Tom Atlee Reflects, Paul Hawken’s Commencement Address

Collective Intelligence, Earth Intelligence, Non-Governmental

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Tom Atlee
Tom Atlee

Dear friends,

Paul Hawken is author of a number of remarkable books whose titles  alone contribute to our thinking — titles like SEVEN TOMORROWS, THE  ECOLOGY OF COMMERCE, NATURAL CAPITALISM and BLESSED UNREST.  Several
years ago he founded a vast, remarkable, interactive database of, by,  and for change agents — WISER Earth  He has a  uniquely potent clarity about what is happening in the world, what is
needed, and who can do the job (surprise: It's us!).  His passionate  clarity was called forth recently in a commencement address he gave  in Portland, Oregon (see below).

I sometimes suggest that things are getting better and better and  worse and worse faster and faster.  Paul mirrors these thoughts:   “When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my  answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is  happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand  data.  But if you meet the people who are working to restore this  earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you  haven’t got a pulse.”

He identifies a biological fact that provides perhaps the most  important guidance for our individual lives and the conscious  evolution of civilization:  “Life creates the conditions that are  conducive to life.”

Wait a minute… “Life creates the conditions that are conducive to  life.”  That's a Really Big Idea.  It goes by really fast, but it  covers a LOT of ground.

Someday take this idea for a walk and see how many ways you can think  of that we do (or don't) “create conditions that are conducive to  life”.  Then ponder all the ways we COULD create such conditions more  wisely, for more of life.  Then perhaps reflect on what this  biological reality tells us about who and how we are in the world:
To the extent we “create conditions that are conducive to life”, we  are alive, we are serving life, we are part of Life and the way Life  is unfolding on this planet — a newly conscious part of the way Life  has been evolving here for four billion years…

That takes me to the importance of system-level change — initiatives  that seek to transform our cultural stories, institutions and  practices… that create wiser measures of success, health and  value… that develop forms of power, organization, and decision- making that tap into the best of who we are when we are most alive  and connected, individually and collectively.  Think about how  profoundly such changes impact the conditions that are conducive to  life — in our own lives and in the natural world.  System conditions  are the cultural equivalent of climate:  They influence everything at  once.

Hawken goes on to say that “Working for the earth is not a way to get  rich, it is a way to be rich.”  He wonders, “What we would do if the  stars only came out once every thousand years.”  And imagines that  “No one would sleep that night.”  Then he suggests we are living in  the midst of such a miraculous moment: “This extraordinary time when  we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that  threaten civilization has never happened, not in a thousand years,  not in ten thousand years.”

And he suggests that we — embodied in the hundreds of new college  graduates sitting before him — wake up to “the most amazing,  challenging, stupefying challenge ever bequested to any generation.”   He invites all of us to grab this most amazing opportunity and run  with it.

He invites a new “generation” to generate what's needed to create the  world anew.

Blessings on the Journey.



Paul Hawken
Paul Hawken

Click on the photograph to go to the commencement address.

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