Here in one place is the best Paul Hawken quotes.

Paul Hawken is one of the environmental movement’s biggest thinkers. 

His classic books ‘The Ecology of Commerce’ and ‘Natural Capitalism’ helped us reimagine the relationship between business and nature and to see how they can work with, rather than against, each other. Now he’s getting us to take a positive, constructive approach to climate change – with his NGO and book ‘Project Drawdown’. 

Along the way, Hawken has had some great words of wisdom about the environmental challenges we face and the opportunities to make things better for all living things. 

In this post, we’ve collected some of the best Paul Hawken quotes on the environment, sustainability and related topics. Click on a topic to jump down to relevant quotes. 

 

 

 

Advocacy 

“Wrong is an addictive, repetitive story; Right is where the movement is.” 
“What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.” 

“Working for the Earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.” 

~ Paul Hawken 

 

Business 

“Business is the only mechanism on the planet today powerful enough to produce the changes necessary.” 
“The future belongs to those who understand that doing more with less is compassionate, prosperous, and enduring, and thus more intelligent, even competitive.” 
“I doubt very much that the chief executives of any of the Fortune 500 corporations can name five edible plants, five native grasses, or five migratory birds within walking distance of their homes, or name the soil series upon which their house sits. And I would contend that if you don’t know where you are, you are in fact nowhere at all.”

“We can monetize the healing just as we can the stealing of the Earth.” 

~ Paul Hawken

“Green business is not about tie-dyed T-shirts. It’s about transforming the industrial system itself into one that looks at all the connections.” 
“Being in business is not about making money. It is a way to become who you are.”
“Being a good human being is good business.” 

 

Change 

“All is connected … no one thing can change by itself.”  
“Real change occurs from the bottom up; it occurs person to person, and it almost always occurs in small groups and locales and then bubbles up and aggregates to larger vectors of change.” 

“Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.” 

~ Paul Hawken

“The great thing about the dilemma we’re in is that we get to re-imagine every single thing we do… There isn’t a single thing that doesn’t require a complete remake. There are two ways of looking at that. One is: Oh my gosh, what a big burden. The other way, which I prefer, is: What a great time to be born! What a great time to be alive! Because this generation gets to essentially completely change the world.”  

 

Climate Change – Drawdown 

“We’ve never mapped, measured, and modeled the top solutions to global warming after 40 years of this being in the public sphere. We have in hand now, in a practical way, the solutions to reverse global warming.  If they continue to scale in a rigorous but reasonable way, we can achieve that tipping point where greenhouse gases peak and then go down on a year-to-year basis.” – Paul Hawken ‘100 Solutions to the Climate Crisis’ 
“People say Project Drawdown is optimistic. We think of it as a reality project.” 

“Our way of looking at this (the solutions) has been prescribed by Al Gore and others as wind and solar and wind and solar. This idea that if we just go to clean energy we get a hall pass to the 22nd Century. It’s just not true. Of course, it’s important we do them, but you can’t just choose the charismatic solutions and say if we do those we’re good.” 

~ Paul Hawken, ‘The Intellectual Environmentalist’ on The Environment Show 

“98 of the 100 solutions are regenerative development. If you do them, we’re better off with respect to life in a measurable way, whether it’s water, food, grassland, soil health, marine life, pollinators, etc. In other words, the development, when completed, leaves the world better off than when we started.” – Paul Hawken in ‘A Plan to Reverse the Climate Crisis’ 
“If you break down the solutions in Drawdown, they create jobs and almost all are profitable. If we tax carbon and stop subsidizing everything that’s harmful, they are virtually all profitable.” – Paul Hawken in ‘A Plan to Reverse the Climate Crisis’ 
“Today we have knowledgeable people constantly repeating the idea that if we move to clean energy and electric vehicles we get hall pass to the 22nd Century. It’s not true. We need all of the solutions, large and small.” – Paul Hawken in ‘A Plan to Reverse the Climate Crisis’ 

 

