|Born||August 2, 1946|
|Occupation||Author, entrepreneur, activist|
|Spouse||Jasmine Scalesciani Hawken|
Class of 2009: 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. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement.
Interestingly, the oil companies know very well that in less than 30 years they will not only be charging very high prices, but that they will be uncompetitive with renewables.
You can print money to bail out a bank, but you can't print life to bail out a planet.
Intelligent policies will be largely self-regulating in the sense that the system of incentives and standards makes it absolutely ludicrous to not move towards clean, internalized systems of cost and production.
That inefficiency is masked because growth and progress are measured in money, and money does not give us information about ecological systems, it only gives information about financial systems.
This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Civilization needs a new operating system.
We have the capacity to create a remarkably different economy: one that can restore ecosystems and protect the environment while bringing forth innovation, prosperity, meaningful work, and true security.
Somewhere along the way to free-market capitalism, the United States became the most wasteful society on the planet.
Throughout the industrial era, economists considered manufactured capital – money, factories, etc. – the principal factor in industrial production, and perceived natural capital as a marginal contributor. The exclusion of natural capital from balance sheets was an understandable omission. There was so much of it, it didn't seem worth counting.
There is no cost difference between incarceration and an Ivy League education; the main difference is curriculum.
We assume that everything's becoming more efficient, and in an immediate sense that's true; our lives are better in many ways. But that improvement has been gained through a massively inefficient use of natural resources.
We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy Earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it.
That appropriation of resources and the transformation of them into goods and services through the European production system characterized, and characterizes to this day, all industrial systems including the information age.
The financial capital is being concentrated by corporations, institutional investors, and even our pension funds, and being reinvested in companies that repeat this process because it provides the highest return on that financial capital.
Real change occurs from the bottom up; it occurs person to person, and it almost always occurs in small groups and locales and then bubbles up and aggregates to larger vectors of change.
It is possible for the assembly-line worker consigned to tightening the bolts on the transmission and the office worker who processes medical insurance claims to work with pride and efficiency, but it's not easy to maintain that attitude.
For the developed world, there is a choice to be made: to promote economic policies that despoil indigenous lands or to support cultures and the remaining biological sanctuaries.
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.
The atmosphere does not fathom whether CO2 comes from U.S. oil or Chinese coal, nor do hurricanes lose force because the Heritage Foundation doesn't believe global warming is a problem. Living systems operate on laws over which we have no say.
We are losing our living systems, social systems, cultural systems, governing systems, stability, and our constitutional health, and we're surrendering it all at the same time.
Money and prices and markets don't give us exact information about how much our suburbs, freeways, and spandex cost. Instead, everything else is giving us accurate information: our beleaguered air and watersheds, our overworked soils, our decimated inner cities. All of these provide information our prices should be giving us but do not.
What we are missing, utterly and completely, in this government is accountability.
We can no longer prosper by increasing human productivity. The more we try to do, the more poverty we will create.
Enslaving each other was what human beings had done for ages. And the abolitionist movement was greeted with incredulity. Conservative spokesmen ridiculed the abolitionists as liberals, progressives, do-gooders, meddlers, and activists.
When cattle ranchers clear rain forests to raise beef to sell to fast-food chains that make hamburgers to sell to Americans, who have the highest rate of heart disease in the world (and spend the most money per GNP on health care), we can say easily that business is no longer developing the world. We have become its predator.
I doubt very much that the chief executives of any of the Fortune 500 corporations can name five edible plants, five native grasses, or five migratory birds within walking distance of their homes, or name the soil series upon which their house sits. And I would contend that if you don't know where you are, you are in fact nowhere at all.
We're trained to see the world in terms of charismatic organizations and charismatic people. That's who we look to for leadership and change, for transformation. We're awaiting the next J.F.K., the next Martin Luther King, the next Gandhi, the next Nelson Mandela.
And also, more and more businesses really want to do the right thing. They feel better about themselves, their workers feel better, and so do their customers. I think this is equally true in the transnational corporations, but it is harder to express in those situations.
Sustainability, ensuring the future of life on Earth, is an infinite game, the endless expression of generosity on behalf of all.
Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.
I think an old style of addressing environmental problems is ebbing, but the rise of the so-called conservative, political movement in this country is not a trend towards the future but a reaction to this very broad shift that we are undergoing.
Local companies don't have to internalize their costs, and few actually do, but they tend to more often because the owners live there and they have to show their face in town, and their kids play with other kids.
When you pollute a river, it's a supreme injustice to those who are downstream and those who live in the river who are not human beings.
The United States prides itself on being the richest country in the world. Yet we can't balance the budget, pay for education, or take care of the aged and infirm.
The responses that environmentalists evoke – fear, anxiety, numbness, despair – are not helpful, even if they are understandable. It should be fascinating, even enthralling, to be in the milieu of environmental change.
We are now heading down a centuries-long path toward increasing the productivity of our natural capital – the resource systems upon which we depend to live – instead of our human capital.
We need to revise our economic thinking to give full value to our natural resources. This revised economics will stabilize both the theory and the practice of free-market capitalism. It will provide business and public policy with a powerful new tool for economic development, profitability, and the promotion of the public good.
Natural capital is easy to overlook because it is the pond we swim in. One can live perfectly well without ever giving a thought to the sulfur cycle or wetland functions. Only when the benefits nature provides are disrupted do we take notice.
Biological diversity is messy. It walks, it crawls, it swims, it swoops, it buzzes. But extinction is silent, and it has no voice other than our own.
Thus, the forces and value systems that are most threatened by this shift are becoming the most coherent and are rising to the top as minority or plurality powers. But they do not represent either the shift, the change, or the future.
Really, the proper study of economics is fulfilment, not consumption… It doesn't even matter if it's a green product or a green house… It's still consumption. What matters in this world is the fulfilment of people's needs and the fulfilment of their aspirations.
We have to ask ourselves, 'What kind of world is it where a baby-food executive substitutes artificial flavoring and sugar for apple juice? What kind of businesses have we created when we even lie to infants?'
The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces, or at least not try to defy them.
People are naming it the Third Wave, the Information Age, etc. but I would say those are basically technological descriptions, and this next shift is not about technology – although obviously it will be influenced and in some cases expressed by technologies.
Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor.
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.
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 the data.
Green business is not about tie-dyed T-shirts. It's about transforming the industrial system itself into one that looks at all the connections.
Hindered by asthma since I was six weeks old, I had begun experimenting with my diet and discovered a disquieting correlation. When I stopped eating the normal American diet of sugar, fats, alcohol, chemicals, and additives, I felt better. I could breathe freely. When I tried to sneak in a hamburger and a Coke, my body rebelled.
Information from destructive activities going back a hundred years right up until today is being incorporated into the system. And as that happens the underlying framework of industrialism is collapsing and causing disintegration.
If, as is natural, you focus on the corruption and on those threatened institutions that are trying to prevent change – even though they don't really know what they're trying to prevent – then you can get pessimistic.
Commercial institutions, proud of their achievements, do not see that healthy living systems – clean air and water, healthy soil, stable climates – are integral to a functioning economy. As our living systems deteriorate, traditional forecasting and business economics become the equivalent of house rules on a sinking cruise ship.
Businesses who are members of Businesses for Social Responsibility or the Social Venture Network are internalizing costs on a voluntary basis and therefore raising their costs of doing business, but their competitors are not required to.
Most floods are caused by man, not weather; deforestation, levee construction, erosion, and overgrazing all result in the loss of ecosystem services.
Yes, population is a huge problem – birth rates are too high. And in order to take care of the environment, we have to make sure that every child that comes here, that arrives, knows that he or she is welcome, is going to be cared for and honored.
Writing is my way of diving deep into an issue. My approach is to watch, read and listen – sometimes for years – in order to grasp the dynamics, resistance and patterns of thought that repeat and impede progress and breakthrough.
Seeing the world around you clearly is a critical step in developing an idea for a business, carrying out that idea, and then thriving with an ongoing concern. Through choice, predilection, lack of education, impatience, or other causes, the entrepreneur lives, in a way, outside the mainstream.