of humanity that is representative but not centralized, because no single ideology can ever heal the woulds of this world.

Slow food supports the re-creation of networks of traditional food producers with customers to that both may thrive. It is about conserving the heritage of the exquisite variety of tastes humankind has created, which means organizing farmers markets and ensuring both that varieties of fruits and vegetables and rare breeds of animals do not become extinct, and that the people who are artisans of food are supported and can pass on their craft to future generations... To those who argue that gastronomy is a privilege of the affluent and hardly a suitable environmental cuase, (Carlo) Patrini replies that food lovers who are not environmentalists are naive, and an ecologist who does not take time to savor his food and culture leads a deprived life.

Social entrepreneurs are innovative risk takers who use ideas, resources, and opportunities to tackle problems and produce social benefit.

At the heart of all of this is not technology but relationships, tens of millions of people working toward restoration and social justice... No culture has ever honored its environment but disgraced its people, and conversely, no government can say it cares for its citizens while allowing the environment to be trashed... The ultimate purpose of a global immune system is to identify what is not life affirming and to contain, neutralize, or eliminate it. Where communities, cultures, and ecosystems have been damaged, it seeks to prevent additional harm and then heal and restore the damage.

If we accept that the metaphor of an organism can be applied to humankind, we can imagine a collective movement that would protect, repair, and restore that organism’s capacity to endure when threatened. If so, that capacity to respond would function like an immune system, which operates independently of an individual person’s intent. Specifically, the shared activity of hundreds of thousands of nonprofit organizations can be seen as humanity’s immune response to toxins like political corruption, economic disease, and ecological degradation.

The failure of those making the case for globalized free trade is their inability to adequately address the results of rapid economic change in human and ecological terms, how it creates prosperity and misery and ecological degradation, roughly in equal measure, incomparable though they may seem.

Markets make great servants, but bad leaders and ridiculous religions.

When there was an abundant earth supporting relatively few people, it was not necessary for markets to allocate resources with an eye toward the future. On a crowded earth with failing ecosystems, that lapse will be fatal.

In internationalization, each nation sets its own trade standards and will do business with other nations that are willing to meet those standards. Do nations abuse this system? Always and constantly, and the United States is among the worst offenders in that regard. But where democracies prevail, internationalization does provide a means for people to set their own policy, influence decisions, and determine their own future. Globalization, in contrast, envisions standardized legislation for the entire world, with capital and goods moving at will superior to the rule of national laws. Globalization supersedes nation, state, region, and village. While diminishing the power of nationalism is a good idea, elimination of sovereignty may not be if it is replaced by a corporate boardroom.

What WTO seeks to protect is business and growth, not people and the environment, with an underlying assumption that the wealthier a country becomes, the better it is able to protect its people and its environment. It has not turned out that way... Tens of thousands of NGOs work toward amending the market policies of globalization because markets are not designed to be surrogates for ethics, values, and justice.

Living within the biological constraints of the earth may be the most civilized activity a person can pursue, because it enables our successors to to the same.

Wade David sees languages the way a biologist sees species diversity: “Distinct cultures represent unique visions of life itself, morally inspired and inherently right. And those different voices become part of the overall repertoire of humanity for coping with challenges confronting us in the future. As we drift toward a blandly amorphous, generic world, as cultures disappear and life becomes more uniform, we as a people and a species, and Earth itself, will be deeply impoverished.”

Life is the most fundamental human right, and all of the movements with the movement are dedicated to creating the conditions for life, conditions that include livelihood, food, security, peace, a stable environment, and freedom from external tyranny.

When events slip beyond the horizon of media coverage, they disappear from public discourse: abuse of power thrives in silence, shrinks in the light.

The question that continues to reverberate to this day is whether human rights trump the rights of business, or vice versa, a conflict that has been ongoing for more than three hundred years... From an economic viewpoint, what citizens have been trying to do for two hundred years is to force business to pay full freight, to internalize their costs to society instead of externalizing them onto a river, a town, a single patient, or a whole generation.

For indigenous people, in the time that defines one’s life, the relationship one has to the earth is the constant and true gauge that determines the integrity of one’s culture, the meaning of one’s existence, and the peacefulness of one’s heart.

Slaves, serfs, and the poor are the forests, soils, and oceans of society; each constitutes surplus value that has been exploited repeatedly by those in power, whether governments or multinational corporations.

Fixing the intractable problems besetting the world will require a convergence of social intelligence and natural science, two qualities traditional politics lack... The world seems to be looking for the big solution, which is itself part of the problem, since the most effective solutions are both local and systemic... Although the movement may appear inchoate or naively ambitious, its underlying structure and communication techniques can, at times, create a collective social response that can challenge any institution in the world... What its members do share is a basic set of fundamental understandings about the earth, how it functions, and the necessity of fairness and equity for all people dependent on the planet’s life-giving systems.

The twentieth century saw the greatest rate of destruction to the environment in all recorded history. It was also the bloodiest century in history. Eighty million were slaughtered from the beginning of the century through World War II; since then, more than 23 million people (mostly civilians) have been killed in more than 149 wars... For every dollar spent on U.N. peacekeeping, $2,000 is expended for war-making by member nations. Four of the five members of the U.N. Security Council, which has veto power over all U.N. resolutions, are the top weapons dealers in the world: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia.

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American Environmentalist, Entrepreneur, Journalist and Author, Heads the Natural Capital Institute (NCI), a founder of WISE (World Index for Social and Environmental Responsibility), and WiserEarth - an online community directory and networking forum for 1.5 million-plus groups around the world that are working on environmental and social justice issues