Climate Change – Language 

“99% of the world is disengaged from the biggest crisis the world has ever faced. I think that goes directly to the language and how it’s been communicated. It’s been communicated in such a way that it’s all about the probability of what’s going to go wrong and when and how and the severity of that and how fast it’s getting worse. From my point of view it should be started as: here’s this gnarly problem, what are the possibilities inherent in that problem? We should talk about those possibilities because every problem is actually a pathway to transformation.” – Paul Hawken, ‘The Intellectual Environmentalist’ on The Environment Show 

“The language around climate change has been about stabilisation, reduction, curbing, mitigation. These words are used commonly. Frankly, they seem so inept and weak in terms of the crisis that confronts us.”

~ Paul Hawken, ‘The Intellectual Environmentalist’ on The Environment Show 

“Why would we want to ‘mitigate’ – which means to reduce the pain. Why wouldn’t we want to stop and turn it around? If we’re going in the wrong direction, why would we want to slow down in that direction?” – Paul Hawken, ‘The Intellectual Environmentalist’ on The Environment Show 
“‘Mitigation’ means to reduce the pain or severity. It’s for triage in ER, not civilisation and the Earth. Can we make global warming less severe? What an underwhelming goal that is.” – Paul Hawken in ‘A Plan to Reverse the Climate Crisis’ 
“We’re not going to “fight” the atmosphere because it is impossible. It would be like fighting wind, sunshine, and ocean currents.” – Paul Hawken in ‘A Plan to Reverse the Climate Crisis’ 
“What we need to do is change our activity here on Earth. It’s not about a ‘fight’.” – Paul Hawken, ‘The Intellectual Environmentalist’ on The Environment Show 

 

Climate Change – Reframing the problem 

“That thinking that climate is ‘other’, that it’s ‘wrong’, that it’s ‘happening to us’ – that whole thinking is the same thinking that got us into the problem. Which is to see the world in a dualistic way. To see ourselves as separate – from life.” – Paul Hawken, ‘The Intellectual Environmentalist’ on The Environment Show 
“We’ve been focusing too much on the problem instead of the solution.” – Paul Hawken, ‘100 Solutions to the Climate Crisis’ 

“It’s a gnarly problem for sure, but what are the possibilities inherent in that problem? We should be talking about the possibilities – because every problem is a pathway to transformation.”

~ Paul Hawken, ‘The Intellectual Environmentalist’ on The Environment Show 

“The science on climate change is an extraordinary problem statement. The headlines that come out about extreme weather, fire, ocean acidification, and so on, all validate that problem statement. But we keep immersing ourselves in the problem rather than accepting it and saying: Got it. Now let’s work on the solutions.” – Paul Hawken in ‘A Plan to Reverse the Climate Crisis’ 
“Once you have a problem statement, what you don’t want to do is basically just push people’s face into it all the time. What you want to do is say, “Let’s go solve the problem.” – Paul Hawken, ‘100 Solutions to the Climate Crisis’ 

“The constant focus on the problem doesn’t solve the problem.” 

~Paul Hawken, ‘100 Solutions to the Climate Crisis’ 

“Is global warming happening to us or for us? If it’s happening to you, you’re the victim and disempowered. Or you can think about it happening for us. Global warming is feedback. It’s actually a gift. Addressing global warming is a pathway to transformation, creating a far better civilization than the one we live in now. Far kinder, more compassionate, more inventive, cleaner, restorative. Once you think of it as for you, you can take 100 percent responsibility. It’s totally liberating to be the person who is going to address and solve something. The point is that it invites creativity, imagination, celebration. It invites you to be an extraordinary human being. It’s also about knowing that you can’t do it alone.” – Paul Hawken in ‘A Plan to Reverse the Climate Crisis’ 
“I see the science of climate change as a gift, not a curse. Global warming is feedback from the atmosphere. The Earth is a system, and any system that does not incorporate feedback fails.” – Paul Hawken ‘What Does the Environmental Movement Need Right Now?’ 

“Global warming is a blessing – because it’s feedback from a complex system. Those feedback loops are guiding us to a different world. Any system that ignores or overrides feedback gets into trouble.”

