Joanna Macy & Her Work

“Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we can act. We belong to this world.”


Joanna macy Ph.D, author & teacher, is a scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking and deep ecology. A respected voice in movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with learnings from six decades of activism.

Her wide-ranging work addresses psychological and spiritual issues of the nuclear age, the cultivation of ecological awareness, and the fruitful resonance between Buddhist thought and postmodern science. The many dimensions of this work are explored in her thirteen books, which include three volumes of poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke with translation and commentary.

As the root teacher of The Work That Reconnects, Joanna has created a ground-breaking framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application.

Based in Berkeley, California, close to her children and grandchildren, Joanna has spent many years in other lands and cultures, viewing movements for social change and exploring their roots in religious thought and practice.

Since the early 1980’s her travel was governed by invitations to teach the group work that she and a growing number of colleagues were developing. Many thousands of people around the world have participated in Joanna’s workshops and trainings. These methods, incorporated in the Work That Reconnects, have been adopted and adapted yet more widely in classrooms, community centers, and grassroots organizing.

In the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, this work helps people transform despair and apathy into constructive, collaborative action. It brings a new way of seeing the world as our larger living body. This perspective frees us from the assumptions and attitudes that now threaten the continuity of life on Earth.

to support Joanna’s
ongoing work


“Of all the dangers
we face, from climate chaos to nuclear war, none is so great as the deadening of our response.”

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Over the course of her life, Joanna has given much thought to the moral and psychological challenges presented by nuclear weapons and energy production. Some of her writings regarding Nuclear Guardianship and Guardianship Ethic will be shown on this site in the near future.

The Work That Reconnects


Since its inception in the late 1970’s, it has helped countless thousands of people around the globe find solidarity and courage to act despite rapidly worsening social and ecological conditions.

This work is also known as Deep Ecology Work (as in Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan), Active Hope (as in Japan) and Despair and Empowerment Work (as it was known in its first years).

This work can be done alone and has enriched many individual lives, but it is designed for groups. Its effect is deeper and more enduring when experienced interactively with others, for its approach is improvisational and its impact is synergistic.

Workshops have varied in length from an evening to a full lunar cycle.

From the first public workshop in 1978 it has been the aim of the Work to help people trust their raw experience and give voice to what they see and feel is happening to their world. Its interactive exercises frequently involve role-play and a shift in assumed identity; the Work aims to engage and expand people’s moral imagination, bringing wider perspectives on our world, while fostering both compassion and creativity.

Conceptual Foundation

The Work That Reconnects is informed by Deep Ecology, systems thinking, Gaia theory, and spiritual traditions (especially Buddhist and indigenous teachings), as well as group wisdom from earlier workshops. Common to all of these is a non-linear view of reality. It illuminates the mutuality at play in self-organizing systems, and unleashes the power of reciprocity.

Furthermore, central to our use of systems thinking and the Buddha Dharma is the recognition that self-reflexive consciousness is a function of choice-making. Whatever the limitations of our life, we are still free to choose which version of reality –or story about our world– we value and want to serve. We can choose to align with business as usual , the unraveling of living systems, or the creation of a life-sustaining society. 

This image was a gift to Joanna Macy.
Use permission is granted except for sale or compensation. Please attribute to the artist,
Dori Midnight.

Structure of the Work

The experiential work follows a spiral sequence flowing through four stages beginning with gratitude, then, honoring our pain for the world, seeing with fresh eyes, and finally, going forth.

These consecutive stages reflect a natural sequence  common to psychological growth and spiritual transformation. The Spiral is like a fractal, governing the overall structure of the workshop while also arising in its component parts. Within a given workshop, we can move through the Spiral more than once, and become aware that with every cycling through, each stage can yield new and deeper meanings.

The critical passage or hinge of the workshop happens when, instead of privatizing, repressing and pathologizing our pain for the world (be it fear, grief, outrage or despair), we honor it. We learn to re-frame it as suffering-with or compassion. This brings us back to life.


“To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe – to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it – is a wonder beyond words.” 


Joanna’s Books


rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet

co-translated & edited with Anita Barrows

Shambhala Publications (2020 - in preparation)


Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects

with Molly Young Brown

New Society Publishers (2014)


Active Hope: How to Face
the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy

with Chris Johnstone

New World Library (2011)

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Pass It On: Five Stories
That Can Change the World

with Norbert Gahbler

Parallax Press (2010)

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A Year With Rilke: Daily Readings
from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke

co-translated & edited with Anita Barrows

Harper Collins and Harper One (2009).

