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Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy
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Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  663 ratings  ·  87 reviews
The challenges we face can be difficult even to think about. Climate change, the depletion of oil, economic upheaval, and mass extinction together create a planetary emergency of overwhelming proportions. Active Hope shows us how to strengthen our capacity to face this crisis so that we can respond with unexpected resilience and creative power. Drawing on decades of teachi ...more
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Published April 4th 2017 by Tantor Audio (first published February 1st 2012)
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Bob Stocker
Jul 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We're headed for a disaster. Soil is being depleted. Oil is running out. Oceans are getting fished out. Species are dying off. Even the climate is changing. What can we do? Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone don't offer specific solutions, but they do offer hope, Active Hope, you might say. We have a choice of three stories to follow: we can continue gobbling up the earth's resources (Business as Usual); we can despondently bury our heads in the sand (the Great Unraveling); or we can become conduit ...more
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.

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:

Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This wasn't quite what I was looking for. Feeling in tune with Gaia doesn't help with what I was concerned about: living near the former Rocky Flats plutonium plant and knowing that the soul of the entire northern metro Denver area has some degree of plutonium contamination from spills, leaks and fires while the plant was operating. What we do know is that there is plutonium in the sediment of the lake that is a drinking water supply for a nearby suburb, that some of the landfills at the plant w ...more
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Joanna Macy is an ecological activist, and this book was co-authored more than five years ago, before the US withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord. I appreciate the author's use of Buddhist thought to inform her approach to solving problems that seem so big, as well as her detailed series of reflection questions to center and inform one's own thinking. At the risk of oversimplifying, I think the largest take-away for me is that rather get bogged down in despair over climate change, nuclear prol ...more
Not really the kind of book I tend to find helpful. I find books like Solnit's "Hope in the Dark" and Klein's "This Changes Everything" more inspiring, both because of their detailed stories of victories against impossible odds (the stories in "Active Hope" are pretty anemically told), and for their better writing.
This book is exactly what the title suggests: it offers a plan for how to face the reality of climate collapse, do what one can, and stave off despair. The advice is fairly simple: it's really about making some shifts in the way we see our situations. We remember that we are part of the earth, not separate from it, and we see the grief, anxiety, anger, despair we feel on behalf of the earth and its residents as the Earth crying out in us. We remind ourselves of the resources we have, our strengt ...more
Kelly Barth
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those grieving from environmental crises–which the rest of the world seems ill-equipped to help us with and encourages us to ignore–this book offers deep honesty and the promise of healing. Years of pretending we aren’t worried, even despairing hasn’t worked. This book offers an alternative of feeling our despair and, therein, finding hope and empowerment once again.
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had a hard time getting into this book. There were too many self-help pschyo-babble terms for me. I did appreciate parts, like focusing on gratitude, but I didn't like the catch phrases or understand how envisioning the future can be turned into practical actions.
Kate Lawrence
Macy and her co-author provide a boost of encouragement to everyone worried about seemingly hopeless environmental and social crises. Practical as well as inspirational, the book includes numerous exercises to strengthen those qualities that will best serve us as we work toward a more life-sustaining world. Macy has been giving workshops on these ideas for many years, testing and refining her methods, and the book reflects the depth of that process.
The principles of her teaching, called The Work
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Language is a little more accessible than Joanna's other books. Message is inspirational! We need to get together and start taking action rather than carry on with "business as usual".
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
WOW. I haven't devoured a book this quickly in a looooong time, and I say that as someone who reads a lot. The only reason it took me 2 days instead of 1 was I had to stop to take notes every 5 minutes and capture all that was here. Anyone who is involved in activism in any capacity should stop whatever they're doing and read this book. Especially if they're feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, exhausted, etc. This book helped me to understand how necessary hope is and how it can sustain us during li ...more
Deb Rudnick
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must read for anyone who aspires to engage more with the great challenges that face us or who is seeking more motivation, compassion and articulation for the hard work they are doing to repair our world. The authors offer a wealth of advice and guidance on how to approach challenging work to repair each other and our planet in voices that are kind, realistic and wise. I think it is difficult to read this book and come out of it untransformed or uninspired. Their thoughts on the po ...more
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
A very important read for anyone facing the climate crisis and wondering how to process the emotions that come with that.
Emily Dufford
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful and inspiring. Just what I needed in a moment of frustration and despair!
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve had this book for two years – carted it from Colorado to New Hampshire to Thailand and then back to New Hampshire, where I finally read it. As a cynic and a person heartbroken about what humans are doing to animals, the environment and other people, I didn’t believe I could face the mess we’re in without going crazy. This book helped, and I appreciated the examples and specific exercises. I couldn’t give it 5 stars simply because I still feel much resistance to hope in my own heart and body ...more
Melissa Stacy
This is an EXCELLENT book. Recommended to anyone who is following the literature on climate change, is acutely aware of the devastating science involved, and suffers panic/grief/living terror every moment they think of the future. This is not a book that promises false optimism. This is a book that says to hope anyway. To keep reading the science, and doing everything you can to stay empowered, and to keep hold of a vision of change and survival.

