55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
If you're depressed these days, it is not without good reason. Fear-mongers, the corporate sector, and the political class have conspired to form an extremely dark and inhospitable future. The environment and the various causes of social justice around the globe are in tattered disrepair, to put it mildly. Paul Hawken's wonderful book is a genuine argument for optimism, founded on hard-data and diligent detective work. His global survey of "change-agents", individuals and groups working, often independently and unknown to one another, has discovered a massive 'organism' mimicking the body's very own immune system and fighting off the pathogens of greed, extraction, and opression. Collectively, these groups represent the largest political movement in the history of the planet, and until Blessed Unrest, its larger outlines and properties were virtually unknown. Read this book and buy five copies for your friends. You'll be joining the millions of others worldwide who have aligned themselves with the awesome, restorative forces of nature, and are doing their best to reverse the last two centuries of despoilation and pillage of the human, plant and animal communities all over the world. You can start right where you stand. This book makes you want to stand up and cheer.
137 of 146 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2007
President Bill Clinton called Paul Hawken's last book, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (Little, Brown. September 1999) one of the five most important books in the world today. Blessed Unrest belongs in the same category.
In his new book, Paul Hawken, noted environmentalist, businessman, writer, tech entrepreneur, and organizational/cultural theorist, makes a compelling case that the disparate movements for ecological restoration and social justice are merging into "the largest movement in the World." The book provides a fascinating overview of how this massive movement has no precedence and is different from previous social movements particularly with respect to ideology. This movement has no name, center or a leader. It is organic, self-organized, and made up of millions of people committed to making the world a better place.
One of my favorite passages is early on in the book when asked if he is pessimistic or optimistic about the world, the author says, "if you look at the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren't pessimistic, you don't have the current data. If you meet the people in this unnamed movement and aren't optimistic, you haven't got a heart." This to me aptly summarizes what the book is about. I found the book uplifting as it is about optimism and a story of what's going right on our planet.
The book and the companion website project called WiserEarth ([...] a major undertaking and achievement. Thank you Mr. Hawken!
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
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!
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
In a remarkably thorough (about half of this book comprises of an appendix that provides detailed definitions, citations and notes) and well-researched book (reads more like a collection of critical essays), Hawken weaves an excellent tapestry of issues surrounding development, social justice, and environment. Drawing heavily from history, Hawken manages to put key developments in context for providing an excellent argument on how the ongoing 'social movement without a name' has evolved. The gravity of the issues mentioned, the new and unique insights provided on events and personalities, and the detailed narration clearly gives this book a very serious tone (appropriately). Among the well-written chapters (essays), the one on civil disobedience stands out for the sheer unique insights provided on the thought evolution of greats like Gandhi and MLK. Without significant political posturing, Hawken discusses in a calm, methodical manner the issues that relate to social justice and development on multiple facets. An excellent , thought provoking read.
55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
This book surely deserves its nearly universal praise, but I'm going to have to throw a wrench into the works by pointing out a few of its structural flaws. As a widely-read conservationist I can credit Paul Hawken as one of the best modern writers and thinkers on our movement, and his classic "Natural Capitalism" is my absolute all-time favorite from the genre. "Blessed Unrest" will surely be a groundbreaker and it could seriously be influential for millions of people for decades to come. But the proof is actually in the appendix (which takes up more than a third of the book), while the main text is faintly disappointing in a few structural ways. In a nutshell, the relatively short main text covers Hawken's research into the quietly rising social movement around the world of literally millions of small organizations that are combining environmentalism, civil rights, and social justice in ways that are revitalizing democracy, conservation, and the human spirit for volunteerism. Most importantly, this movement utilizes ideas and not ideologies, and is inclusive rather than exclusive.
This is a crucially important topic and Hawken is doing the world a great service by bringing this immense but little-respected mass movement into the light. However, only one chapter in the book's main text ("Immunity") and a few other passages really focus specifically on this great movement and how exemplary groups are creating real change. Instead, most of the main text functions as a lengthy introduction that accomplishes little more than a set-up for the appendix. Hawken fills these pages with a fairly standard history of the environmental movement and the latest developments in conservationist philosophy. Of course this material is informative and necessary, but similar information can be found in myriad other books, and here it becomes quite predictable and detracts from the specifics of the unique worldwide movement that this book is supposed to be about. Thus the book becomes a bit of a disappointment for those who have been attracted by its promotional materials, which promise coverage of the movement itself, not its less specific historical underpinnings.
With that being said, the book is saved by the immense appendix, which is built from the crucial and valuable database of small worldwide organizations at the WiserEarth website. Here we can see the movement in full flower, with a useful categorization of volunteer efforts into a mindboggling array of topics that combine conservation of the Earth's gifts and justice for humanity. This book will be vastly influential merely for drawing attention to this outstanding online resource. Overall, Hawken remains at the top of the heap for influential and inspirational conservationist writers, but just beware of this book's structural limitations. [~doomsdayer520~]
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2007
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Blessed Unrest - "Re-imagining the Future"
That Paul Hawken is a careful and caring student of the environmental and social justice movements is apparent in the flowing text of Blessed Unrest. What is more striking is the extent to which Hawken has embedded the redemptive soulful invitations to be agents for change that Emerson, Thoreau, Gandhi, and King offered each one of us. The result is an inspired manifesto: Everyman has a role to play in shaping a world built on a reverence for all life and honoring what is noble and true in others as well as in ourselves. As the stunning appendix makes clear, there are millions of us who are hard at work (and play) re-imagining that future right now.
