Henk Rogers writes poetry.
And, in return for poetry, he eventually handed me the whole planet. But not before a tough negotiation that involved two cards he extended to me, directing me to choose just one.
“They’re yin and yang,” he said. “Non-profit and business.”
I loved the way the white card looked. So simple and streamlined. I took it from his hand and considered. The card was cotton-soft, comforting. I ran my fingertip over the embossed logo for Blue Planet Foundation.
Henk, full of irrepressible good nature, continued to hold both cards out to me, knowing I hadn’t really made my decision yet, even though I was holding the white one in my hand. “Good and evil,” he quipped. “You can’t have one without the other.”
“No, you have to choose one. Non-profit, or business?”
I tried bargaining with him. “I’m giving you a whole book. Can’t you give me just two little cards?”
“No, you have to choose.”
“You drive a hard bargain,” I said. He could see I wasn’t quite happy with having to choose one over the other, and though he held his ground on the choosing part, he suddenly reached into his pocket and produced a nice-sized blue planet marble. “I’ll give you the whole planet.”
“Really, for me?” I said. “A marble. I can have it?” He smiled and assured me he was truly handing me the beautiful glass planet Earth.
I took the black card from his hand. “I run a business,” I said. “I think I’ll take this one.”
I knew I’d go home from the Drawdown Learn conference and look up both the business and the non-profit, so it truly didn’t matter which card I took, because I understood that if I had the information on one I could access the other. Still, I had to land somewhere. I had to choose. He was immovable on this point.
I’ve been thinking about our exchange ever since. And, someday, if I meet Henk again, I will ask him why he compels the choice. But even without knowing for sure what his reasons are, I see the power of the exercise, and I see the way it carries forward philosophically and psychologically—touching on identity, cares, fascinations, aesthetics, strategy style, and more. There was a whole world in that exchange, and it seems apt that, in the end, he handed me the planet to close the deal.
Henk’s background is in gaming, which itself is often about a range of choices and how they move things forward for the players involved. At the Drawdown conference’s evening expo, I watched as he talked with great enthusiasm with the game developer at the table to my right, before I caught his eye and pointed to the poetry book, miming, “I want to give this to you.”
I did not know who Henk Rogers was before I offered him the book. I just knew that, though I had limited copies, one of the books needed to be his. Maybe it was his obvious warmth. His generous presence. The way he was engaging with the game developer—in both an inquisitive and idea-driven fashion.
Later in the conference, I would hear Henk speak, and I would understand that though when I asked him why he cares about climate he said, “Because I’m not stupid” (so I jokingly offered to sign the book to him, “To Henk, who is not stupid,” and that made him laugh), his care goes further than that. Henk is driven by life, at so many levels.
Onstage, he told us, “So I made this company which I sold for a lot of money, and now I don’t have to work anymore. I made more money than my wife said I had to make if I wanted to stop working.”
After hearing this rather fun revelation, the audience was about to engage in a collective gasp, because in the next breath Henk told us that within two weeks of selling the company he was not feeling so well one day, so he called an ambulance. “They told me they weren’t even going to turn the lights on for the ambulance, because I was doing okay. And then suddenly the lights went on.”
Why the rapid reversal?
“I had a 100% blockage in the widow maker artery. The big one to the heart. If I hadn’t been already 10 minutes from the hospital, I would have died.”
Henk’s first thought when he knew he was in critical condition, he admitted with a laugh, was, “But I haven’t spent the money yet!”
His ensuing thoughts? Well, that is unfolding in the actions of his life. He is bent on saving the oceans, which are a major player in life as we know it, and he is pursuing this goal primarily through his work in Hawaii with Blue Planet Energy—making way for the island to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2045.
As with the card choice exercise, getting such an agreement required people with established interests to land somewhere and engage in creative gives, in order to move the process forward. Call it a game. Call it a negotiation. Call it a grand exercise in yin and yang thinking.
Henk’s vision is that if Hawaii goes 100% renewable, then the paradise state can be a model for other states, where existing energy companies can deliver at a much lower cost and keep a significantly higher portion of the price consumers pay. Though the negotiations landed at 100% renewable by 2045, he believes companies can do it even sooner. His go-to story for a compressed time frame is the incredible technological development that took place during WWII, “using 1940s technology!” he notes, in just five years. “We did it then. We can do it now if we want to,” he says.
What do we really want? I mean, deep down, really, really want? This is a question worth asking ourselves on both the individual and community levels.
As for me, I am going to keep my planet of glass and remember the little “card game” I played with Henk. Maybe he (or I) will even write a poem about it sometime. Hopefully before 2045.
Photos by L.L. Barkat.