SFSF - Schools For a Sustainable Future
Joseph Natoli, SFSF Project Director, surrounded by happy, enthusiastic children
synergy vol 1 issue 2

Synergy Issue 2, Oct 1999

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The Next Reformation
an interview with Paul Hawken, by Sarah Van Gelder


There are few people who have contributed to our understanding
of the role of business on a small planet as Paul Hawken has.
He has founded several businesses, including Smith & Hawken,
and is the author of The Ecology of Commerce,
The Next Economy, and Growing a Business.

Sarah: A lot of people are very concerned with recent events, particularly in the US, where we're seeing attacks on environmental legislation at the state and federal levels, and an overall sense that our economic and governmental institutions are failing us. How do you interpret all this?

Paul: I see these events as masking a more fundamental shift, a shift so powerful that it will occur over the span of one lifetime if not more. We're so accustomed - if not addicted - to rapid change that we are not able to perceive a powerful long-term shift, especially one that is so quiet and pervasive that it is not discernible by the methods we use to gauge change, power, and control.

When you read the papers of Volta, Galvani, Barrows, Shelley, Blake et al. at the beginning of the industrial revolution, they didn't describe industrialism per se - they didn't use the word - but they did describe its benefits, its promise, and its shadow. Nobody knew exactly what it was that they were describing. Nobody at a party could say, "How does it feel to be at the beginning of the industrial age?" And yet that is exactly what was happening. People could sense it.

My guess is that we are in precisely the same situation. People are naming it the Third Wave, the Information Age, etc. but I would say those are basically technological descriptions, and this next shift is not about technology - although obviously it will be influenced and in some cases expressed by technologies.

Industrialism is about the appropriation by a relatively small group of white Europeans of global resources that they mistakenly thought were theirs, that they "discovered." That appropriation of resources and the transformation of them into goods and services through the European production system characterized, and characterizes to this day, all industrial systems including the information age. If anything, the technologies used to "produce" the information age are proto-industrial. There is nothing about its underlying principles that are post-industrial.

The next stage, whatever it will be called, is being brought about by powerful and much-delayed feedback loops. Information from destructive activities going back a hundred years right up until today is being incorporated into the system. And as that happens the underlying framework of industrialism is collapsing and causing disintegration. We are losing our living systems, social systems, cultural systems, governing systems, stability, and our constitutional health, and we're surrendering it all at the same time.

Part 1      Part 2       Part 3       Part 4       Part 5



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