~ Paul Hawken, ‘The Intellectual Environmentalist’ on The Environment Show 

“The buildup of greenhouse gases we experience today occurred in the absence of human understanding; our ancestors were innocent of the damage that we’re doing. That can tempt us to believe that global warming is something that is happening to us – that we are victims of a fate that was determined by actions that precede us. If we change the preposition, and consider that global warming is happening for us – an atmospheric transformation that inspires us to change and reimagine everything we make and do – we begin to live in a different world. We take 100% responsibility and stop blaming others. We see global warming not as an inevitability but as an invitation to build, innovate, and effect change, a pathway that awakens creativity, compassion, and genius. This is not a liberal agenda, nor is it a conservative one. This is the human agenda.”  – Paul Hawken, ‘Drawdown’ book, page xi 

“We see global warming not as an inevitability but as an invitation to build, innovate, and effect change, a pathway that awakens creativity, compassion, and genius. This is not a liberal agenda, nor is it a conservative one. This is the human agenda.” 

~ Paul Hawken in ‘Drawdown’ book 

“Global warming is creating huge breakthroughs in energy, transport, agriculture, housing, urbanization, materials and more.” – Paul Hawken ‘What Does the Environmental Movement Need Right Now?’ 

 

Climate Change – Science 

“The science from the IPCC is extraordinary. Never has humanity come together in such a way and so assiduously to create what I call a problem statement.” – Paul Hawken ‘What Does the Environmental Movement Need Right Now?’ 
“It’s not about belief. It’s not a debate. Science is based on evidence. The people who think that the climatic stability of the Holocene period is going to extend for centuries to come are the ‘believers’. And there is no scientific evidence to support that belief.” – Paul Hawken, ‘The Intellectual Environmentalist’ on The Environment Show

 

Economics 

“We have an economy that tells us it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it.” 
“We have the capacity to create a remarkably different economy: one that can restore ecosystems and protect the environment while bringing forth innovation, prosperity, meaningful work, and true security.” 
“The proper study of economics is fulfillment, not consumption. It doesn’t even matter if it’s a green product or a green house. It’s still consumption. What matters in this world is the fulfillment of people’s needs and the fulfillment of their aspirations.” 

“We have an economy where we steal the future, sell it in the present, and call it GDP.”  

~ Paul Hawken

“We assume that everything’s becoming more efficient, and in an immediate sense that’s true; our lives are better in many ways. But that improvement has been gained through a massively inefficient use of natural resources.” 
“That inefficiency is masked because growth and progress are measured in money, and money does not give us information about ecological systems, it only gives information about financial systems.” 

 

Farming 

“The impact raising meat has on the environment is extraordinary.” 
“When cattle ranchers clear rain forests to raise beef to sell to fast-food chains that make hamburgers to sell to Americans, who have the highest rate of heart disease in the world (and spend the most money per GNP on health care), we can say easily that business is no longer developing the world. We have become its predator.” 
“When planes swoop down and aerial spray a field in order to kill a predator insect with pesticides, we are in the Dark Ages of commerce. Maybe one-thousandth of this aerial insecticide actually prevents the infestation. The balance goes to the leaves, into the soil, into the water, into all forms of wildlife, into ourselves. What is good for the balance sheet is wasteful of resources and harmful to life.” 

 

Food 

“Hindered by asthma since I was six weeks old, I had begun experimenting with my diet and discovered a disquieting correlation. When I stopped eating the normal American diet of sugar, fats, alcohol, chemicals, and additives, I felt better. I could breathe freely. When I tried to sneak in a hamburger and a Coke, my body rebelled.” 

 

Greening 

“The ‘simple act of planting a tree’ not only restores the places we live, but makes us whole and powerful again.” 
“You can’t achieve drawdown (of greenhouse gases) unless you sequester carbon, but right now the only way we know how to do it in a reliable way is photosynthesis.” 

