Paul Hawken on the optimism of our hearts.
Jurriaan Kamp | May 2007 issue
In your earlier books – especially The Ecology of Commerce – you sounded more pessimistic about the future of the world than now in Blessed Unrest.
Paul Hawken: “The Ecology of Commerce was written for the business community during a time when there was extreme denial about the impact of business upon the environment and the rate of environmental degradation. It was intended to be a wake-up call to a complacent world of enterprise. The book that followed, Natural Capitalism, was a solution statement. But you couldn’t do the solutions until you had a clear sense of the problems.”
Are you more optimistic now than you were 15 years ago?
Paul Hawken: “If you look at the data about the environment and social conditions in the world and are optimistic, then you don’t understand the data. However, if you meet the people who are addressing these issues and aren’t optimistic, then you may want to make sure your heart is beating. Both are happening at the same time, a worsening of conditions and a response that is quite extraordinary.”
Are you hopeful this response will be in time to save the planet?
“In my work, I am trying to demonstrate that there is a very powerful response from humanity to threats at hand. There is no single cause of hope, and there is no single cure. What we are seeing is a vast upwelling of humanity that is still largely invisible, even to the very people who are a part of it. I am like most people: some days I feel hope, other days I read or see something that makes me feel sad. It doesn’t matter what gives me hope; what matters is what is. I am suggesting that the zeitgeist is changing, that there is a fundamental alteration of perception and activity in the world.”
In your most optimistic dream, what do you see happening?
“I have come to understand that where we are is where we should be, because it is what we manifested collectively. I also believe that this unnamed movement is humankind’s endless quest to address suffering, its effects and causes. My dream is to be big enough to embrace it, good enough to serve it, humble enough to understand it.”
All of us feel overwhelmed by the bad news from time to time. What recipe do you offer to find the hope that will carry us forward?
“Gather your friends, go to the farmer’s market, collect the local gifts nurtured by the heroes of our land, create a magnificent meal, invite people you don’t know, take a long time to eat and truly taste every morsel. Describe it out loud. Make sure there is at least one song between every course, and giggling children. Revel in mystery and what you are experiencing. Know that taste is how we know the land, change the world and transform ourselves. While we are losing the living world, it is vital that we celebrate the living world and support those who do the same. Sharing blessings of local food with those we love conforms perfectly to the Kantian imperative: What if everybody did it? What if we did it often? What if we did it every day? What world would we be living in? There is no need for hope then. We are the world we imagine.”