Last week I stumbled upon a commencement speech Paul Hawken delivered to the University of Portland’s graduating Class of 2009. If there is any assigned reading for those working on environmental issues, the transcript of this speech should be one.
His speech was incredibly motivating. I could spend hours analyzing the message, but there was one phrase in particular that really stood out as a reason behind why we all continue to have a dog in the environmental fight.
“If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.”
Environmental progress is not easily accomplished. It can be extremely discouraging to think of the brick walls that lay ahead. But just as easy as it is to become discouraged, so too can you be inspired by the headway and small environmental victories that are achieved. When you see how many people are working on environmental issues, you cannot help but feel hopeful that the challenge is not as great.
In the words of the inspiring Randy Pausch, “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people.”
If you wave the white flag and surrender in the face of uncertain success and unrelenting challenges than you do not deserve to succeed. If a simple “no” or a small bump in the road is enough to dissuade you, than you do not belong in the fight. You have to have heart and passion; it is what will encourage you in the face of the mounting brick walls. We have made great strides towards environmental prosperity, but this is only the beginning of the fight and there is a lot of rounds left in the ring.