John’s History

The transformation of John Perkins and his work at transforming the world.

Today John travels the world and encourages business execs, students, and everyone who comes to his talks to “create a world our grandchildren will want to inherit.” For example at an Istanbul conference of 4000 leaders in the communications field he said: “Today for the first time in history everyone on this planet has the ability to talk with everyone else. You are the leaders in the industry that makes it possible. You have to ask yourselves: what is it you want communicated? Do you want us to focus on the sex lives of celebrities, the latest fashions and sports scores — or do you want the discussion to center on the ways we can work together to create a sustainable, just, and peaceful world where all beings can thrive – a world your grandchildren will thank you for establishing?”

1968-71. Peace Corps volunteer in the Amazon and Andes, he learned that “the world is as you dream it.” The teachings of the head-shrinking Shuar of the Amazon and Quechua of the Andes totally changed and saved his life.

1971-80. Became an economic hit man – official title was Chief Economist at major international consulting firm. His job was to identify countries with resources corporations covet, like oil and arrange huge loans to those countries that were used to hire US companies to built big infrastructure projects that benefit a few wealthy people (as well as US companies) and leave the rest of the people (who do not benefit) in deep debt. When the loans defaulted he and other EHMs would go back and “asset strip” the country.

1980. He had an epiphany while sailing in the Virgin Island. He rowed ashore, climbed a hill to the ruins of an old sugar plantation, sat among bougainvillea, watching sun set over the Caribbean – it was very idyllic. Suddenly he was struck by the realization that the plantation was built on the bones of thousands of slaves. Then it occurred to him that the entire hemisphere is built on the bones of millions of indigenous people and slaves. Finally he had to admit that he was the modern equivalent of a slaver, using his power with financial institutions to exploit natural and human resources around the world. He committed to never doing it again and instead to using his knowledge to create a more sustainable, just, and peaceful world.

1980-90. Quit his job as Chief Economist. Founded and was president of an alternative energy company that did ground-breaking work, built a power plant in PA that demonstrated that coal can be burned without producing acid rain, leading to a major change in US energy laws.

1990-2000. Sold energy company and returned to the Amazon to help the Shuar, who had changed and saved his life, preserve their rainforests and culture. They told him that to do so he’d have to change the dream of his people. Founded the non-profit Dream Change, wrote 5 books including The World Is As You Dream It and Shapeshifting. Also co-founded The Pachamama Alliance, an NGO that today has “Awakening the Dreamer” programs in 70 countries and has partnerships with Amazonian tribes. Began to write Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. He contacted other EHMs and jackals (who go in when EHMs fail to corrupt government officials and either overthrow or assassinate the leaders). He received threats on his life and his infant daughter’s life. Taken out to dinner by the CEO of Stone & Webster, he was offered a legal “bribe” of $500,000: they would use his resume and he would not write the book. He agreed. Donated much of the money to writing more books and doing and supporting non-profit work.

September 11, 2001 – Now. He was in the Amazon leading a trip of people who had come to learn from the Shuar about how to change the dream to a more sustainable one. When he returned to the US, he went to Ground zero and had another epiphany. The world had to know what he had done, how this global economic system that today is failing, was created.  He committed to writing Confessions but this time in secret. Once he completed the entire manuscript and his agent sent it to major publishers it was his best insurance policy. Killing him would sell books and make him a martyr. The book was on the NY Times bestseller lists for 72 weeks, is translated into more than 30 languages with sales of over a million. Also, put him on the speaking circuit, including Harvard, Wharton, Princeton and other universities around the world, and many business conferences (incl a recent one in Istanbul for 4000 leaders in the communications industry and another for CEOs and CFOs of stock exchanges and trading companies). Also featured on ABC, NBC, CNN, NPR, A&E, the History Channel, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Der Spiegel, and many other publications, as well as in numerous documentaries including The End of Poverty?, Zeitgeist Addendum, and Apology of an Economic Hit Man.

John’s books have sold over 1 million copies, spent 72 weeks on the New York Times bestseller lists, and are published in more than 30 languages. As Chief Economist at a major consulting firm, his experiences advising the World Bank, UN, IMF, US government, Fortune 500 corporations, and heads of state convinced him to devote his life to facilitating changes in consciousness and in social, political, and economic systems. He is founder and board member of Dream Change and co-founder of The Pachamama Alliance, nonprofits dedicated to creating a sustainable, just, peaceful, and thriving world.


Lennon Ono Grant for Peace, 2012

Rainforest Action Network Challenging Business As Usual Award, 2006