Paul Hawken’s new book Blessed Unrest is a much-needed analysis of the movement that’s poised to change the world as we know it. It’s a must read, (excerpted here in Orion magazine) even if you’re not a self-described grassroots activist. In it, he states that “the movement to restore people and planet is now composed of over one million organizations” working toward ecological sustainability and social justice. Maybe two million. And that:

By conventional definition, this is not a movement. Movements have leaders and ideologies. You join movements, study tracts, and identify yourself with a group. You read the biography of the founder(s) or listen to them perorate on tape or in person. Movements have followers, but this movement doesn’t work that way. It is dispersed, inchoate, and fiercely independent. There is no manifesto or doctrine, no authority to check with.

Like we witnessed with the success of Step It Up 2007, the movement can’t be divided because it is composed of many small pieces, forming, gathering, and disbanding quickly as need be. The media and politicians may dismiss it as powerless, but "it has been known to bring down governments, companies, and leaders through witnessing, informing, and massing."

This is one of his main conclusions:

It’s the largest social movement in all of history, and yet no one knows its scope. From the local watershed council to immigrants’ rights groups and the many great non-profit urban gardening programs, they’re all part of this fabric. As he says:

The movement has three basic roots: the environmental and social justice movements, and indigenous cultures’ resistance to globalization — all of which are intertwining. It arises spontaneously from different economic sectors, cultures, regions, and cohorts, resulting in a global, classless, diverse, and embedded movement, spreading worldwide without exception. In a world grown too complex for constrictive ideologies, the very word movement may be too small, for it is the largest coming together of citizens in history.

And the time is ripe …

Historically, social movements have arisen primarily because of injustice, inequalities, and corruption. Those woes remain legion, but a new condition exists that has no precedent: the planet has a life-threatening disease that is marked by massive ecological degradation and rapid climate change. It crossed my mind that perhaps I was seeing something organic, if not biologic. Rather than a movement in the conventional sense, is it a collective response to threat? Is it splintered for reasons that are innate to its purpose? Or is it simply disorganized? More questions followed. How does it function? How fast is it growing? How is it connected? Why is it largely ignored?

Projects like Hawken’s new catalog of worldwide grassroots groups called WiserEarth, plus networks like Idealist.org, the Orion Grassroots Network, and OneWorld constitute the connective tissue needed to bring the big picture of this movement into focus, giving the myriad groups working for people and planet ways to connect and act with one voice — one that can’t be ignored. That voice is growing, and it’s not a second too soon.