From Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken

 “In the 1960’s, Sir James Lovelock began examining the possibility that the earth might be a single living entity.  The Gaia hypothesis, as he later named it, is ecology writ large.  It asserts that the earth, in creating conditions favorable to life, exhibits qualities of self-organization and self-regulation that are similar to those of a living organism.  Two centuries earlier, Immanuel Kant and French economist Jacques Turgot imagined humanity itself as a similar entity, a system with some of the attributes of an organism.”   “They were not alone.  From Spinoza to Gandhi, from Lewis Thomas to Teilhard de Chardin, philosophers, religious teachers, and scientists have all wondered if the entire human race might be integrated in mysterious and inexplicable ways. “Joined together, the great mass of human minds around the earth seems to behave like a coherent, living system,” write Thomas.”  “If we accept that the metaphor of an organism can be applied to humankind, we can imagine a collective movement that would protect, repair, and restore that organism’s capacity to endure when threatened.  If so, that capacity to respond would function like an immune system, which operates independently of an individual person’s intent.  Specifically, the shared activity of hundreds of thousands of nonprofit organizations can be seen as humanity’s immune response to toxins like political corruption, economic disease, and ecological degradation.”   “Just as the immune system recognizes self and non-self, the movement identifies what is humane and not humane.  Just as the immune system is the internal defense that allows an organism to persist over time, sustainability is a strategy for humanity to continue to exist over time.  The word immunity comes from the Latin im munis, meaning ready to serve.” –Blessed Unrest, p. 141-142

“The immune system sounds orderly and precise, but it is not.  Antibodies bind not just to pathogens but to many types of cells, even themselves, as if the lymphatic system were a chamber of commerce mixer of locals feverishly exchanging business cards.  In The Web of Life, Fritof Capra writes, “The entire system looks more like a network, more like the Internet than soldiers looking out for an enemy.  Gradually, immunologists have been forced to shift their perception from an immune system to an immune network.” Francesco Varela and Antonio Coutinho describe an immune system that can be best understood as intelligence, a living, learning, self-regulating system—almost another mind.  Its function does not depend on its firepower but on the quality of its connectedness.  Rather than “inside cells” automatically destroying “outside cells,” there is a mediatory response to pathogens, as if the immune system learned millions of years ago that détente and getting to know potential adversaries was wiser than first-strike responses, that achieving balance was more appropriate than eradication.  The immune system depends on diversity to maintain resiliency, with which it can maintain homeostasis, respond to surprises, learn from pathogens, and adapt to sudden changes. Similarly, the widely diverse network of organizations proliferating in the world today may be a better defense against injustice than F-16 fighter jets.” –ibid, p143-144

“The force that such groups exert is in the form of dialogue and truthfulness.  Computers, cell phones, broadband and the Internet have created perfect conditions for the margins to unify.  According to Kevin Kelly, author of Out of Control, the Internet already consists of a quintillion transistors, a trillion links, and million emails per second.  Moore’s Law, which predicts processing power will double in power and halve in price every eighteen months, is meeting Metcalfe’s Law, which states that the usefulness of a network grows exponentially with arithmetic increases in numbers of users.  These increases enable big corporations as much as small NGOs, but the latter gain greater advantage because they amplify smallness more effectively than largeness.” ibid, p 144

“The ability to respond to the endless injustices and hurts endured by the earth and its people requires concerted action and hinges in part on understanding both our function and potential as individuals and where we fit into a larger whole.  Antigens dot the surface of our body’s cells like lapel pins that proudly proclaim, “It’s me, don’t hurt me, I am you.” Viruses and invasive diseases have their own antigens that warn the body that a “not me” has arrived, Millions of different kinds of antigens tag the different microorganisms.  The hundreds of thousands of organizations that make up the movement are social antibodies attaching themselves to the pathologies of power…it is what the earth is producing to protect itself.” ibid, p 164

“To understand what the movement is, you need to ask what it does.” (Way of the Cell, p.9)  Molecular biologist Mahlon Hoagland wrote a primer entitled The Way Life Works that identifies sixteen qualities common to all living organisms, and most apply to social movements.  The first trait: Life builds from the bottom up. Just as complex organisms are built of cooperating communities of cells, the movement to address environmental and social issues had been built up by small, cooperating groups of people.  Just as cell communities in the body attend to different functions, from taste buds to kidneys, groups organize around specific causes, missions, and objectives.” –ibid, p175

“Just as life assembles itself into chains, nonprofits aggregate either by linking up interests, people, or communities, or by linking to related organizations. The building blocks of all life forms are polymers, long chains of smaller units called monomers.  We have many names for polymers, depending on their composition: leather, starch, protein, DNA, cashmere, cellulose, egg whites, spider silk, cotton, toenails, rubber, crab shells, and enzymes.  The basic function of the movement is linking, and there are many names for the constituent subsectors, depending on the units being joined.  The social polymers are profuse and include women’s rights, wetlands, wildlife corridors, water, waste reduction, wealth disparity reduction, wind power, worker’s rights, and women’s health—and these as you may have noticed, are just some of the areas that begin with the letter “w.”” –ibid, p. 176

“From a few themes, life generates many variations. Those variations are generated endlessly and relentlessly.  To continuously take advantage of new possibilities requires constant change and adaptation, which results in many diverse organizations.  –ibid, p. 176

“Just as life organizes with information, the most powerful instrument wielded by the movement is an unimpeded flow of information, for that directionless communication is the only way the whole of humanity can reorganize itself….We don’t manage our bodies because we cannot.  We can, however, protect, nurture, listen to, and tend to then with food, sleep, prayer, friendship, laughter, and exercise.  And that is all the planet ask from us: allies, rest, nurturance, respect, celebration, collaboration, and engagement.” –ibid, p. 177-178

“Nature works in cycles, and so does a healthy society.  A self-correcting system thrives because of feedback.  The movement is composed of small organizations because it is on the ground, with its people at the scene---a scale at which information can be generated and acted upon. At this level, organizations quickly adapt. –ibid,  p 179

“Nature recycles not only information, nature recycles everything; nothing is wasted, nothing is thrown away because there is no “away.” …  The movement doesn’t merely advocate recycling, it actively imagines a system of human production that is as elegant, frugal, and abundant as what we observe in nature.”  -ibid, p.179

“Life tends to optimize rather than maximize.” –ibid, p. 183. The key is balance

“That trilogy of concepts---cradle to cradle, waste equals food, and stay within current solar income---lays out the basic tenets of the greening of industry and elimination of pollution, waste and toxins.”  -ibid, p. 182

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