SUSAN CLOKE, Mirror Contributing Writer
“Our time is either the end of civilization or the transformation of civilization. We are at risk, but the risk we take in not changing is worse than the risk in changing.” So believes Paul Hawken, economist, businessman, and environmental guru. He spoke persuasively, part professor and part preacher, before a capacity crowd of mostly business professionals at the Sustainable Industries Forum in Santa Monica.
In what he described as a speech in three acts, Hawken’s first act was one of certain doom, the second act had the good guys down but not out, and the third act closes the play with hope for the future. “For hope to be hopeful it has to be pragmatic. It has to pass a sobriety test and walk a straight line to reality.”
Hawken notes that we now accept the reality of climate change but still throw billions of dollars into oil as an energy source when oil is a finite resource being used at a pace that’s unsustainable. “The sun is a 100% renewable energy source and supplies all the energy we could ever need, but we don’t know yet how to access and distribute it. We are an accumulative society. Our consumption patterns are growing in logarithms. We will prevail only by capping the energy we use and by changing to 80% solar/wind.
“We are borrowing money from the future and using it to steal from the future. No reason we couldn’t borrow from the future to benefit the future,” said Hawken. “I don’t care about who you voted for. I care if you care about your children.”
In his latest book, Blessed Unrest, Hawken talks about the unprecedented and uncounted global growth of NGOs. “Business and NGOs have a bias for innovation and they drive change,” Hawken promises. “When they come together as allies in sustainability they are unstoppable. Nature always makes allies. It draws in. Nature is our greatest design teacher and our greatest ally.”
Hawken shared the stage with media star Arianna Huffington, author, journalist and co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post. Huffington said, “The Media is obsessed with the idea that every issue has two sides and that truth is always somewhere in the middle. But that is often just wrong. The world is not flat. It is not a little flat and a little round. It is round. There is only one correct answer.”
Huffington also identifies Washington as part of the problem, saying, “Everything we are talking about today is representing the future, but Washington is about the past and present. Detroit wanted Washington to protect them from the future. Detroit won in Washington but they ended up in bankruptcy because what they fought so hard for was in their short-term interest only.”
Huffington shares the Hawken view of Act 1 as doom, getting to fathom the depth of the environmental threat. She sees us as being in Act 2, suffering disappointments and setbacks but having some triumphs and gaining allies. Finally, she is optimistic that the environmental movement, when it reaches a critical mass, “ a number infinitely smaller than everybody,” will bring us to Act 3. “When we do our part 100%, grace is extended to us.”
What Say You? Will you, are you, doing your part to reach “critical mass”?
Contact Susan Cloke