Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation
I received this post as a guest post from the Modern Elder Academy and asked if I could share it with the Hey, Boomer audience. I felt like it was a good post to follow our discussion with Dr. Wes Dripps, from the Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities.
This post was written by Paul Hawken. He has had multiple best-selling books, and this post comes from his newest book, Regeneration.
The agent who can head off the climate crisis is reading this sentence. Logically, this seems like nonsense—surely individuals are powerless to counter the global drivers and momentum of global warming. That’s a fair conclusion if we assume that yesterday’s institutions should or will do it for us. There is a debate as to whether individual behavior or government policy is the key to solving the climate crisis. There shouldn’t be. We need the involvement of every sector of society, top to bottom, and everything between.
Worried that you are not an expert? Almost no one is. But we understand enough. We know how greenhouse gases function and warm the planet; we are seeing greater climate volatility and extreme weather. We want a stable climate, security, pure water, clean air, and an enduring future we can become ancestors to. Cultures, families, communities, lands, professions, and skills vary with every person. The situations we find ourselves in differ. Who better to know what to do at this time, in this place, with your knowledge, than you?
Our economic systems, investments, and policies can bring about the degeneration of the world or its regeneration. We are either stealing the future or healing the future. One description of the current economic system is extractive. We take, we dam, we enslave, we exploit, we frack, we drill, we poison, we burn, we cut, we kill. The economy exploits people and the environment. The ongoing cause of degeneration is inattention, apathy, greed, and ignorance.
Climate change may leave people feeling as if they have to make a choice between “saving the planet” and their own happiness, well-being, and prosperity. Not at all. Regeneration is not only about bringing the world back to life; it is about bringing each of us back to life. It has meaning and scope; it expresses faith and kindness; it involves imagination and creativity. It is inclusive, engaging, and generous. And everyone can do it. It restores forests, lands, farms, and oceans. It transforms cities, builds green affordable housing, reverses soil erosion, rejuvenates degraded lands, and powers rural communities. Planetary regeneration creates livelihoods—occupations that bring life to people and people to life, work that links us to one another’s well-being. It offers a path out of poverty that provides people with meaning, worthy involvement with their community, a living wage, and a future of dignity and respect.
This is a watershed moment in history. The heating planet is our commons. It holds us all. To address and reverse the climate crisis requires connection and reciprocity. It calls for moving out of our comfort zones to find a depth of courage we may never have known. It doesn’t mean being right in a way that makes others wrong; it means listening intently and respectfully, stitching together the broken strands that separate us from life and one another.
It means neither hope nor despair; it is action that is courageous and fearless. We have created an astonishing moment of truth. The climate crisis is not a science problem. It is a human problem. Nature never makes a mistake. We do. The ultimate power to change the world does not reside in technologies. It relies on reverence, respect, and compassion—for ourselves, for all people, and for all life. Another way to look at this time in history is this: we are being homeschooled by the planet, our teacher. May our lives be our effort to reflect those teachings.
Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, author and activist who has dedicated his life to environmental sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment.