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Q&A: Paul Hawken, author and green guru

paulGreenbang first came across Paul Hawken when someone recommended his 1990s book ‘The ecology of commerce‘ some time back (a fascinating read, by the way, even more than 10 years on).

Well, he’s certainly keeping in the thick of things. He’s featuring in Leonardo DiCaprio’s new film, the 11th hour, on the one hand. And he’s also just penned his latest novel, ‘Blessed unrest: How the largest movement in the world came into being and why no one saw it coming‘.

Catch up with Paul via Wired’s Q&A with him, where he discusses how a bag of business cards inspired his latest book, the challenges faced with current global economics and the environment and WiserEarth, an online community for people trying to transform the world.

WN: Can you say more about Carson? The reaction to 1962’s Silent Spring set the stage for how multinationals react to environmental and social justice issues today.

Hawken: Rachel Carson was the first person who used science and nature as a basis to question the rights of business. You almost have to say it again to get the meaning. She did not do it overtly, but in elucidating the persistent long-term damage of a new family of pesticides made from chlorinated hydrocarbons, she questioned the assumption that business has greater rights than the environment.

When business realized how responsive the public was to her logic, they went after her with extraordinary vengeance, perfecting techniques that are used to this day, like greenwashing — the creation of industry front groups funded by corporations, the use of paid scientists to attack academic scientists, the manipulation of the media to sow doubt in people’s minds about complex issues. The person behind the defaming of Rachel Carson, E. Bruce Harrison, was the same person who helped create the Global Climate Coalition, a so-called nonprofit funded by Chevron, Exxon, General Motors, the American Petroleum Institute and other companies. Its purpose was to undermine the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol and any other legislation or policy that would limit greenhouse gas emissions.

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