Blessed Unrest, Moving Forward

Continuing the Community theme on One Straw this week I would like to chat through some of my reaction to Paul Hawken’s Blessed Unrest. The underlying premise of the entire book is summed up in the subtitle How the largest Movement in the World Came into Being, and Why No One saw it Coming.


The book spends very little time regaling the reader with the Doom and Gloom, just enough to bring you up to speed if you aren’t in The Choir. Most of the book is spent making the case that the current Sustainability Movement is the largest movement in the history of human society. Hawken lumps both environmental and social justice organizations into the same movement because he believes, and I agree, that the coming crisis of this century indisputably links the two. The results are astounding: over 1,000,000 organizations currently fit this bill. We are part of something, very, very, large.

What is now needed is the inter joining of these groups into a combined and more overt mission of Saving The World. Hyperbole? Maybe. So lets start smaller in a local example of the potential gains of network leveraging. In our community we have a fairly large local organization set up as a watchdog of the Rock River. They are well organized, adequately funded and preform a very valuable service in tracking waterway health and advocating for water issues. Now we also have an active organization in Madison focused on Slow Food that encouraging citizens to savor the culture inherent in, and environmental impacts of, our meals. Dialing in a third organization we have the ubiquitous Master Gardeners- agents of horticultural goodness and often espousing organic ideals. Each is Being the Change and following their mission. They also will most likely never cross paths. But what if?

Take my Victory Garden idea. The Master Gardeners are the most likely sponsors of this plan since it brings more people into gardening and composting. They also have very limited marketing capabilities in most communities and typically work on near zero budgets. But adding the rain barrel brings in the mission of the River Group to connect the (literal) downstream impacts of water use and bring along with their strong ties to local and state governments. Growing local heirlooms and adding monthly cooking classes and newsletter recipes covering whats in season in the garden easily loops in the Slow Foodies with their more urbane following and marketing savvy. Combine the 3 groups and this program shares the strengths of all (better rain barrels, great soil, wicked good meals) and becomes very, very powerful by adding in the marketing muscle and diverse followings of all of them. Local Media is suddenly more interested, local business starts to take notice, and regional grant organizations see Big Potential. Suddenly a program that would have affected a few dozen affects hundreds or thousands -even in rural Wisconsin. This isn’t Pie in the Sky. This is my Spring.

We each are members of separate and numerous groups as varied as our own interests. How may each of them better strengthen each other?

My dream? Imagine if the Nature Conservancy, Christian Children’s Fund, Amnesty International, the Red Cross, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Union for Concerned Scientists joined forces in a multi faceted media and political campaign on the current, available, solutions to Global Warming? Suddenly we have a conglomerate big enough to stand a chance to fight the lobbyists, to fight Big Oil, to win back the hearts and minds of the American Public before it is too late. Most of the root causes of the missions of these organizations are rooted in the current economic theory that places the focus on maximizing markets over optimizing quality of life. They share much common ground.

All the pieces are in place, but they must be assembled to create the finished puzzle that will allow us to survive this most critical century. All major technologies needed to avert the Doom and Gloom exist. The only things lacking are Political (or Societal) Will …and time. The latter is fixed, but we can change the former.

Be that Change!



9 Responses

  1. Ah, this is a welcome change in attitude from all the total downer political news I’ve been reading today. I really like the sound of the community you guys have got going on out there, and I can’t wait to hear about when things really begin to get rolling in the spring. I’m going to have to check out that book!

  2. Thanks Meg. We are really gaining momentum! But the truth is, that the 30-40 super motivated activists are the idealogical children of the work of only 2-3 citizens that spent their own money to go to Sweden in 2005 to see what was possible in Sustainability.

    Their vision, enthusiasm, and energy they brought back infected us all through their study groups and with the spawned organizations and the resultant growth we are becoming something special.

    A handful of people can infect a county. A county can infect a state. … Together we can make Real Change. Honestly, when it comes to seeing what we can accomplish, I can’t wait either!


  3. Rob,
    This is a great book! Unfortunately, I lent my copy this summer and it has yet to return…. I have noticed something in my little corner of the state – there are so many groups working on the similar things, but very little conversation between the groups. Different methods have been tried to bring them together, but yet to no avail. Ideas?

    I do think that as groups grow and become more visible (face it – the groups are invisible to the mainstream), more can occur.

    We need a big movement!

  4. Wow, I have never even seen that book and I am certainly no stranger to the bookstacks. I need to check that out.

    Right now I’m reading “The last hours of ancient sunlight” by Thom Hartman, I’m only about halfway through it. The first half is really depressing, but based on the table of contents, and what I know about Mr. Hartman from his radio show, I know it will be uplifting at the end.

    Right now I think there in one perhaps two like minded households in the neighborhood, what I need most right now are icebreakers…literally and figuratively, its freezing in Syr. right now.

  5. Check out, a networking tool and directory for 100,000 social justice and environmental organizations around the world. It’s the vision of Paul Hawken, and has been a work in progress for over 2 years. The site also helps reveal the Earth’s “immune system” to create the conditions necessary for life on this planet as Hawken describes

    Its a community-based collaborative site that anyone can edit and help build!

  6. I got chills reading this. Thanks

  7. […] bookmarks tagged unrest Blessed Unrest, in Review saved by 3 others     fallenninja13 bookmarked on 02/04/08 | […]

  8. Great ideas, Rob. Even though the District of Columbia is the seat of your national government, we have a history of being badly behind the curve. But some of are trying to implement the strategy you describe of cross-pollination and inclusivity around the idea of sustainability. This past weeked we held a citywide garden forum–the first of its kind, I think–that brought together all kinds of community gardeners, food security activists, and slownicks. Getting organized, bringing people together to talk, is vital and so rewarding.

  9. KC -your welcome, and thanks for commenting!

    Fantastic work Ed! Thanks for Being the Change!

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