Healing or Stealing?

Just came across this recently: Paul Hawken’s commencement address to University of Portland’s 2009 graduates. Sure it’s a tad off topic, but it’s inspirational and far reaching.

As a builder/developer, there’s a market reality out there, and there’s constant pressure (called market forces) to revert to the mean, and do exactly what everyone else is doing, which results in more of the same old energy wasting homes being built. Hey, if it’s behind the walls and under the slab no one will ever see it, so why work any harder to make it airtight, why insulate better than code, why strive to build something more than the market is currently demanding? And then your competition who builds code minimum Legal Boxes claims to be “leading the industry in sustainable building,” because they used a can of low VOC paint and bamboo flooring. But I digress.

Paul Hawken captures the essence of why we have to do what we have to do:

Healing or Stealing?

The unforgettable Commencement Address 2009.
By Paul Hawken

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” No pressure there.

Let’s begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing….

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