We are the Environment

By June 17, 2015Reflection

Back in 2007, notable environmentalist Paul Hawken published Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice and Beauty to the World.

His provoking book began with a quote that said:

“The division between ecology and human rights was an artificial one, that the environmental and social justice movements addressed two sides of a single larger dilemma. The way we harm the earth affects all people, and how we treat one another is reflected in how we treat the earth.”

To appreciate this idea brings all of us–and the environment–closer together. And, according to Hawken, there are a lot of us.

In Blessed Unrest, Hawken next posed the question, “Did anyone truly appreciate how many groups and organizations were engaged in progressive causes?” No one knew the answer, so he sought to find it. Counting thousands of business cards and exhaustively searching through government records and tax census data, Hawken and his colleagues first estimated there were more than 30,000 environmental organizations around the world; when he added social justice and indigenous peoples’ rights organizations that number grew to 100,000.

Amazed by this, Hawken researched to see if there was any other movement in history with this sort of support, scale or scope. He did not find one. “The number of people directly working or indirectly involved with this movement is greater than the number of people active in the Catholic Church.”

However, as Hawken did, we can ask: if this movement is so large, why isn’t it more visible?

Could it be that communication–or the lack of effective communication–is playing a role?

Consider that when Hawken looked at the research again, he realized his initial estimate of 100,000 organizations was off by at least a factor of ten. Hawken now believes there are over one million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice.

This movement for humanity originates the world over and pushes on with ideas and intentions, not force. It grows from the ground up. Author Naomi Klein, calls it “the movement of movements,” and it’s only spreading more roots. Environmentalism isn’t dead as some suggest, our messaging just needs to be communicated better. Conservation International’s Dr. M. Sanjayan said it plainly: “We need to reframe the debate and change the conversation–in other words, the environmental movement needs a rebrand.”

Hawken’s text continues to emphasize our unity with Mother Nature, like echoes from the past. In Silent Spring, with convincing words, Rachel Carson told the world a foreseeing fable. She later said, “Our heedless and destructive acts enter into the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves.” That is, the environment and humanity are not separate, we are the environment. And, in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature, and in Henry David Thoreau’s earlier writings, we find origins of the idea that man and nature are indeed one.

This is the message we need to communicate more clearly:

We are the environment.

Some amazing individuals, groups, organizations, and companies are already doing this. How do we know? Because we hear and see their messaging. Their stories don’t go unnoticed. They give us all goosebumps and make our hearts beat faster. They really do.

We just need more communicators to help share this message.

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