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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Vision for Human Responsibility Countering the Risk of Disaster, 14 Jun 2007
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Blessed Unrest contains so many powerful new perspectives that it's all but impossible to identify even the most important ones in a review. Telling about this book is complicated by the fact that what is a powerful new perspective depends in part on what you know already. The key point is that being concerned about the environment cannot be logically separated from being concerned about exploited people: The time has come to reflect and act on all of perspectives of where improvement is needed.

Here is the briefest possible overview:

Organizing to improve conditions for others is a relatively new phenomenon, dating back only to the anti-slavery movement. But despite that recent beginning, self-organized efforts are growing exponentially to improve conditions for the poor, indigenous people, and endangered people and species. These activities are likened to the massive, redundant, and intelligent responses involved in the human immune system. The concepts behind these efforts link back to Emerson and Thoreau, Darwin, John Muir, Rachel Carson, Sir James Lovelock, and most recently Jared Diamond. The current exponents of those concepts are people who are scientifically and emotionally concerned by lasting damage that's occurring . . . and are well educated, responsible citizen advocates.

Contrast is drawn by describing the implications of the current momentum behind global free markets, reduced regulation of major companies, and the rapid extinction of common resources we all need. You'll find out about appalling examples of harm being created.

Paul Hawken has an impressive way of selecting his examples and drawing his points out of them. My favorite story involves running a workshop at a chemical company where Mr. Hawken challenged the leaders and engineers to design a long-term spaceship that would allow humans to survive. No one among those doing the project included a single one of the company's products for the spaceship. Why? The products are too toxic for a small environment. A number of the people later left their jobs.

What's the relevance of that story? Mr. Hawken uses the example to illustrate the concept of Earth as our spaceship for survival.

Everyone will learn something about so-called facts that are often cited, whether it be the motives of the Luddites or the actions of protestors at the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle. I was particularly impressed with the book's perspective on how the indigenous civilizations in the Americas were in many ways superior to the Western European one.

There are many parallels in the book that would leave you laughing . . . if they weren't so sad. Perhaps the most powerful parallel is between the Spanish Conquistadors and the CEOs of global giant companies who want to increase profits at the expense of the poorest people.

For those who want to learn more, you'll find lots of great resources in the appendix, footnotes, and bibliography.

To me, one of the most chilling images in the book is about releasing vast quantities of stored methane gas (which is much worse for global warming than carbon dioxide is) as the polar ice caps melt.

Read this book, join or start an organization to do something, and take action!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alarm-sounding environmentalist ambushed by about 1,000,000 blossoms of activist hope, 5 Sep 2007
By 
As a speaker on environmental issues, Hawken always found it difficult to balance honesty about bleak realities with a need to inspire hope. But after each speech, he kept meeting groups of dedicated activists, till he had a small mountain of their business cards. Slowly it dawned on him that these organizations represented something enormous -- maybe greatest movement of hope in world history. And perhaps this mushrooming movement was gonna be the greatest story of his life. Though the well over 1,000,000 activist groups he found were focused on many different issues, there were some things tying them together:

"Just as ecology is the study of relationship between living beings and their environment, human ecology examines the relationship between human systems and their envoronmrnt. Concerns about worker health, living wages, equity, education and basic human rights are inseperable from concerns about water, climate, soil and biodiversity. The cri de coeur of environmentalists in {Rachael} Carson's time was the same as that of the Lancashire weavers, the same as in the time of Emerson, the same as in the time of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathi of Kenya. It can be summed up in a single word: life. Life is the most fundamental human right, and all of the movements within the movement are dedicated to creating the conditions for life, conditions that include livelihood, food, security, peace, a stable environmet, and freedom from external tyranny. Whenever and wherever that right is violated, human beings rise up. Today they are rising up in record numbers, and in a collective body that is often as not more sophisticated than the corporate and governmental bodies they address" (p 67-68)

According to Hawken, the first recorded organization devoted to the welfare of more than its own members was a small anti-slavery group which started meeting in London during the late 1700s. And from the Abolitionist movement he sketches a partial lineage of thinkers and leaders including Emerson, Thoreau, Gandhi, Rachael Carson, Chico Mendes, Vandana Shiva, Muhammad Yunus...

Keeping his balance, Hawken often writes most passionately about wrongs to be changed, such as Chevron's record of abuse for lands and native cultures in Ecuador. But later he gets lost in amazement at the magnitude and diversity of humanity's rising immune-system response: Keeper groups like the Waterkeeper Alliance, watch organizations like the Kurdish Human Rights Watch, Coalitions like the Coalition Against Traffiking in Women or the India Alliance for Child Rights, friends organizations like the Friends of North Kent Marshes:

"The incongruity of anarchists, billionaire funders, street clowns, scientists, youthful activists, indigenous and native people, diplomats, computer geeks, writers, strategists, peasants and students all working toward common goals is a testament to human impulses that are unstoppable and eternal." (p.163)

Capping his fragmentary account, Hawken gives a 102-page appendix as a mere introduction to the swelling database of activists and innovators, which he and his colleagues at the Natural Capital Institude have launched. Their Wikipedia-like database is called WiserEarth ( [...] , with "Wiser" standing for World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility. It is arranged both alphabetically and by a taxonomy of services, which allows updating by user organizations, networking, collaborative fundraising, sharing of innovations or job searches. It is also multisectoral -- including far more than just non-government or non-profit efforts. To enable application of insight in every type of organization, the database has several linked URLs:
wiserearth.org
wiserbusiness.org
wisergovernment.org
naturalcapital.org

Maybe this is the real gift of Hawken's work, which could help you find the network or vocation of your dreams.

