Below I include part of a graduation speech given by Paul Hawken, an award-winning environmentalist, entrepreneur, author and Journalist. May it inspire and challenge you as much as it has me — Peace, Alan.
“You are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Basically, the earth needs a new operating system and we need it within a few decades. You are the programmers. 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.
There is invisible writing on the back of the certificate you will receive, ‘you are brilliant, and the earth is hiring.’ When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science behind 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.
What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice and beauty to this world.
You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organisations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights and more. This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power.
Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in ideas, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, business people, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisher folk,
engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America and, as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way.
The living world is not ‘out there’ somewhere, but in your heart. 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. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.
The generations before you failed. Nature beckons you to be on her side. You couldn’t ask for a better boss. The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.”