Paul Hawken | University of Portland

Paul Hawken

Watch Paul Hawken's 2009 Commencement Address
Paul Hawken is a renowned American entrepreneur (he founded the natural food company Erewhon, the software company Datafusion, and the retail company Smith & Hawken, among other entities), eloquent and passionate environmentalist, and best-selling author of several books, most recently Blessed Unrest, about "the worldwide movement for social and environmental change, about humanity's collective genius, about the unstoppable movement to reimagine our relationship to the environment and one another." He is widely considered one of the world's leading architects and proponents of corporate reform with respect to ecological practices, and is a remarkably influential voice as businesses both in America and abroad reinvent themselves in the face of ecological crisis and entrepreneurial opportunity.

Hawken has been passionately engaged in American possibility for more than forty years; in his teens he worked on Martin Luther King's staff in Selma, Alabama (shepherding Leonard Bernstein and Ella Fitzgerald to the final march) and was later kidnapped by the Ku Klux Klan; in his twenties he founded America's first natural foods company, in Boston; in his thirties he started the horticultural company Smith & Hawken; in his forties he led the advancement of the Natural Step organization to the United States, to the principles of which the University of Portland aspires; and since then he has created various companies dealing with fluid and thermodynamics, water policy and management, investments, information delivery, and sustainable practices in many fields of endeavor.

Renowned as an articulate and energetic speaker — he has addressed audiences in Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, France, and England, as well as countless cities in America — he is an even finer writer, both vastly informed and graceful in delivery. His first bestseller, The Next Economy (1983), predicted the rise of environmental entrepreneurism; his next, Growing a Business (1987), was turned into a PBS series and distributed to 115 countries by the U.S. Information Agency, to encourage and inform emerging businesses in lesser-developed countries. These books were followed by Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability (1993) and Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution (1999), also best-sellers around the world, but it is Blessed Unrest (2007) that may be his most visionary contribution to modern life. Hawken spent more than ten years researching organizations dedicated to restoring the environment and fostering social justice. From billion-dollar nonprofits to single-person dot.causes, these groups —more than a million —collectively comprise the largest movement on earth, a movement with no name, leader, or location, a movement largely ignored by politicians and the media, a movement emerging, writes Hawken, as an extraordinary and creative expression of human needs and gifts worldwide. "The movers and shakers on our planet," says author Bill McKibben, "are the incredible numbers of people around the world filled with love for neighbor and for the earth who are resisting, remaking, restoring, renewing, revitalizing. This book is their story, our story, and nothing you read will fill you with more hope."