Active Hope: how to face the mess we're in without going crazy

Maddy Harland | Sunday, 23rd March 2014
Maddy Harland reviews a book that offers a way of living creatively in a time of great challenges, a time when humanity is threatened by ecological, social, and economic breakdown. Active Hope teaches us how to contribute to the global movement for a better, more equitable, and ecologically balanced world. This is a juicy, creative, and powerful book
Author: Joanna Macy
Publisher: New World Library
Publication year: 2012
RRP: £12.99

Joanna Macy has been helping me look unflinchingly into the face of our global ecological crisis and not give up or burn out for years.

I have taken great heart from The Work That Reconnects (WTR), the radical empowerment process she has pioneered, and would recommend it to anyone feeling desperate about the state of the world.

Now Joanna has joined forces with her colleague Chris Johnstone to present this work in a new book. Seasoned WTR people will enjoy their fluid description of the various stages of this work. We move through early realisations of the desperate mess the world is in, to our gratitude for being alive at this time of transition; discover our capacity to see with new eyes; explore practical ways of building support networks and then to 'going forth' with new resolve to play our part, whatever it may be, in the future world.

This is a manual of intelligently designed process that offers a framework in which we can choose to become socially engaged. As the authors say, "Active Hope is a practice... it is something we do rather than have." It is something we can therefore become accomplished at.

Active Hope helps us develop the capacity to acknowledge the true dimensions of the crisis in the world and not be overwhelmed by the scale of it. It helps us find a sane, effective and life-affirming response full of compassion and strength, a love of and commitment to life that is turned into effective, measured action. The crux of this work, however, is a profound understanding that goes beyond making a difference: I am invited to join in a great adventure, whatever the outcome.

No longer are my actions constrained by 'results'. I can be strengthened by uncertainty, alive in the present moment, open to new possibilities. Joanna and Chris reinforce in me my 'connectedness with all life'. It is difficult to describe this joyful place but they do it admirably and in doing so they strengthen my resolve to live my life to the full. 

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