By Paul Hawken
Today, for the first time in history, an entire civilisation – its people, companies and governments – is trying to arrest the downspin and understand how to live on earth, an effort that represents a watershed in human existence. Life is either increasing or decreasing; there is no Goldilocks happy medium where everything is just right. At this point in our environmental freefall, we need to preserver what remains and dedicate ourselves to restoring what we have lost.
People are asked to place their faith in economic and political systems that have polluted the water, air and sea; that have despoiled communities, sacked workforces, reduced incomes for most people in the world for the past three decades and created a stratosphere sufficiently permeated with industrial gases the we are, in effect, playing dice with the planet. One does not have to demonise the corporate system to recognise that it has no means to account for its negative impacts, except as a charitable footnote to its annual report if it is inclined to donate a small part of its earnings.
In the past two centuries, we have seen the struggle for fundamental rights to freedom, democracy and human dignity repeatedly overtaken by chronic and endemic poverty. On top of that ongoing effort we now have another task, a campaign to surmount our legacy of environmental neglect. To succeed requires ubiquity, a network of informants, a conspiracy of social imaginaries, groups that cultivate new knowledge, share it, seek information everywhere and provide it to the agencies and citizens who need it.
Nature recycles not only information, nature recycles everything; nothing is wasted, nothing is thrown away because there is no “away.” All natural processes are cyclical and every scrap of matter, atom and molecule is reused and repurposed into new flows of life. Industrial society behaves like a spoiled child casting away unwanted toys in every direction; the only creature that leaves a wake that cannot be recycled by nature or industry.