Looking around at what's happening in the world, it's tempting to throw up your hands in despair. So much of what we're exposed to in the major media focuses on doom and gloom.
But every once in a while a voice comes along that offers a perspective of hope and possibility. Last week I was in San Francisco at the BALLE conference (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies), and I had the good fortune to hear one of those voices, Paul Hawken.
Hawken, who recently wrote the book Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming, maintains that, contrary to the major media perspective that everything is going to hell and there's nothing we can do about it, there is a massive, decentralized, ad hoc movement underway.
He describes it as an immune system response. In this article, adapted from Blessed Unrest, he writes:
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?
He describes the "movement" further...
The movement can’t be divided because it is atomized—small pieces loosely joined. It forms, gathers, and dissipates quickly. Many inside and out dismiss it as powerless, but it has been known to bring down governments, companies, and leaders through witnessing, informing, and massing.
The movement has three basic roots: the environmental and social justice movements, and indigenous cultures’ resistance to globalization—all of which are intertwining. It arises spontaneously from different economic sectors, cultures, regions, and cohorts, resulting in a global, classless, diverse, and embedded movement, spreading worldwide without exception. In a world grown too complex for constrictive ideologies, the very word movement may be too small, for it is the largest coming together of citizens in history.
This paragraph struck a chord for me...
The promise of this unnamed movement is to offer solutions to what appear to be insoluble dilemmas: poverty, global climate change, terrorism, ecological degradation, polarization of income, loss of culture. It is not burdened with a syndrome of trying to save the world; it is trying to remake the world.
Hawken's message was inspiring and hopeful. Everybody I talked to about it came away feeling a renewed sense of possibility. That the individual work we all are doing isn't just pissing in the wind, but part of a cumulative effort that can make a difference.
Perhaps my friend I attended the conference with said it best when she said, "I'm a T-cell." She didn't need to change the world - she just needed to keep focusing her efforts on her corner of it, and others would be doing the same.