After reading numerous books about environmental issues and the climate crisis, I was drawn to Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy, by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone.
There is a mountain of material about the climate crisis, the science behind it, and possible solutions. All the information in the world will not solve the problem. It is people who must solve it by taking action and doing what needs to be done. In order to do that people need hope and that is what this book is about.
Active Hope is about doing, taking action. The authors weave the concepts of active hope throughout the book via three stories of our time.
- Business as Usual – there is little need to change
- The Great Unraveling – disastrous effects of business as usual
- The Great Turning – transition to a life-sustaining society and recovery of our world
The framework of the Great Turning is an empowerment process called The Work That Reconnects which has been used in workshops conducted all over the world for decades. The purpose is exactly what is says—reconnecting people with life and one another. The authors cover the four stages of the spiral of The Work That Reconnects.
- Coming from Gratitude
- Honoring Our Pain for the World
- Seeing with New Eyes
- Going Forth
“Try This” boxes throughout the book, provide readers with opportunities to reflect, think, discuss, and write as individuals and in group settings. The resources section includes a list of related websites, books, and action group guides.
The Bottom Line
The authors are well-respected advocates for social and environmental justice. Active Hope is a thought provoking book that requires engagement from the reader. It’s about expanding our view of ourselves and the world. My favorite quote from the book is from Arne Naess who wrote:
“Unhappily, the extensive moralizing within the ecological movement has given the public a false impression that they are being asked to make a sacrifice — to show more responsibility, more concern and a nicer moral standard. But all of that would flow naturally and easily if the self were widened and deepened so that protection of nature was felt and perceived as protection of our very selves.”
The ideas and practices in this book can be applied to any situation where one feels overwhelmed and powerless—doing is hope.