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Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,726 ratings  ·  223 reviews
One of the world’s most influential environmentalists reveals a worldwide grassroots movement of hope and humanity

Blessed Unrest tells the story of a worldwide movement that is largely unseen by politicians or the media. Hawken, an environmentalist and author, has spent more than a decade researching organizations dedicated to restoring the environment and fostering soci
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published May 10th 2007 by Viking Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Robert McDonald
Dec 10, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people into the World Social Forum process
Paul Hawken’s new book, entitled Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming, makes a simple argument in a straightforward fashion. This makes the book infinitely more readable than another book that makes a similar argument in incomprehensible poetic prose, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire by Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt . The only problem with the clarity of Hawken’s argument is that it brings into full relief its defic ...more
Allison Myers
Apr 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
I forced my way through this book because its written by Paul Hawken, one of the authors of Natural Capitalism (one of my very favorites). But man, it was hard to get through. Overly emotional and too historical. The bits about the civil rights movement were interesting though. Anway, I was about half way through when I realized I couldn't sludge on any further. So I peeked ahead to see if there was anything else I wanted to read- and realized that I wasn't half way through, but nearly done! The ...more
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gen-nonfiction
as a friend pointed out, the blurbs alone deem this a must-read (jane goodall, bill mckibben, barry lopez, terry tempest williams, david james duncan, & david suzuki). at the beginning of blessed unrest, hawken succinctly remarks, "in total, the book is inadvertently optimistic, an odd thing in these bleak times." indeed. refreshingly propitious, hawken counters prevailing disillusionment and listlessness with numerous examples of innumerable organizations acting to effect beneficial, lasting ch ...more
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
The author teetered on a tightrope between solidarity on one side, and status quo post-Cold-War “non-ideology” illusions on the other. Must I perform this circus act with my review?

The Good:
--If we can set aside the rampant cognitive dissonance for a moment, there were some positive moments. The eulogy to Rachel Carson was heartfelt, and the framing of the Luddites movement as a workers protest against deskilling and loss of worker autonomy stood out (Progress Without People: In Defense of Ludd
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
My copy of this book has a different subtitle than the one listed above. Mine is "How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World." The change is for the better since I am hard-pressed to imagine a world where grace has been restored; is there even a dance floor that can handle such smooth gesticulations? I am on-board with the use of justice, though beauty kills it for me. Subtitles should be an art form, but, ultimately, have to be the boring hal ...more
Jan 03, 2010 rated it liked it
I think the main idea of the book is summed up on page 162:
"Ideologies exclude openness, diversity, resiliancy, and multiplicity, the very qualities that noursih life in any system, be it ecosystem, immune system, or social system. Hundreds of thousands of small groups are trying to ignite an array of ideas in the world, fanning them like embers. Ideas are living things; they can be changed and adapted, and can grow. Ideas do not belong to anyone, and require no approval. This may sound ethereal
Erika RS
May 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book is about... well, I am not completely sure what. Nominally, it is about "the movement" which is the joint effect of the various diverse and dispersed environmental and social justice groups throughout the world. However, the book tends to ramble all over, so it is hard to get a point from the book beyond these groups exist, they encompass lots of people, and they are a source of hope, even as things seem grim.

So the book gets only an "okay" from me for being rambly, but it does have lo
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am pretty surprised by the 2 star reviews for this book, though I acknowledge the validity of those arguments. My copy is the softcover with a different subtitle ("How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World") and it is with this notion in mind that I went into reading this book.

Perhaps it's because of the time I read this--the climate crisis is a household term, many of us are living and breathing environmental problems and solutions--and fr
Glen Grunau
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really needed to read this book! If for no other reason than because I was raised under the influence of a fundamentalist ideology fueled by the political right, which so often promotes the unrestrained growth of capitalism while disregarding the environment as anything more than a means to this end. After all, the earth is going to be burned up anyways when all the good people disappear! Hawken quotes C.S. Lewis: "What we call Man's power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some ...more
Blessed Unrest purports to be about the “movement of movements” that is currently upwelling on a local, case-by-case basis against the symptoms of civilization's depredations. The book went far beyond that, however, and fulfilled promises I didn't realize it had made. Hawken doesn't spend much time giving history or anatomy of the “movement” in question, and the only specific examples he gives occur in the context of larger points.

Instead, the thesis is of the book is an effective, elegant, and
Dec 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmm. I don't think this is what I expected, but I'm also not sure what I expected. I appreciate Hawken's position that "the movement" is more than just environmentalism, more than just social justice, more than just the rights of indigenous people to live and thrive -- but all of these, together. I also appreciate that he chronicles the histories of many aspects of "the movment", and is often able to look critically upon them (especially the sections on Thoreau, Ghandi, King, Carson).

I'm not rea
Linda Robinson
Jul 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
There are a lot of really big words in the reportage of the movement that no one saw, but this is a remarkably adept condensing of how commerce was allowed to trump humans, how humans trampled the earth (and continue to do so) and how many organizations there are trying to stop the stampede, one little NGO at a time. The story of climate change, the pillage of indigenous lands and culture, and the grim tale of the search for cheaper labor is heart-stopping in one volume, but Hawken finds the yin ...more
Even though this book was only 190 pages it took me quite a while to get through - the book starts out quite dry, but it starts to show potential in the second chapter when the author talks about the emergence of the environmental movement and how it becomes related to health thanks to the influence of Rachel Carlson.

