Forget about everything you associate with a “movement” or an “-ism” you might know: well defined ideology, central aggregation of power, and (usually) male dominated leadership.
The movement I’m talking about is what author, environmentalist, entrepreneur and the best spokesperson Mother Nature ever hired Paul Hawken brilliantly describes as “humanity’s immune response” to our current ecological and social crises.
The scientist in me loves this analogy. The changemaker in me heaves a sigh of relief (just as Hawken predicts) – the sense of finally dropping the orphaned feeling of having to be out in the trenches with a tiny army; marching with the grand burden of saving the world on my shoulders.
I’m sure you have a basic idea of the human body’s immune system. The good guy antibodies recognizing, attacking and killing the bad guy antigens (viruses, bacteria etc) to keep you healthy.
Hawken replaces this simplistic caricature and reminds us of the jaw dropping reality.
“In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe…..
….So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it……You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are.
Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully not a political party. Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life.
What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past.”
Just as the immune system is a complex, highly networked movement, so to is the fastest, largest and most complex movement in the world.
It consists of all the non-governmental organizations and people worldwide:
- Working from the bottom up for ecological sustainability and social justice
- Focused on ideas, not idealogy; the ideas are test-driven and constantly revised
- Without a central leader
- Diverse, eclectic, varied in their make-up but never contradicting each other in the grand scheme of things
When Hawken’s researchers first catalouged them on Wiser Earth, the numbers were just over a 100,000. At last count, the researchers anticipate the numbers to be closer to 1-2 million!!
It is important to keep in mind that Hawken doesn’t predict the outcome of this movement. Who knows if it will succeed or come to an auto-immune demise?
That shouldn’t stop any inspired changemaker. As Hawken points out:
“When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same:
If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.
What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.”
Join the movement already! There’s tons to choose from:
- Go to WiserEarth and connect with the folks in your neighborhood or start a local group
- Read Hawken’s tome Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement In the World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It
- Enjoy his commencement address to the Class of 2009 at the University of Portland - now the stuff of internet folklore
- Check out artist Chris Jordan’s awesome installation based on the largest movement in the world
If you have a cup of tea handy, sit back and get inspired by the man himself, speaking at the Long Now Foundation: