Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Poetry of Paul Hawken's (Commencement Address)

You Are Brilliant and the Earth is Hiring!



Paul Hawken is a friend of CharityFocus, renowned entrepreneur, visionary environmental activist, founder of Wiser Earth and author of many books -- most recently Blessed Unrest.

In May, when he was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by University of Portland, he delivered this superb commencement address.

Here's just one little gem from this extraordinary speech:

This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, and don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food - but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn’t afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

A tad later come this:
We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. Think about this: we are the only species on this planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time than to renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it. We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering
This is as Metro Green as it gets, and full of the kind of inspirational morality and poetic authority that leads armies into battle.

My favorite of the many, many magnificent notions and turns-of-phrase in this address is Hawken's simple assertion, "Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich."

Go ahead. Read the rest. It's a 10 out of 10. (And in case you missed it above, here's the link to Hawken's speech one more time.)

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