Monday, August 11, 2008

Blessed Unrest - A review..

This is a draft review I wrote for the Organic Valley magazine, Rootstock.

The Planet has an immune system, and that system is us.

What do Thoreau, Gandhi, Rachel Carson and Rosa Parks have in common? They were all the mad-prophets of a movement which lives today without a name. A movement of over one million NGO',s community groups, Farmer Co-ops, activist circles, and indigenous groups who are fighting for environmental and social justice in all the remote corners of the world. A symbiotic cluster of human immunity acting as as a whole to heal the planet and redeem the human condition. A Movement of movements, hard to locate in time and space, but thanks to a visionary new book, a movement with a hIstory and a purpose. Form the bottom up. Without leaders and ideologies. Rumbling...

In a time when hope is hard to find, Paul Hawken's Blessed Unrest - How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming, Viking 2007, is a inspiring call to action, harkening us to envision a future where human rights and environmental justice and sanity are not only possible, but are the inevitable outcome of wave of resistance and struggle the world over.

Hawken, well known for his ground breaking "Natural Capitalism", which former President Clinton has named one of the five most important books in the world today, traces the roots of "The Movement", thousands of disparate groups struggling for environmental and social justice around the world to 3 sources. Environmental Activism, Social Justice Initiatives, and Indigenous Cultures resistance to Globalization.
We see the early visions of 'Ecology' in Henry David Thoreau, the non-violent Satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi, the heroic determination of Rachel Carson, and Rosa Parks' spark that lit a generation afire, among many others. We follow the environmental destruction of the planet as corporate power increases. We begin to understand the relationship between natural resource extraction and indigenous peoples' loss of their homelands, between genetic engineering of our food and the massive health problems of consumers, of the silent storm of industrial agricultural chemicals and our skyrocketing cancer epidemic.

Hawken gives us a history lesson full of frightening statistics of our blind rush towards homogeneity and dismal walmarti-ness. We loose one indigenous language every two weeks. Our planet is sicker than we imagined. Most of the world's children are poor, and most of the poor are children. More than one billion people are without work: we are the only species with 'unemployment'. Corporations are leading us, like so many lemmings, to a immense precipice. Dar-fur, Palestine, Exxon-Mobil, Monsanto. But like Nature, our stability will come through diversity, and not ideology.

Following the history of this global yearning, Hawken weaves a masterful tapestry,as it appears and disappears, like a rhizome, headless and growing underground, spreading horizontally. Not seeking to dominate, rather to disperse unhealthy concentrations of power.

But the book balances the doom with a huge dose of inspiration, which comes through the stories of individuals who are dedicating their lives to heal the destruction and mend the social distances. It's about resilience in evolution. We find the we are not alone, that under the corporate news radar, there are millions of people, doing amazing work, bringing comfort to the sick and creating new technologies to more sanely live on earth. Through Seattle's WTO Protests, to NIgeria, The Black Hills, Africa, and into living rooms full of clergymen and women, we see the many faces and manifestations of the drive towards justice. These are the survival mechanisms of species. Green design, alternative currencies, cooperatives, solidarity.

The book should be required reading for high school students who are searching meaning in an out of balance world. Hawken inspires, and teaches, frightens and enlightens, and brings us face to face with our responsibility to help our brothers and sisters heal our own self-inflicted wounds. A rare book which illuminates the darkness of our own desperate search for community and survival.

The last one-third of the book is an amazing taxonomy of the groups which comprise this movement, this unnamed dragon stumbling towards utopia. Thousands of NGO's are listed,and reading a few pages inspires the reader to connect the dots and find the inter-relatedness that ties all of our struggles together, whether organic farming or refugee housing, we are all on the same web, dancing, vibrating, crying and shouting for justice. If you listen very hard, you will hear the rumbling, and you will see your own place, your node of connection to the millions, your family here on earth.

Evolution is optimism in action, and our actions today will determine the world we leave our children.

Eddy Nix is a book dealer and High School teacher . He lives in Viola, Wisconsin


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