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

Food has always been at the heart of cultural history. The loss of its traditional foods is just as devastating to a culture as the loss of its language... We can engage in the virtual world of iPod music and TV drama, but there is no virtual world of taste. It is in our mouth, and every day our mouth connects us to place.

Supporters of corporate-led globalization want to impose their market-based rules and precepts on the entire planet, regardless of place, history, or culture, in the belief that economic growth is an unalloyed good, and that it is best accomplished with the minimization or elimination of interference from government.

These timeless ways of being human are threatened by global forces that do not consider people’s deepest longings... For most people, to understand something new requires a cognitive antecedent... What we already know frames what we see, and what we see frames what we understand... ideas question and liberate, while ideologies justify and dictate.
Ecologists and biologists know that systems achieve stability and health through diversity, not uniformity. Ideologues take the opposite view. Neoconservatives believe that ordinary citizens cannot be entrusted with the reins of power, that a small group of superior individuals should rule over the majority of inferiors, using religion and the perpetual threat of war to create a Potemkin village of populism.

The movement can’t be divided because it is so atomized – a collection of small pieces, loosely joined. It forms, dissipates, and then regathers quickly, without central leadership, command, or control. Rather than seeking dominance, this unnamed movement strives to disperse concentrations of power. It has been capable of bringing down governments, companies, and leaders through witnessing, informing, and massing. The quickening of the movement in recent years has come about through information technologies becoming increasingly accessible and affordable to people everywhere. Its clout resides in its ideas, not in force... The movement has three basic roots: environmental activism, social justice initiatives, and indigenous cultures’ resistance to globalization, all of which have become intertwined... The movement for equity and environmental sustainability comes as global conditions are changing dramatically and becoming more demanding. We are the first generation to live on earth to witness a doubling of population in our lifetime.

If you look at the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t have the correct data. If you meet people in this unnamed movement and aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a heart... What I see are ordinary and some-not so-ordinary individuals willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in an attempt to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.

A Native American taught me that the division between ecology and human rights was an artificial one, that the environmental and social justice movements addressed two sides of a single larger dilemma... The way we harm the earth affects all people, and how we treat one another is reflected in how we treat the earth.

You cannot describe possibilities for the future unless the present problem is accurately defined.

The "Help Wanted" signs are everywhere. All people and institutions, including commerce, governments, schools, churches, and cities, need to learn from life and reimagine the world from the bottom up, based on first principles of justice and ecology. Ecological restoration is extraordinarily simple: You remove whatever prevents the systems from healing itself. Social restoration is no different. We have the heart, knowledge, money, and sense to optimize our social and ecological fabric. It is time for all that is harmful to leave. One million escorts are here to transform the nightmares of empire and the disgrace of war on people and place. We are the transgressors and we are the forgivers. "We" means all of us, everyone. There can be no green movement unless there is also a black, brown, and copper movement.

What is most harmful resides within us, the accumulated wounds of the past, the sorrow, shame , deceit, and ignominy shared by every culture, passed down to every person, as surely as DNA, a history of violence, and greed. There is no question that the environmental movement is critical to our survival.

Our house is literally burning, and it is only logical that environmentalists expect the social justice movement to get on the environmental bus. But it is the other way around; the only way we are going to put out the fire is to get on the social justice bus and heal our wounds, because in the end, there is only one bus

My hopefulness about the resilience of human nature is matched by the gravity of our environmental and social condition. If we squander all our attention on what is wrong, we will miss the prize: In the chaos engulfing the world, a hopeful future resides because the past is disintegrating before us. If that is difficult to believe, take a winter off and calculate what it requires to create a single springtime. It's not too late for the world's largest institutions and corporations to join in saving he planet, but cooperation must be on the planet's terms.

