Paul Hawken speaks in Melbourne

Paul Hawken’s book, ‘The ecology of commerce’ was published in 1993. It was credited with sparking the epiphany of the late Ray Anderson in re-orientating his carpet making business, to become a leading model of sustainable business. Even today, it is still ranked as one of the leading books of corporate sustainability.

Paul’s more recent book, ‘Blessed Unrest‘ is having a similar impact. Written after his experience at the Seattle world trade protests, it is an exploration of the community grassroots movement of our time. Vast numbers of community led foundations and not for profits are stepping into the gaps left by governments. They are self organised and have a growing voice in our world. Assisted by the age of the internet, these entities are growing in number and countering the inability of governments and business to address social issues. The timing of Paul’s visit ironically coincided with Occupy Melbourne demonstrations, and the violent expulsion of protestors from the centre of Melbourne.

Yesterday, I attended Paul’s talk at The Wheeler Centre. His natural, quiet confidence is founded on decades of experience writing and speaking about issues relating to the environment and corporate sustainability. In what was a easy, flowing discussion of Paul’s ideas, he went on to explain that corruption (in its many forms) was everywhere and it was misguided to believe that governments would make the right decisions – those that benefit broader society and the environment over and above that of business.

Paul’s other insights were; describing the ‘noise’ from the anti climate campaigners, those not in step with the leading science of our day, as similar to the last flash of brilliance one sees during a sunset. It is bright and almost ready to fade away. He lamented the lack of de novo (clean sheet) energy technologies. as renewables are based upon old ideas. however, Paul was optimistic about future energy sources and hinted of new technologies near to commercialisation. Paul also explained we were moving from a capital based world to an operating expenditure dominated world – noting that the most efficient way to reduce emissions was to improve energy efficiency, e.g. retrofit older buildings rather than build new ones.

Paul’s view of the future was positive. One might note this as remarkable for someone who believes humanity is having the equivilent of a liquadation sale of the earths assets. His work is definately worth checking out.

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