--author of The Gardens of Their Dreams: Desertification and Culture in World History
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Vision for Human Responsibility Countering the Risk of Disaster, 14 Jun 2007
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Blessed Unrest contains so many powerful new perspectives that it's all but impossible to identify even the most important ones in a review. Telling about this book is complicated by the fact that what is a powerful new perspective depends in part on what you know already. The key point is that being concerned about the environment cannot be logically separated from being concerned about exploited people: The time has come to reflect and act on all of perspectives of where improvement is needed.

Here is the briefest possible overview:

Organizing to improve conditions for others is a relatively new phenomenon, dating back only to the anti-slavery movement. But despite that recent beginning, self-organized efforts are growing exponentially to improve conditions for the poor, indigenous people, and endangered people and species. These activities are likened to the massive, redundant, and intelligent responses involved in the human immune system. The concepts behind these efforts link back to Emerson and Thoreau, Darwin, John Muir, Rachel Carson, Sir James Lovelock, and most recently Jared Diamond. The current exponents of those concepts are people who are scientifically and emotionally concerned by lasting damage that's occurring . . . and are well educated, responsible citizen advocates.

Contrast is drawn by describing the implications of the current momentum behind global free markets, reduced regulation of major companies, and the rapid extinction of common resources we all need. You'll find out about appalling examples of harm being created.

Paul Hawken has an impressive way of selecting his examples and drawing his points out of them. My favorite story involves running a workshop at a chemical company where Mr. Hawken challenged the leaders and engineers to design a long-term spaceship that would allow humans to survive. No one among those doing the project included a single one of the company's products for the spaceship. Why? The products are too toxic for a small environment. A number of the people later left their jobs.

What's the relevance of that story? Mr. Hawken uses the example to illustrate the concept of Earth as our spaceship for survival.

Everyone will learn something about so-called facts that are often cited, whether it be the motives of the Luddites or the actions of protestors at the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle. I was particularly impressed with the book's perspective on how the indigenous civilizations in the Americas were in many ways superior to the Western European one.

There are many parallels in the book that would leave you laughing . . . if they weren't so sad. Perhaps the most powerful parallel is between the Spanish Conquistadors and the CEOs of global giant companies who want to increase profits at the expense of the poorest people.

For those who want to learn more, you'll find lots of great resources in the appendix, footnotes, and bibliography.

To me, one of the most chilling images in the book is about releasing vast quantities of stored methane gas (which is much worse for global warming than carbon dioxide is) as the polar ice caps melt.

Read this book, join or start an organization to do something, and take action!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Find your NGO and support it!, 9 Mar 2010
By 
Jeremy Matcham (NZ/UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beau: How the Largest Social Movement in the World Is Restoring Grace, Justice and Beauty to the World (Paperback)
I was recommended this book by a friend who could see that I needed cheering up - clearly I had been spending too much time focussed on identifying the systemic ills of this world's advanced societies and not enough time looking at the curative activities. Curative activities Paul Hawken has identified in their hundreds, possibly thousands, and then gone on to explain that there are even more of them that he hadn't had a chance to list. This must be something to start feeling at least a little cheery about? Indeed, almost half of the thickness of my book (a now tattered and well loved paperback) is dedicated to a taxonomical breakdown of the various organisations around us that strive to defend our planet, our peoples, our cultures, our rights and our habitats - collectively given the name "The Movement".

Although I didn't find the opening two, fortunately for me quite short, chapters entirely gripping I did find the book impossible to put down by the start of the third. This begins the explanation of the history of how, chiefly, the white European male has gone about trawling the planet for its many bounties with little regard to the rights of the indigene, who really should have been allowed to go about their own enjoyment of those bounties without interference. As a white European male, it is an entirely uncomfortable reading experience, but it is gripping none the less and sets the framework for the main gist of the book.

The main gist, that is, if I may oversimplify, is to note that all of the planet's inhabitants are environmentalists by nature, but that the only way Paul Hawken believes we can benefit from this realisation (i.e. survive as a species) is through the dogged dedication to improving human rights and social justice - via "The Movement".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hope for Global Fairness and Good Sense, 20 Aug 2010
By 
Ian Snaith (Leicester, Leics United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beau: How the Largest Social Movement in the World Is Restoring Grace, Justice and Beauty to the World (Paperback)
A brilliant and hope inspiring book which brings together the threads of the environmental and social justice movements. Much useful information and some wise insights. A corrective to the negative "anti-globalisation" and anti-capitalist" labels given to some manifestations of the "movement(s)". Also a corrective to blinkered ideologies, whether religious or political, left or right.

Could it be too optimistic? Maybe, but the author does temper the hope with a realistic assessment of the state of the planet, the power of big corporations, and the role of Governments, the IMF and the World Bank up to now.

He doesn't mention co-ops, which is rather an omission as I would see them as an important part of a developing answer, as it may emerge and evolve.

Highly recommended for anyone concerned about the issues of sustainability and social justice.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 2 Sep 2014
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Brilliant
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