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Sustainability Heroes: John Perkins, Economic Hit Man Turned Eco Do-Gooder

Through Tom Kemper's years of walking his own journey to sustainability, he has discovered,  and counts among his many "sustainability heroes ", the present-day leaders doing great good  for our planet and its occupants. The first hero which we'll introduce is John Perkins. Others will  soon follow.

"When you look at the world we humans have created, you may conclude that it was created by sleeping people, because awake, aware, conscious people would manifest a very different world. We have entered one of the most important periods in human history.  We have the opportunity to lift ourselves to new levels of consciousness. " --John Perkins

Many people's lives changed on September 11, 2001. John Perkins' was one of them.

He had spent years as an economic hit man, someone who convinced poor countries to accept huge loans for infrastructure projects they couldn't afford, then guaranteed that those projects were contracted to U.S. corporations. Once the Third World countries were overburdened by debt from loans that were much too large to begin with, the U.S. government and those aid agencies allied with it could control the countries' economies and resources in ways that served their own good.

But after the terrorist attacks on that fateful day, Perkins decided enough was enough and ended his vow of silence about his life as an economic hit man. Pushing away the threats and bribes, he penned Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, spilling his insider knowledge on the way this system operates. His work is not without detractors, some of whom claim his story is implausible, far too conspiratorial. Perkins remains steadfast in his claims, and has followed up Confessions with The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption, which offers further evidence of the negative impact global corporations have on these disadvantaged Third World nations, and Hoodwinked, which takes a look at how we got into the financial mess we're in today (hint: it has to do with the fact that economic hit men even exist).

Being an economic hit man, however, is far from the only thing Perkins has done in his career -- he's also run a successful alternative energy company; become an expert on shamanism; and written eight books, including The Stress-Free Habit: Powerful Techniques for Health and Longevity from the Andes, Yucatan, and Far East and Shapeshifting: Techniques for Global and Personal Transformation.

Perkins became a champion for indigenous rights and environmental movements beginning in the 1990s; of significant interest was working with Amazon tribes to help preserve their rain forests. Using money he'd earned as an economic hit man and applying it toward nonprofit ventures, he was able to assuage a bit of the guilt that came from his past life.

Today, Perkins works with nonprofits worldwide and his own organization, Dream Change, which aims to help people better their own lives while keeping the sustainability of their communities and the planet in mind.

These days, Perkins doesn't travel all over, sweet-talking and cajoling the leaders of poor countries into building airports and dams their taxpayers can't finance. Instead, he has a goal of a different sort. On his website, he sums it up as this: "My mission is to do everything I possibly can to create a sustainable, just, and peaceful world for my grandson, Grant. To accomplish that requires the creation of such a world for every child born on every inch of this planet. For the first time in history, we are all interconnected. We share the same crises, including climate change, overpopulation, species extinctions, diminishing resources, and rising prices for the things that are essential to our lives. And we all understand this; we are all communicating with each other, through cell phones and over the Internet. We know that there will be no homeland security until we recognize that the entire world is our homeland. "

To learn more about Perkins, visit

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