170 years ago in a cemetery next door to her home in Salem, Massachusetts, a young Sophia Peabody (soon to be the fiancée of Nathaniel Hawthorne) read Emerson's just-published 1837 Harvard Phi Beta Kappa Address, "The American Scholar" (called "America's Intellectual Declaration of Independence" by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.). With much enthusiasm Sophia wrote to her brother in New Orleans that Emerson was "the Watchman that sits in the Tower of Thought, & whenever the Morning cometh to his far reaching eye, he announces it in a clear spirit tone to those who are sleeping beneath the mount of Vision." While the "sluggards" may have wished to keep sleeping, Emerson trumpeted, "No No! the MORNING COMETH!" Sophia next informed her brother of the effect of Emerson's company on their sister, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (the founder of the kindergarten movement in the US): "Elizabeth has replenished her horn at the fountain of his overflowing Dawn. You know her own is never empty. She has found out what she has herself, rather than received anything new, I suspect. Her faith in herself is freshened." Like an Emersonian Watchman, Paul Hawken acknowledges in simple terms what we are facing, noting that it is time to wake up. He then replenishes our horn by refreshing our faith in ourselves and in the countless sisters and brothers around the world who are putting shoulders to the wheel. I cannot wait for the movie.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2007
Kudos to Paul Hawken. For all of us engaged with the "great work" of bringing about deep and lasting change on the planet, Paul has given us the profound gift of mirroring back the rich tapestry of who we are and what we are up to. In doing so, he's drawn the fundamental connections that link all the seemingly disparate parts of this unnamed movement into the tidal wave of human compassion that it represents.
The first 190 pages provide a rich but clearly and succinctly written overview of the major historical threads that are now weaving themselves together: the evolution of the environmental movement, the question of business vs. human rights, civil rights and non-violent protest, the rights of indigenous peoples, the rise of global capitalism and so on. There are no wasted words. Each chapter is blessedly short yet powerfully communicates an essential component of the growing movement. I learned something new on every page.
The final 100 pages provide a brief "taxonomy" of the more than 1 million organizations worldwide that are working to create a healthy, peaceful, just and sustainable world for all beings.
Get this book. Read it and pass it on to your family and friends. We all know how easy it is to touch despair in these troubling times. Blessed Unrest will ignite your hope and -- hopefully -- your action.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Paul Hawken - one of the great voices of light in our times - has given us a far ranging analysis of the challenges, and more importantly, the solutions - to which we all can contribute. What is extensively detailed here is the recognition that environmental wholeness and social justice are really one - and that the pervasive will of a diverse and deeply devoted collective impulse focused in the hearts of individuals massed over the breadth of the earth, which has truly coalesced into a decentralized movement, will inevitability achieve these necessary and long sought ends and an overdue transformation of the way we live together on our planet.
A masterpiece of clarity and concision, Hawken's insights into the development of the most important thinking, once again has elevated my thinking into the seminal understanding that "we" means all of us. A statement of more than hope, a justification for a positive view of the present moment, and really a visionary light on the path to a sustainable social reality.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2007
As a member of one of the hundreds of thousands of diverse non-governmental organizations (NGOs) listed in the database that forms an interactive online link [...] to Paul Hawken's book, Blessed Unrest, I was delighted to read about why and how this "largest movement in the world came into being." Comprised of three basic strands, "environmental activism, social justice, and indigenous cultures' resistance to globalization," this unruly movement is now poised to take center-stage in the world arena. How? According to Hawken, and this is his major purpose both for writing the book and establishing the database, it will occur through systemic networking among these diverse and autonomous NGOs, thus offering "solutions to disentangle what appear to be insoluble dilemmas: poverty, global climate change, terrorism, ecological degradation, polarization of income, loss of culture, and many more."
Hawken's book is a necessary first step outlining what must be done and why to ensure the continuing survival of humankind; his database is an ongoing legacy that will conceivably bring it about. About as far away from a top-down approach as you can get, Hawken's database employs an open-source platform designed to "be edited by the community it serves," thus increasing "the ability of the movement to connect and collaborate." Hawken has not furnished us with an assessment frozen in time; rather he has provided us with a vehicle that can adapt to a constantly changing biological and cultural landscape, which is why his contribution deserves the highest accolades possible.
34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2009
The underlying motivation, premise and theme of this book is fantastic. A book on the subtitle "how the largest social movement in history is restoring grace, justice and beauty to the world" is needed. Unfortunately, this book does not adequately fulfill this need. After completing it, I can't say that I learned much about the ecological organizations or anything new about how the movements can better succeed. This is due to two reasons. First the content of the book is not squarely focused on what the subtitle suggests. Hawking brings in a lot of philosophical and scientific references that crowds out discussion of the social movement and organizations. Second, teh writing is very disorganized and choppy. It was a hard to follow book and I found myself skimming major parts just because it was too unbearable to read it word by word. The philosophical and scientific references made were not well integrated into the narrative; overall the writing lacks good transition sentences among paragraphs and chapters. It was very frustrating because the theme has so much potential. I would NOT recommend this book. Instead, Fritjof Capra's The Hidden Connections contains a much clearer and productive discussion of the science and philosophy underlying ecological thinking and he applies that to a critique of globalization, consumerism and other issues.