Hazel Henderson - Being A Global Acupuncturist For System Transformation

NOTE: This interview excerpt is transcript only

Photo Credit: www.sgiquarterly.org

Photo Credit: www.sgiquarterly.org

“We really are at the end of the old paradigm”


Hazel Henderson is a futurist and an economic iconoclast tireless in her efforts to inspire a better future. As a young immigrant mother in New York City’s soot-cloaked air, Hazel founded Citizens for Clean Air and catalyzed momentum for the Clean Air Act (1970). Astounded by the harm done by business, she authorized herself to speak for an alternative future of ethical markets as an original voice for corporate responsibility and the “love economy.” Hazel has warned of the economic risks of the “global casino” and advocated for a socially responsible economy through Ethical Markets Media, LLC and Certified B Corporation, and by establishing the "value" of such unquantifiables as clean air and clean water through the development of the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators now returned to her by Calvert and re-branded as the Ethical Markets QoLI. She has served as an advisor to the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment and the National Science Foundation, and has authored hundreds of articles and numerous books that have been global acupuncture points of revolutionary thought leadership.


On Leading Transcript

Seana Lowe Steffen, host: In The Power of Yin you say, “I know that I am the bearer of a small piece of evolutionary potential and that it has to be expressed.” As you look back on your life, what feels like potential fulfilled and what remains for you? 

Hazel Henderson, guest: I am beginning to feel, sort of, in the harvesting stage. The work I did to try to help people understand what was wrong with economics, where I felt very passionate about students not having to trudge through everything I trudged through, particularly in writing the Politics of the Solar Age and Paradigms in Progress, I wanted very much that students going into Econ 1 would somehow have access to those books,… So what I enjoy most that has been happening to me really for about the last 25 years, but more and more recently, is how many people actually did grab those books and read them, and how many people were saved years and years of plodding study because of those books. That really is a great thrill… What remains now, I’m very interested in continuing to weigh in on subject of defending the global commons because that’s just coming into view. How do you create the sources, the resources to protect the global commons and to create global public goods? You know, education for all? Healthcare for all? Environmental protection? Climate stabilization, to the extent that we’re still able to do much about it? And so that leads me to another area where I’m going to continue working and that is reforming global finance, because where all those things come together for me is levying a low 1% financial transaction tax on all trading of stocks, bonds, options, futures, around the world. That is the most systemic way to deal with about five problems with one intervention, and as a systems thinker, that’s what I’m always trying to do. I like to call myself a global acupuncturist. I’m always looking for the intervention point where one finely honed policy needle, if applied at the right subsystem, can reconfigure the larger system, and for me that’s the financial transaction tax. I wrote about that in Building a Win-Win World, and also in the book that I edited called the United Nations: Policy and Financing Alternatives, … This is all part of my philosophy about how you contribute that little bit of potential that each one of us has, that you do this stuff and you know that you put it on the shelf and that politicians are not going to be interested in any of these things until they absolutely have to be, but then the work is done and people can then build on what you’ve put up there on the shelf. They can bring it down and hopefully adapt it and use it. ... We really are at the end of the old paradigm.  

Seana: What do you think are the keys to your success with the work that you do? 

Hazel: It is because I have a tremendous zest for this sort of thing, I have a great zest for challenging authority, … I just love to do that, it gives me a chuckle.  

Seana: Is there anything else you’d like to say about the keys to your success and what you would like others to know? 

Hazel: Deep, deep down it’s really about that four-letter word, the unspeakable four letter word: love. You have to love life and approach your fellow creatures in a loving and respectful way. It’s truly the way I feel, that we are just totally brilliant and wonderful, and it’s a matter of the circumstances that we were born into… 

Seana: What do those working for it, for ecological sustainability and collective wellbeing need to be successful in your opinion? 

Hazel: The thing that they have to have is stick-to-it-iveness. They have to find very deep wells of motivation and of course be incentivized in a more spiritual way because they’re not going to be incentivized by the current money culture. What that gets you is greenwashing. Right now we are having to be extraordinarily careful, stepping this line between companies that are really dedicated to improving their ecological sustainability, and the ones who are greenwashing. The green label now is suddenly very attractive, and so that requires more and more care to examine what companies are doing vis-a-vis what they say they are doing. So I think all of those people that you reference, you know, who really, really are dedicated to ecological sustainability and collective well-being, they have to hold their values very, very clearly, and be incredibly courageous about expressing their values honestly, and challenging the existing cultural paradigm and all of the ways that the business as usual model will try to keep replicating itself. What people like us, and I’ll say that because we’re all in this together working for this sort of wellbeing, what we have to realize is that what we’re doing is basically trying to change many malfunctioning strands of cultural DNA that are very deeply embedded in the hard-drives of societies and even in our own heads. The impulse of the current system to replicate itself is very, very strong. But what I learned from dear Elise Boulding, she used to always say that the kind of sociology that she believed in was that you only needed 5% or so of a population to have a different set of values deviant from the current culture, the existing culture. And if those people were active change agents and great networkers and great organizers, they actually could shift an entire system into a new pattern. I thoroughly believe that because I’ve seen it happen so many times. 

Seana: Above all else, what would you have all leaders do at this time in our planet’s history? 

Hazel: Well, we’re all leaders, we’re all potential leaders, so there again that word is incredibly misunderstood and misused because most of the leaders that lead our governments and businesses, and even our academic institutions, I would not really consider leaders. They are followers of the dominant culture and they stick a wet finger up in the air and see which way the wind is blowing. It’s not leadership, really, it’s followership. So let’s redefine that word leader and make sure that it means the potential that everybody has.

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ETHICAL MARKETS MEDIA is an independent media company promoting the emergence of a sustainable, green, more ethical and just economy worldwide. We share the goals of all our non-profit groups and friends listed on our Partners/Links page.   We research, assist and report on all the new organizations: civic, non-profit and for-profit, as well as individuals working for the transition to the new economies of the dawning information-rich solar age.


World-renowned futurist Hazel Henderson extends her twenty-five years of work in economics to examine the havoc the current economic system is creating at the global level. Markets are now spreading worldwide - a spread which is often equated with the hope of democracy spreading along with it. But markets still run on old textbook models that ignore social and environmental costs - leading to a new kind of warfare: global economic warfare. Building a Win-Win World demonstrates how the global economy is unsustainable because of its negative effects on employees, families, communities, and the ecosystem. Henderson shows how win-win strategies can become the norm at every level when people see the true current and future costs of short-sighted, narrow economic policies.