I saw Paul Hawken give a talk at the 2006 Bioneeers conference, The Other Superpower (you can download an iPod version here). He recently scribed a book based on the ideas he presented called, Blessed Unrest. His basic argument, which is highlighted below in an article for Orion Magazine, is that there is a massive, unparalleled movement of unofficial organizations around the globe that are working for justice and environmental causes. To make his point during the Bioneers talk he made a video that listed all the organization names in his database and ran them like a movie credit roll. He said that it would have to play continuously for several days to run the entire list.
What he describes reminds me of the international day of protest when over ten million people around the world contested Bush’s efforts to attack Iraq. I recall how astonishing it was that so many people could coordinate on the same day in a singular voice to stop the war. Clearly these people were far more correct than the warmongering pundits paraded on television, and the fact that they could all do it simultaneously around the world on the same day still astounds me. So don’t give up hope, my friends. Please read Hawken’s book and article for further inspiration.
Historically, social movements have arisen primarily because of injustice, inequalities, and corruption. Those woes remain legion, but a new condition exists that has no precedent: the planet has a life-threatening disease that is marked by massive ecological degradation and rapid climate change. It crossed my mind that perhaps I was seeing something organic, if not biologic. Rather than a movement in the conventional sense, is it a collective response to threat? Is it splintered for reasons that are innate to its purpose? Or is it simply disorganized? More questions followed. How does it function? How fast is it growing? How is it connected? Why is it largely ignored?
After spending years researching this phenomenon, including creating with my colleagues a global database of these organizations, I have come to these conclusions: this is the largest social movement in all of history, no one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye.
What does meet the eye is compelling: tens of millions of ordinary and not-so-ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.