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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 87 The Interdependence Revolution BLESSED UNREST: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming By Paul Hawken Viking, 2007; 342 pp.; $24.95 (cloth) REVIEWED BY BILL MCKIBBEN REV IEWS THOSE OF US WHO LIVE AT THE CENTER of an empire of- ten know the least about the world. Information tends to flow out from the center, not in from the periphery. Thus half the people on earth have seen Baywatch, but how many of us can name three pop stars from Latin America, much less three social activists? That’s why Paul Hawken’s marvelous new book may come as a bit of a shock to many in the West. We tend to think we’ve been living through an apathetic era, with the mindless prosperity of the Clinton years succeeded by the mindless obedience of the Bush decade. Around the world, though—and increasingly close to home—there’s actually an explosion of involvement under- way, “a global humanitarian movement arising from the bottom up,” according to Hawken. This movement is a “great underground,” an “intertwingling” of everything from urban farmers to pirate radio broadcasters, from human rights groups to solar panel aficionados, from “localvores” to child labor opponents. By Hawken’s estimate, there may be two million groups worldwide doing these kinds of work, a loose web of concern for social justice and ecological survival that consti- tutes a kind of nascent, invisible superpower. We don’t know about this movement because it has few rec- ognizable leaders, no consistent set of demands, and no logo— hence it’s hard for the media to cover. I remember well traveling to Seattle for the first big protest against the WTO in 2000. It was still early enough in the evolution of the web that journal- ists weren’t paying much attention to the chatter about what might happen in the streets; The New York Times assigned its local Seattle reporter to cover the story. By day’s end, however, after nonviolent protesters had shut down the conference of the great globalizing corporate powers, and after exceedingly violent authorities had staged a police riot (abetted by a few cooperative anarchists who helpfully broke some windows), there were reporters jetting in from every direction. By nightfall, there were four or five Times reporters on the scene. Globalization advocate Tom Friedman used his op-ed page column to dismiss the protesters as “a Noah’s ark of flat-earth advocates, protectionist trade unions, and yuppies looking for their 1960s fix.” In fact, it was much more subtle than that. The people dressed as sea turtles and the people holding pictures of Burmese dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi in fact shared a belief: that there was more than one bottom line in the world, that simply adding up the GNP was not the way to tell if life was getting better. “If there is a pervasive criticism of global capitalism shared by all the actors in this movement, it is this,” writes Hawken. “Goods seem to have become more important, and are treated better, than people. What would a world look like if that were reversed?” Or, more succinctly, and in the words printed on a large balloon that I saw float overhead while I was rinsing pepper spray from my eyes: “Wake Up, Muggles.” Hawken—whose important earlier books, such as The Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism, describe the possibilities for an environmentally benign capitalism—writes more beauti- fully here than ever before. In particular, an extended description ILLUSTRATIONBYMICHAELWOLOSCHINOW BILL MCKIBBEN is the author of ten books on the environment and other topics, the most recent of which is Deep Economy. NOV 78-103.indd 87 NOV 78-103.indd 87 8/29/07 2:24:05 PM 8/29/07 2:24:05 PM