This book is very much aware of how grim the situa
Dani Scott
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very helpful as an introduction to Joanna Macy's philosophy and practices. At this point, some of the facts are a bit old, but the practices themselves are ageless. If you are interested in connecting more deeply with the Earth or connecting more with community that is interested in connecting more deeply with the Earth, these practices could really help. I appreciated the way the book built the concepts upon one another, starting with the personal, then spiraling out to society as a whole. Very ...more
Barbara Ardinger
Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Macy, a famous metaphysical author, and Johnstone, famous in the UK, write persuasively about "the mess we're in" and how to deal with it. The three sections of the book are "The Great Turning," "Seeing with New Eyes," and "Going Forth." We learn what the Spiral of Work That Reconnects is and how to use it in our own lives to hopefully improve not only our own lives but those of others on the planet. These days, we need more books about social change.
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Active hope is "about becoming participants in bringing about what we hope for." It is a practice. It is about doing. It is not about sitting around waiting to be rescued or "hoping" someone else will fix the problem. Active hope requires work internally and externally.

The book is all kinds of fantastic. It is comforting and encouraging but also terrifying because active hope requires we leave the status quo behind and move into the unknown. It feels dangerous. It is dangerous. But the danger is
Mark Valentine
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was recommended by a friend and to me, that is what defines friendship--someone cares enough about me to share what he or she finds meaningful.

I am grateful for the friendship that I found in this book (let me recommend it to you). The authors resist the Business as Usual model of growth and recommend their Great Turning, a four steps action that builds hope and regeneration: a) express gratitude regularly; b) honor our pain; c) see with new eyes; and d) go forth. Their data, references, r
Charlotte Smith
I read this as a part of a book group with my environmental group - ironically starting just as quarantine kicked in. Perhaps it was the time I read it, but this book does itself a disservice by suggesting it focuses on the environmental crisis. This has some incredibly valuable advice and focuses on some difficult issues, rationalising them into normalcy. However, I'm giving it 3/5 because firstly it is very modernised and commercialised and lacks some of the emotional rawness I love in these k ...more
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An important book that would be great to work through as a study/book group. I got a lot from this and loved the references to books that I have previously read such as the transition handbook, Paul Hawken, and Jared Diamond.

This is the first time I’ve read Joanna Macy and I liked her voice and perspective throughout the text. The mix of Buddhist scholar and systems theorist covers the topic well.
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
read this with the intention of using its insights to facilitate group conversations on thorny topics. lots of helpful strategies for prompting and inviting reflection on change, uncertainty, and community work. not all of it did i love -- such as the frequent invoking of the hero's journey as a source of inspiration, although i can imagine this would be compelling to some? but i really appreciate this praxis-oriented, self care-grounded view of how to struggle for change.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After about a decade of activism and social change work, I found myself with a great number of mental defenses up that served to mask the level of pessimism and despair I felt about the potential for achieving the transformation so genuinely needed. This was the book that helped me set aside some of those defenses and return to full engagement. It's the book that allowed me to read the news again.
Sydney Bollinger
I really enjoyed reading this, especially after I've become more familiar with Macy's work in ritual grief practices in my spiritual community. Reading this (or Macy's earlier book The Work That Reconnects) should be required reading for anyone looking for emotional support throughout the climate crisis.

There are many wonderful exercises in this book, prompting us to explore our own psyche as we move into this new era.
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joanna Macy has been an inspiration to me for many years. Her "work that reconnects" has helped hundreds of thousands recognize the effect of their actions on the global system of life and has acted as the vehicle for many to expand her teachings through workshops and literature.
This book is part of the progression of her thought.
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I agree with some of the other reviewers. I generally don't read self-help/spiritual kind of books. I thought this book was going to be more on the "active" part of Active Hope. I appreciate that she had activities to try, but most of them didn't appeal to me. I also was looking for more stories of victories people have won for the environment.
Isabela Pichardo
From passive to active, from anxiety to flow

This book is an amazing tool to find peace in the middle of the uncertainty the world shows today. It also motivates action when anxiety is paralyzing your present. Totally recommended for a mind that wants to find peace in the middle of this mess and wishes to act to change it.
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spaceshipearth
My new top recommendation on how to handle the climate crisis, with a focus on the internal emotional process. The Work that Reconnects is powerful and personal and practical, and the exercises here are revolutionary in aggregate. Please read this next time you're feeling helpless and depressed about our future.
Sep 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I struggled with some of the language in this book, and perhaps some of the spiritual aspects didn't align with mine. A very gentle book that I didn't feel matched up with the sometimes anger these subjects can bring up for me, where I felt I needed a more powerful voice. Highly rated by some so don't let my review put you off!
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Dr. Joanna Macy, activist, ecologist and author, is one of the pioneers of engaged Buddhism. Her online work includes the article "World as Lover, World as Self"; "Bestiary" (an ode to wildlife); Nuclear Guardianship, her testimony at the World Uranium Hearings in Salzburg, 1992; and The Vegan Vision, on the ethics of a vegan diet. Her other books include Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General S ...more

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“Cultural shifts happen on a different level; they come into view only when we step back enough to see a bigger picture changing over time. A newspaper photograph viewed through a magnifying glass may appear only as tiny dots. When it seems as if our lives and choices are like those dots, it can be difficult to recognize their contribution to a bigger picture of change.” 1 likes
“In choosing our story, we not only cast our vote of influence over the kind of world future generations inherit, but we also affect our own lives in the here and now. When we find a good story and fully give ourselves to it, that story can act through us, breathing new life into everything we do. When we move in a direction that touches our heart, we add to the momentum of deeper purpose that makes us feel more alive. A great story and a satisfying life share a vital element: a compelling plot that moves toward meaningful goals, where what is at stake is far larger than our personal gains and losses. The Great Turning is such a story.” 0 likes
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