I think people in their own ways have come to a very simple and clear conclusion that the only way we're going to save ourselves is to love our world and that that's really the only thing we can do that's effective because everything else intentionally or unintentionally turns out to be harmful. And that understanding I think is growing. I don't think it's necessarily expressed how I'm expressing it, but when you go out and meet the people in these organizations around the world they are loving the world, they are loving people. They are expressing love, love in action.

People really do know what is fair and what is just. And so what you're seeing is a movement that is not only bottom up but it shares a common set of values that wasn't imposed upon it. That didn't come from some leader, some place else, it's not based on ideologies. It's really based on heart and it espouses ideas. So it's a movement of ideas, it's growing. It can't be schismed, it can't break apart because it started that way. The only thing you can do now is start to connect and collaborate and come together in more powerful ways. And that's what we're starting to see.

None of the producers (of coal) are held accountable for the effect coal is having on the atmosphere--the prospect of global warming. The result? Planet Earth is having a once-in-a-billion-year carbon blow-out sale, all fossil fuels priced to move, no reasonable offer refused. And when this eon's hydrocarbons are sold, they're gone, never to be seen again.

Another way of imagining the scale of the carbon dioxide problem is by removing its two oxygen molecules. Looked at that way, every time you fill up... you are depositing into the atmosphere the equivalent of a 100-pound sack of pure carbon. It stands to reason that coal should be the most expensive form of energy, not the least expensive. The only reason that it is now the cheapest is that the newer technologies (solar, biomass, etc), ...more accurately internalize their costs to the environment and future generations

Markets are superb at setting prices, but incapable of recognizing costs... The answer cuts right through abstract political philosophy: We cannot return to the era of local markets, but we can regain control of the larger markets by enforcing the payment of costs--total costs...The incentive to lower costs is the same as the one that presently operates in all businesses, but in this case the producer's most efficient means to lower them is not externalizing these costs onto society, but implementing better design.

Germany, formerly the most wasteful nation in Europe, now (is) the leader in recycling. (But they still have a ways to go, still averaging yearly 824 pounds of waste per household. At 1900 pounds per household, we Americans have even farther to go; we're the world's worst wasters. With just 5 percent of the world's population, we produce 50 percent of its solid waste.)

Biologic diversity, in the end, is the source of all wealth, and with a developed and practiced knowledge of nature, it could be even more so.

One statistic makes clear the demand placed on the earth by our economic system: every day the worldwide economy burns an amount of energy the planet required 10,000 days (27 years) to create.

Because the restorative economy inverts ingrained beliefs about how business functions, it may precipitate unusual changes in the economy...the restorative economy will be one in which some businesses get smaller but hire more people, where money can be made by selling the absence of a product or sevice, as is the case where public utilities sell efficiency rather than additional power, and where profits increase when productivity is lowered. Corporations can compete to conserve and increase resources rather than deplete them. Complex and onerous regulations will be replaced by motivating standards." (This is exactly the situation where we are now at with R2000 and masonry heaters. We have the option of adopting an enlightened approach to change, favouring collaborative efforts to redesign codes and standards for everyone's benefit).

Healing the wounds of the Earth and its people does not require saintliness or a political party. It is not a liberal or conservative activity. It is a sacred act.

Natural capitalism is not about making sudden changes, uprooting institutions, or fomenting upheaval for a new social order. Natural capitalism is about making small, critical choices that can tip economic and social factors in positive ways.

What we are missing, utterly and completely, in this government is accountability.

We can no longer prosper by increasing human productivity. The more we try to do, the more poverty we will create.

We assume that everything's becoming more efficient, and in an immediate sense that's true; our lives are better in many ways. But that improvement has been gained through a massively inefficient use of natural resources.

We are now heading down a centuries-long path toward increasing the productivity of our natural capital - the resource systems upon which we depend to live - instead of our human capital.

We are losing our living systems, social systems, cultural systems, governing systems, stability, and our constitutional health, and we're surrendering it all at the same time.

The future belongs to those who understand that doing more with less is compassionate, prosperous and enduring, and thus more intelligent, even competetive.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Birth Date

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