 

Making a difference 

“My advice for people is to love the world they are in, in whatever way makes sense to them. It may be a devotional practice, it may be song or poetry, it may be by gardening, it may be as an activist, scientist, or community leader.” 

 

Natural Capitalism 

“Natural capital is easy to overlook because it is the pond we swim in. One can live perfectly well without ever giving a thought to the sulfur cycle or wetland functions. Only when the benefits nature provides are disrupted do we take notice.” 
“Our human destiny is inextricably linked to the actions of all other living things. Respecting this principle is the fundamental challenge in changing the nature of business.” 
“Throughout the industrial era, economists considered manufactured capital – money, factories, etc. – the principal factor in industrial production, and perceived natural capital as a marginal contributor. The exclusion of natural capital from balance sheets was an understandable omission. There was so much of it, it didn’t seem worth counting.” 

 

Nature  

“Biological diversity is messy. It walks, it crawls, it swims, it swoops, it buzzes. But extinction is silent, and it has no voice other than our own.” 

 

Nuclear Energy  

“Personally, I think nuclear is the most absurd way humanity has ever invented to boil water.” 

 

Politics 

“The rise of the so-called conservative political movement is not a trend towards the future but a reaction to this very broad shift that we are undergoing.” 
“Because most of the news we get is about the corruption, ignorance, and perfidy of human beings in power, it obscures how extraordinary we are. We wanted to bring a different message — we’re actually really good people.” – Paul Hawken in ‘A Plan to Reverse the Climate Crisis’ 

“This is not a liberal or conservative agenda. This is the human agenda.”

~ Paul Hawken, ‘Drawdown’ book  

“When people stop and look at the solutions for what they are, they’re not political.” – Paul Hawken in ‘A Plan to Reverse the Climate Crisis’ 
“Nobody is right about the future. It’s about having some humility and the capacity to learn and listen. The problem isn’t Congress. It’s our conversations — how we talk to each other.” – Paul Hawken in ‘A Plan to Reverse the Climate Crisis’ 
“The US Government has never led on climate change. States have led, cities have led, but never the federal government.” – Paul Hawken ‘This book ranks the top 100 solutions to climate change’ 

 

Population 

“The problems to be faced are vast and complex, but come down to this: 7 billion people are breeding exponentially. The process of fulfilling their wants and needs is stripping earth of its biotic capacity to produce life; a climactic burst of consumption by a single species is overwhelming the skies, earth, waters, and fauna.” 

 

Problems (and Opportunities)   

“Every problem is a pathway to transformation.” – Paul Hawken, ‘The Intellectual Environmentalist’ on The Environment Show 
“People move to possibility, they don’t move to constraint.” – Paul Hawken, ‘The Intellectual Environmentalist’ on The Environment Show 
“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.” 

 

Psychology  

“If you look at the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t have the correct data. If you meet people in this unnamed movement and aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a heart.” 
“Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider.” 
“The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful.” 

 

Purpose  

“I’d rather fail at something important than succeed at something trivial.” 

 

Sustainability  

“The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces, or at least not try to defy them.” 
“This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Civilization needs a new operating system.” 
“Sustainability, ensuring the future of life on Earth, is an infinite game, the endless expression of generosity on behalf of all.” 

 

Waste 

“We subsidize the disposal of waste in all its myriad forms from landfills to Superfund cleanups, from deep-well injection to storage of nuclear waste.” 

 

Women and Girls 

“Girls’ education, it turns out, has a dramatic bearing on global warming. Women with more years of education have fewer, healthier children and actively manage their reproductive health.” 
“We think it’s a solar panel that’s going to save the world. It’s not a panel — it’s a woman!” 

 

Related 

Thanks for reading our collection of Paul Hawken quotes. It’s part of our series – ‘Words of Wisdom’ from the world’s environmental leaders.

You can also read our profile of Paul Hawken.  

Read our summary and review of Paul Hawken’s book ‘Drawdown: the most comprehensive plan ever to reverse global warming’.  

And listen to our interview with Paul Hawken

Phil Stubbs

Blogger, Podcaster, Producer at The Environment Show

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