March 14, 2012

First Rainforest Action—Now, the Future of Humanity—What Drives Randy Hayes?

Photo: James Jordan

To be well grounded and deeply rooted in spiritual awareness is an essential quality for those stepping onto the path of radical activism.  

Randy Hayes is a radical activist in the absolute best sense of the phrase. I happen to love etymology because it provides flavor and texture and context to our language. Radical comes from the Latin (radix or radicalis) meaning root. Exploring the root causes of our modern day imbalances is exactly what Randy’s activism is all about.  

Randy Hayes shares many colorful stories of his journey as the founder of Rainforest Action Network (RAN). As one might expect, The Wall Street Journal characterized him as an “Environmental Pit Bull.”

If we must use dogs as our analogy, I see Randy more like a tenacious and determined “junk yard dog,” skillfully and courageously protecting what remains of our Garden of Eden here on Earth. With his new NGO, Foundation Earth, he and his colleagues are doing nothing short of re-thinking humanity’s role in the web of life on our planet. Respect for Nature is the driver of his inspiration and passion.

In 1985, Randy Hayes launched The Rainforest Action Network with an inexpensive national media campaign to “get the message out” about the devastation of the lungs of our planet. Now, in large part thanks to Randy and RAN, the plight of our global forests is well known throughout the world.

If you launched one of the most effective grass roots environmental organizations, would you stop there? Would you say, “I’ve done my part; I’ve made my contribution”? Not this self-described  “Hillbilly from West Virginia.”

Randy Hayes at the Podium

Randy Hayes is determined to go forth in these turbulent times with a good attitude. He is acutely aware that wish-en’ and a hope-en’ won’t get us to where we need to be; the challenges are too great for hope alone to carry the day.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be a “hope-aholic.” However, hope is simply an empty emotion, unless it is combined with an action plan.

A few years ago, at a conference on a Theological Future at the Aspen Institute, I asked the Bishop of the Episcopal church, “If Christianity was a business, what business would it be in?”

His immediate answer was this: “Christianity is in the business of selling hope.” This was a Bishop, mind you! That observation provided a huge wake up call for me and hopefully (there I go again) a lot of other folks—sheds a whole new light on things, don’t it?

As Randy recently shared with me in a conversation, and I paraphrase:

All the data about the health of our planet sure looks grim. There’s not a lot of evidence suggesting that we should be hopeful.

Moving on, he said, “if we’re going to lose this challenge to protect the Earth and awaken humanity, let’s lose big!”

To make our efforts worthwhile, we’ve got to maintain a good attitude and do our very best to turn things around. That’s what Randy’s new Foundation Earth is all about—staying positive, doing our best and turning things around with an entirely new strategy. What’s worse, being indifferent to the suffering of our planet or living in a pervasive mood of resignation and despair? Neither of these energies does anyone any good. For the health of our communities and Nature, the Earth needs our good energy and our good voices to speak up and take action.

As Margaret Mead once admonished me in response to my question: “When facing overwhelming challenges, where do we begin?”

Her tart response: “Everywhere at once, young man, everywhere at once!”

Educating journalists is a big part of the challenge. “We used to have a free press, now it’s referred to as media.” For right-wing conservatives it’s the “elite media”—for those on the left, it’s corporate controlled. No matter what your perspective on main stream media is, all forms of societal communications are rapidly transforming, in part thanks to the blogosphere. This transformation affords huge opportunities to re-educate and inform the sleeping masses.

One of Randy’s strategies is to “ecologize the economic debate.” He recognizes it’s time to reveal the truth about standard accounting practices and expose “cheater economics.” By reporting the true environmental costs of all economic activity and “outing” businesses that pollute, journalists can perform a great service to humanity.

Randy has a strategic focus to transform basic economics. It is past time to disallow “externalities” on the balance sheet of companies. It’s brilliantly simple. In business today, accountants and corporate executives don’t have to reveal the true cost of doing business. Even with the advent of conscious capitalism and the emergence of B-Lab & Benefit Corporations, standard accounting practices for the majority of businesses prevail.

Currently, if a company’s activities pollute the water, the ground and the air, their balance sheet doesn’t have to reflect the true cost of the affects of their business activity. We all know the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can’t keep up with the necessary monitoring of all the damage being done. The reality is this: corporations are legally required to focus on maximizing shareholder profits. Doing only what law requires allows companies to avoid doing what is right for all stakeholders (that’s you and me). Randy and Foundation Earth are working hard to transform the regulatory environment to require Ecological Auditing by changing laws. A key leverage point to protect our environment is to empower the full force of the Securities Exchange Commission with new regulations.

Wouldn’t you agree, it’s time human behavior and all of our business practices consciously transformed as well? Randy knows and you know, “The House is On Fire!”

[audio:http://img.elephantjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Randy-Hayes-Interview-CLIP11.mp3|titles=In Randy’s own words – how he learned about deep sustainability]

Randy has a 500 year plan, which he may have absorbed from his time with the Hopi. Certainly not raised as a Native American, he was nonetheless, strongly influenced by the indigenous tradition of his great grandmother , a Blackfoot and especially by the ten years he spent off and on as “secretary and chauffeur” to Hopi elders. This, as he put it, was his post-graduate education about long-term sustainability.

Now, we have an opportunity to learn from him.

Stay engaged with his work here on Facebook.

Learn how to be part of the movement and give Foundation Earth a thumbs up. Here’s what Randy says about his new mission with this important NGO:

[audio:http://img.elephantjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Randy-Hayes-Interview-CLIP-2-Ground-Troops.mp3|titles=Randy Hayes Interview a whole new strategy]

Rather than a song, I’ll leave you with a Michael Jackson poem, I’m certain he’d like you to take it to heart.

Onward with courage.

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Editor: B. Bemel


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