Friday, April 20, 2007

humanity's immune system

A good chunk of Paul Hawken's stirring presentation to the Bioneers community annual conference has been transcribed on their site (and my own notes are here).

Paul's exploration of the phenomenon he discusses below has culminated in a new book called Blessed Unrest, coming out May 10, and to the construction of an internet platform called WiserEarth which "...serves the people who are transforming the world. It is an open source, community-editable international directory and networking forum that maps, links and empowers the largest movement in the world – the hundreds of thousands of organizations within civil society that address social justice, poverty, and the environment.

"WiserEarth provides the tools and a platform for non-profit organizations, funders, social entrepreneurs, students, organizers, academics, activists, scientists, and citizens to connect, collaborate, share resources and build alliances.

"WiserEarth is the first of three projects to be launched under
WISER (World Index for Social and Environmental Responsibility): WiserEarth will be followed by WiserBusiness and WiserGovernment respectively. Another WISER offshoot currently in development is the WiserCommons project."

WiserEarth is accessible to the public -- go, create a profile for yourself
. Check out the "visualize network" function!

The largest social movement the world has ever known is upon us
by Paul Hawken

The social justice movement, environmental movement and indigenous movements are intertwining and morphing, and are becoming the largest social movement in the history of the world. They are, in essence, humanity’s immune response to political corruption, economic disease, and ecological degradation.

It is the first time a movement understands that honoring the web of life is integral to addressing poverty, violence, and oppression. There are still separate movements, though. There is an environmental movement and there is a social justice movement. They are definitely coming closer, but they are not yet one. If they could truly become one movement, the transformation possible would be unimaginable. When a black child in Oakland winces at the thought of an ancient tree being cut down in northern California, and when an ex-logger in northern California winces at the thought of a black teenager being cut down on the streets of Oakland, we’ll know that day has arrived.

The environmental movement seems to have the upper leg because the house is burning down. Literally. So it is very easy for the environmental movement to turn to the social justice and say, yes I know how important your issues are, but the house is burning down. You should come and join us on the environmental bus. I think that it is upside down and backwards. Global warming is injustice. It is a type of colonialism. If we are going to be effective over the short time we have, we have to slow down, stop, and change the bus. I think the environmental movement has to get on the social justice bus.

There are one million organizations in this world that are here to transform the nightmares of empire and the disgrace of war upon the people and places on this Earth. We are the transgressors and we are the forgivers. We means all of us, everyone. There can be no green movement unless there’s a black, brown, and copper colored movement.

This movement is about ideas, not ideologies. We have to make those ideas better known to the world. This movement claims no special powers. It grows up in small ways, but now we have to become more powerful. Rather than control, it seeks connection and now we must become much better connected to each other. Rather than seeking dominance it strives to disperse concentrations of power, but now we have to aggregate our voices.

We have to make it known that this movement is about addressing the suffering on this planet and those who bear the suffering. Knowing its weakness, it creates innovative tactics to leverage itself. It forms, gathers, and dissipates without central leadership command or control. No one knows its size, especially those inside it. There is such fierceness here. There is no explanation for the raw courage and the heart seen over and again in the people who march, speak, create, resist, and build. It is the fierceness of what it means to know that we are human and want to survive.

To witness the worldwide breakdown of civility into camps and ideologies and meaningless wars, to watch the accelerating breakdown of our environmental systems is harrowing and dispiriting. I said this movement is an immune system. Well, immune systems fail too. This movement most certainly can fail. What stands before us, I think, is a gift of self-perception, the gift of seeing who we really are. We will either come together as one globalized people or we will disappear as a civilization.

Our minds were made to defend us, born of an immune system that brought us to this stage in development and evolution. We are so surfeited with the metaphors of war that when we hear the word defense, we think attack. But the defense of the world can only be accomplished by cooperation and compassion.

Science now knows that every child while still in diapers exhibits altruistic behavior. It’s hardwired. It’s in our genes. Concern for the well being of others is something we are born with. We become human by helping and working with others, and buried in our genes literally is faith and love. What it takes to arrest our descent into chaos is one person after another remembering who they are, where they are and joining together to save and restore life on Earth.

Paul Hawken is the author of numerous books, including the forthcoming
Blessed Unrest. Excerpted from “Biology, Resistance and Restoration: Sustainability as an Infinite Game,” Hawken’s 2006 Bioneers conference plenary, which is available for purchase on CD or DVD (or mp3 dowload, only $1.99) at the Bioneers Store.

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