This week’s guest is a legend of American environmentalism, Paul Hawken. Paul starts ecological businesses, writes about nature and commerce, and consults with governments and CEOs on climatic, economic and ecological regeneration. He lives in Cascade Canyon in Northern California with nuthatches, grey fox, coyotes, pileated woodpeckers, and a red-shouldered hawk who visits regularly on field mouse patrol.  He has written eight books, is published in 30 languages, and his books are available in over 90 countries. His book Drawdown, The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming debuted as a NYT bestseller in 2017. He just completed his latest work in September, Regeneration, Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation. Paul will send a free copy to the first person who can guess his favorite food (hint: it is a plant).

I’ve known Paul since we met at Mountainfilm in Telluride, Colorado, in May 2007. It was a real joy to catch up with him, and talk about regeneration, apocalypse, fear, joy and courage, behaviour change, climate communication, COP26, male vertebrates, plant intelligence, and being a piss poor Buddhist.

It was such a joy for me to spend time with Paul again. He has this wonderful mix of serenity and spark, positivity and practicality, and a determination to make the world a better place while also a Buddhist acceptance of what is. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.

Patreons can enjoy this podcast from today. If you’re not yet a supporter on Patreon, do please consider signing up. Benefits for patrons include live zoom calls with me, and access to the video version of the conversation. Else you can enjoy this podcast from next week for free on the usual podcast platforms.

And our archive of conversations – with Charles Eisenstein, Tim Jackson, Jude Currivan, Bill McKibben, Sharon Blackie and Ted Rau are available for free on Spotify, and now also on Apple Podcasts!

My favourite quotes from this conversation:

Paul’s chosen quote, from Wendell Berry: “Be joyous though you know all the facts.”

The question is, do we go into anxiety? Do we go into fear? Do we go into a sense of doom? Do we go into apocalyptic scenarios? Do we want to lead our life that way? You’re only here for a short time, so who you want to be while you are here? To me, global warming and all the ancillary outcomes and effects and impacts that has, is that we’re really being homeschooled by the planet. It’s a teaching, we’re the students, we all live here, we’re the inhabitants of the biosphere. And so we can be grateful. We can honour suffering and feel a sense of compassion, we can act out of kindness, we can think of ourselves as human beings who are innately generous, as opposed to fear-based and selfish.

Hope is the pretty mask of fear. And what we need to be now is fearful and courageous, courage is heart, full of heart. And the rest of it is simply a dalliance.

Science does not change people. Data does not change people. Numbers do not change behaviour. Acronyms do not change behaviour. Fear does not change, threat does not change… shaming, blaming, guilt – this is what the climate communication has been about for decades, frankly. And it doesn’t work. It’s not that it isn’t true, factually. It’s just in terms of human beings, we don’t respond that way.

We hear these terms – we’re gonna fight climate change, combat this, we’re going to mitigate it. These are verbs, and verbs are not goals. Nouns are goals. So what’s our goal? Is our goal to combat? I don’t think so. 

People will talk about, well, we need to fix it. Interesting. Two words, a verb and an object, right? “Fix it,” really? What is it? Can somebody tell me what it is? As soon as you speak in that kind of lingo, and you think that way, basically, you are entirely separating yourself from where you live, and from the biosphere and from others. 

The Ashwar people in the Amazon have no word for nature. They don’t even understand what you’re talking about. They don’t have a language in which they can understand that kind of separation.

The thing about regeneration, which is so beautiful about the word, to my way of thinking is, it’s innate to us as human beings. That is to say, we do it every day, our 30 trillion cells do it every nanosecond. But we also do it with our friends, with our family, with our pets, we do with our plants, our garden. We are constantly attending to things in our life, to ensure that there’s more life, that they grow, that they prosper, that they thrive, that they’re nurtured, and this is innate to be human being. So the paradigm of combating, fighting, tackling, mitigating climate change, like, really? Do you think that’s gonna work? It’s not gonna work, because people don’t think that way. They don’t act that way. But regeneration is something we already do. So that’s what the book [Regeneration] is trying to do – it’s trying to enlarge that sense of the scope and the possibility of what’s possible, to put life at the centre of every act and decision, to restore life as we know it, wherever we can, with whomever we wish to, or whoever wants to work with us, and so forth. And if we do that, if enough of us do that, we reverse global warming. There’s no other way to do it.

Act, just act. Do whatever you can and act and continue to act. And that changes you more profoundly than any book or any podcast, because the love of self is to act, and to have faith that it will take you to a better, newer life within oneself, and for others as well.

Choose what lights you up, where you go, man, I love that, or I want to know more about that. Or Wow, I had no idea that that even existed. That’s what you should go and choose and that is the regeneration of the world.


Paul’s website:

Project Drawdown:



Photo by Leio McLaren on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *