“At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. “
I really like that quote. It comes from a commencement address that Paul Hawken delivered to the 2009 graduating class at Oregon’s Portland State University on May 3.
Hawken has a long track record of healing enterprise. He opened the first natural food store in America, and built it into Erewhon, a national supplier of natural-foods. After that he founded Smith & Hawken, selling high quality garden tools. Then he wrote Natural Capital, following that with The Ecology of Commerce. These books evolved into the Natural Capital Institute.
“There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive,” Hawken told the graduates. “In case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: You are brilliant, and the Earth is hiring…
“… here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.”
Hawken pointed out that the next industrial revolution, like the first one, will be a response to changing patterns of scarcity. It will create upheaval, but it will also create opportunity. Hawken has set up an online community called Wiser Earth, sort of a Wikipedia listing and interconnecting thousands of environmental and social justice movements and putting them into historical context.
The 21st Century agrarians who are cited on this blog, and in The Call of the Land, are people and organizations who see the necessity and the benefit of those opportunities, and who are responding creatively. Their restorative projects are cited throughout this blog, and on the Links page, and serve as models.
In closing his commencement address, Hawken reminded the graduates: “There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true.” 21st Century agrarians are busy planting trees, and vegetables, and then checking the facts.
Hawken’s most recent book is Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World (2008). The text of his May, 2009 commencement address is here.