His book goes into ups and downs in grabbing the reader's attention. The moments that were exciting was when he was talking about the movements and the different work of NGOs, but
Hannah Debelius
Jan 27, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a book designed to reassure and slightly realign the "choir." Perhaps if I had read it when it first came out or any other time except the week Trump became president it would be a 4, but it's a tough time to push through this. That said, it offers phenomenal historical context for the movement, strong reason for optimism, and a good perspective on social justice and resilience. Definitely thought provoking in the light of the Women's March this week. ...more
Jul 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
At last! A hopeful book! Seeing the emergence of grass-roots organizations committed to social and environmental justice, and knitting together these observations with commentary of the trends, the author has a compellingly positive message - we ARE pulling together to save the world. Now, we "just" have to make it happen and it truly WILL be a hopeful time again. ...more
Kathy Truman
Jul 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is the book for all the people in the trenches of justice work, feeling discouraged about changing the world, feeling alone, powerless. It provides a picture of hope and optimism to keep on moving mountains, one shovelful at a time. It is full of web links to assist in connecting the global network of change agents.
Kohl Gill
Jul 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Kohl by: Allison Coleman
I was surprised and impressed with BU. Since reading this, I've definitely approached social and environmental justice with a new outlook. NB: a large chunk of this text is a list of relevant organizations that works better on the web. ...more
Apr 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Movement of Movements - the self-organizing, powerful and natural force of mankind forming a new paradigm of conscious co-creation!
Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Very dry read, almost like a textbook, but not very informative. Not at all what I expected from such an inspiring public speaker.
Shasta McBride
Jun 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
whew! excerpt:

While so much is going wrong, so much is going right. Over the years the ingenuity of organizations, engineers, designers, social entrepreneurs, and individuals has created a powerful arsenal of alternatives. The financial and technical means are in place to address and restore the needs of the biosphere and society. Poverty, hunger, and preventable childhood diseases can be eliminated in a single generation. Energy use can be reduced 80 percent in developed countries within 30 ye
Brian Griffith
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
As a speaker on environmental issues, Hawken always found it difficult to balance honesty about bleak realities with a need to inspire hope. But after each speech, he kept meeting groups of dedicated activists, till he had a small mountain of their business cards. Slowly it dawned on him that these organizations represented something enormous -- maybe greatest movement of hope in world history. And perhaps this mushrooming movement was gonna be the greatest story of his life. Though the well ove ...more
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book covers the history of Environmentalism as a movement like no other movement. Certain highlights I took from this book:
-Although the movement to end Climate Change is different from other social justice movements, it can still be riddled with the common issues found in activism that ends up harming or ruining movements. The common issues in activism are self-righteousness associated with the savior complex. Cliques, gossiping, and backbiting that harms movements but is very prevalent. V
Summer Kartchner Olsen
I don't know why it took me so long to read this one. There were a lot of opinions and assumptions in the book that I disagreed with, but there were also a lot of really great ideas and reading this book has definitely impacted me for the better.

My two biggest complaints: 1) The author seemed to attack Christianity a lot, but then later on would include Christians in "the movement". I know that Christians have committed great atrocities throughout history, but if they have done it in the name o
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
"The strands that connect Emerson to Thoreau, Thoreau to Gandhi and King, and Gandhi to Parks and King, all express Emerson's faith that thought 'was send and meant for participation in the world....' History tends by its very nature to obscure the mundane acts that are the harbingers of change. What if Thoreau had not attended Emerson's lecture or read his book? What if Thoreau had paid his poll tax? What if the title to his essay had not been changed to Civil Disobedience? What if Virginia Dur ...more
Virginia Bryant
May 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a great delineation of new paradigm thought and observation.

Before anything else, it should be noted that this is a great source book for a wide variety of organizations working to be helpful to the birth of the new world we must inhabit if we are to go on........

"“It has been said that we cannot save our planet from escalating and wide spread misery and torment unless humankind undergoes a widespread spiritual...awakening In other words, fixes won;t fix unless we fix our souls as well..
Ellen Johnson
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I liked it at the start, well, not really, um I guess I did end up skipping most of the Introduction which was ponderous. But THEN I really did start liking it and loved all the narratives of what different groups had to contend with and what they accomplished, in human rights and the environment. the chapters don't really make a coherent book and some are better than others. By the time I got through I wasn't liking it so much. I like that it puts things in historical perspective so we can see ...more
Mar 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I found this book hard to get through at times, but I enjoyed the premise. Hawken draws together threads of history, science, and culture to show how each thing is inseparable from the other, so "the movement", as he refers to it, is one of many different causes that must all be dealt with together in order to heal our world. It is especially interesting to read this book 12 years after it was written, seeing how the observations Hawken made have played out. The book was, however, quite boring a ...more
Sep 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Be patient with its writing style, lengthy paragraph, small and tight format, and I found this is a good book to look back the whole picture of environmetalism, activitism. Seeing how the work has been progressed/evolved over times is refreshing in some chapters.

And its appendix is astonishing in its comprehensive key words on environmetalism, activitism. Great reference to quickly grasp definition.

Some note:
- Environemental movement = environmental justice movement and social justice movement.
David Pencheon
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am enjoying this book so much that I am deliberately reading it slowly. That means really slowly as I am a slow reader anyway. I like to chew over the sentences and re-read the ones I love. My enjoyment in reading this is only matched by my nervousness that is feeding every prejudice I have and strengthening them without challenging them. Is that normal? Also reading another book by same author simultaneously (Natural Capitalism) which is equally reinforcing of my values and beliefs.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I do want to read more recent books by Hawken.
Not sure whether I was put off by the latent eco-colonialism (that was common at the time this book was written and for near a decade after) or because it was challenging me and my views so much I just couldn't emotionally deal at the time.
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Paul Hawken is the co-founder of several businesses, and lives in Sausalito, California.

News & Interviews

Kazuo Ishiguro insists he’s an optimist about technology.  “I'm not one of these people who thinks it's going to come and destroy us,” he...
237 likes · 26 comments
“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.” 4 likes
“Wrong is an addictive, repetitive story; Right is where the movement is.” 4 likes
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