Convocation: Hawken and the world’s largest social movement

Liz Tubman

Tuesday, Nov. 6, Lawrence University welcomed Paul Hawken as the featured speaker for this year’s third convocation. Hawken has worked throughout his life to promote sustainability and better relationships between businesses, the environment, and humans by speaking across the world and writing about his experiences.
Hawken’s address focused on the topic of his latest book, entitled Blessed Unrest: How the largest movement in the world came into being and why no one saw it coming. This book examines the shift our world is experiencing from a world created by and for the privileged to a world created instead by community.A shopping bag full of business cards that Hawken collected from his travels, each listing the names of various organizations dedicated to one environmental or social cause, started him thinking: Who are all these organizations and what are they doing for the world?

Hawken’s interest was piqued and he began researching and compiling a list of all the organizations of this kind throughout the world. When his list grew to over 100,000 organization names, Hawken knew that he had come across something important.

He also spent time looking back into history to discover the roots of this mass environmental and social movement, which led him to the Transcendentalists, including Emerson and Thoreau.

Emerson realized the interconnectedness of nature and all living things, which is the idea driving these organizations today, while Thoreau’s protest of the use of his tax money for the Mexican-American war gave us the first example of what came to be known as civil disobedience.

These morals and ideas influenced the thinking and actions of people far into the future including Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hawken created a video that showed the names and home countries of his list of organizations dedicated to environmental and social justice, though to see every listing, the video would have to play for 24 hours a day every day for a month. The reason? Between one and two million organizations are shown in the video.

This is the largest social movement in the history of the world, so one might wonder why more isn’t heard about it. Hawken’s answer was that the kindness of strangers and the overall best humanity has to offer remain largely unseen by many, due to the media.

The data we are presented with by the media is overwhelmingly pessimistic. However, Hawken asserted, who we are and where we are today is much more than where the media tells us we are. In this way, the media is corrupting and betraying the general public.

He described this mass social movement as “humanity’s immune system response” to rampant corruption and social injustice throughout the world. In his closing words, Hawken encouraged the audience to keep working for the causes they believe in.

When we take action for these causes, we are participating in a movement much bigger than one usually imagines, and we are joining the rest of the human race in the effort to create a better world to live in.