Here’s a challenge for this year’s college graduates:

“You are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on Earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation – but not one peer-reviewed paper publishing in the last 20 years can refute that statement.”

No pressure there, entrepreneur and author Paul Hawken told the 2009 graduates of the University of Portland, in Portland, Oregon.

“Asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on Earth and aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse,” Hawken said. “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.”

Hawken spoke of “tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes … failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets …. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product.”

“Basically, the Earth needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades,” Hawken said.

Take a look at the full text of his inspiring commencement talk.

Topics: Climate Science