Friday, April 16, 2010

Greening Hope

Environmentalist Paul Hawken, the author of Blessed Unrest, urged fellow social entrepreneurs and green activists attending the Skoll World Forum in Oxford "not to despair" -- despite many challenges and barriers to building a more eco-friendly society.

"What you hear again and again in the environmental social justice movement is that we are too late, we're not doing enough, we failed at Copenhagen -- a litany of failure," Hawken said, then quipped: "I think this is the only movement that circles the wagons and shoots inwards, you know?"

Hawken, the CEO of OneSun Solar, a solar energy technology company, used his keynote address at the Skoll forum to caution its nearly 750 attending social entrepreneurs gainst losing perspective in their struggle for a greener planet. "The way you win," he said, "is not to be on a team where the coach is depressed by the difficulty of the endeavor. The way you win is to recognize that what you are doing is extraordinary." He added: "Copenhagen (climate talks) weren't organized to succeed. What did succeed was the information that got exchanged, the new people energized and organized around the issues and the catalyzing of new proposals, new solutions and new ideas."

Is the challenge to save the environment daunting? Yes, absolutely, Hawken said. But the goals are not impossible. He likened today's social movement leaders to the brave souls behind the abolitionist movement in 18th century Britain, who sought an end to slavery. It was a movement, Hawken said, that was started by "a couple of Quakers and Anglicans...What was so extraordinary about it was that it was the first time people organized themselveson behalf of people they didn't know and who they would never know." Such behavior was viwed as being odd then, he said, but is accepted widely today.

"The thing is that today, we (activists) have taken on the whole tamale," Hawken said. "It's not like we're trying to fix one thing. We're trying to fix the whole thing, the whole industrial system -- every node, every aspect, every part of it needs to be addressed and re-imagined. If we are winning, then we are doing something wrong because that would be playing too small. We are going to be defeated again and again. We are going to get laughed at. That's how we know we're on the right track. This is big."

Hawken ended his remarks by saying that "anyone can make despair possible but to make hope possible takes real genius and real heart." Hawken received a standing ovation.

The Skoll World Forum continues through Friday. Watch this space for continuing highlights.

--Marcia Stepanek

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