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World as Lover, World as Self: Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal

Parallax Press (2007)

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In Praise of Mortality: Selections from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus

co-translated & edited with Anita Barrows

Echo Point Books & Media (2005, 2016)

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Widening Circles, a Memoir

New Society Publishers (2000)

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Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God

co-translated & edited with Anita Barrows

Riverhead (1996, 2005)

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Mutual Causality in Buddhism
and General Systems Theory

SUNY Press (1991)

World as Lover, World as Self

Parallax Press (1991)

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Thinking Like a Mountain:
Toward a Council of All Beings

with John Seed, Pat Fleming, and Arne Naess

New Society Publishers (1988)

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Dharma and Development:
Religion as Resource in the
Sarvodaya Self-Help Movement

Kumarian Press (1983, 1985)


Despair and Personal Power
in the Nuclear Age

New Society Publishers (1983)


Books featuring Joanna or her writings - partial listing


Thomas Berry

Dreamer of the Earth: The Spiritual Ecology
of the Father of Environmentalism

Inner Traditions, (2011)

Michel Maxime Egger

Soigner l'esprit, guérir la Terre:
Introduction à l'écopsychologie
(Care for the Spirirt, Heal the Earth)

Labor et Fides, Geneva, Switzerland (2015)

Llewelyn Vaughn Lee

Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth


Bill Plotkin

Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World


Leslie E. Sponsel

Spiritual Ecology: A Quiet Revolution


Taigen Dan Leighton

Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and their Modern Expression


Anne Bancroft

Women of Wisdom: Women Mystics of the 20th Century


Rogers S. Gottlieb, ed.

“Faith, Power & Ecology” in

This Sacred Earth


T. Roszak , M. Jones , A. Kanner, eds.

“Working Through Environmental Despair” in

Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind


David Ray Griffin and Richard A. Falk, eds.

Postmodern Politics for a Planet in Crisis: Policy, Process, and Presidential Vision

Suny Press, Albany, NY (1993)

Catherine Ingram

In the Footsteps of Gandhi:
Conversations with Spiritual Social Activists


Sandy Boucher

Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New Buddhihsm


Kenneth Porter, Deborah Rinzler and Paul Olsen

Heal or Die: Psychotherapists Confront Nuclear Annihilation

Psychohistory Press, NY (1987)


Published articles



“Letter to the WTR Network” , May 2018

“Widening Circles - An Interview with Joanna Macy”
Emergence Magazine , June 2018


“Learning to See in the Dark Amid Catastrophe: An Interview With Deep Ecologist Joanna Macy” , Feb 2017


“Holiday Letter to the WTR Network” , December 2016


“Four Steps to a Better World”, February – April, 2014

“Expanding Our Sense of Self”
Spirituality and Health. January/February, 2014


“Eins mit dem Gewebe des Lebens: die Tienfenökologin”
Buddhismus Aktuell, October, November, December 2013

“Hearing the Call”
Resurgence & Ecologist. March/April 2013. No. 277

“Living and Leading with Active Hope”
The Occasional Papers of the Leadership Council or Women Religious. Summer 2013


“Allegiance To Life – Staying Steady Through The Mess We’re In”
Tricycle. Summer 2012

“Woman On The Edge Of Time: An Interview With Joanna Macy”
Inquiring Mind. Spring 2012.


“The Way to Make Earth Sustainable with All Beings
– An Interview with Ecophilosopher Joanna Macy”
Buddhism and Culture. Winter 2011

“Soul-Centering Practices for Hard Times”
Radical Grace. Summer 2011, Vol 24, No. 3 


“Interview mit Joanna Macy: den Wandel Miterleben – Auch in der Schule” March 2010

“Earth Community: What it Tells us about Faith and Power”
For the Thomas Berry Festschrift


“The Global Crisis and the Arising of the Ecological Self”
Journal of Holistic Health Care. Volume 6 Issue 3, November 2009, pp. 5-10

“Am Tanz des Lebens Teilnehmen”
Buddhismus Aktuell. July, August, September 2009


“The Greatest Danger and the Radical Uncertainty of Our Time”
Yes! Magazine, Issue 45, Spring 2008)


“Feeling the Future.”
The Independent, Santa Barbara, CA. October 25, 2007, p. 97
(Interview with Elizabeth Schwyzer)

Foreward to Karl Linn’s “Building Commons and Community”
New Village Press, 2007


“The Great Turning as Compass and Lens”
Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures. Summer, 2006, pp. 44-46.

“Our Long Journey Together”
Turning Wheel. Fall-Winter 2006, pp. 29-32.
(Interview with Martha Boesing and Susan Moon)


“Interview with Joanna Macy”
Dharma Vision Buddhist Community Newsletter
Australia, Vol 6 No 5, 2005, pp. 3-4; 7


“El Color del Ser”
Translation of the article, “The Greening of the Self” into Spanish
PanNature, The Sangay Foundation, Electronic Archive, June 27, 2004


“Turning the Wheel”
Life Positive Plus, Dehli, India, Oct-Dec 2003, pp. 54-56
(Edited by Swati Chopra)

“Aus der Tiefe.” Portraits of Joanna Macy and Dolores LaChappelle
Natur & Kosmos, July, 2003, pp. 42-43

“The Great Turning”
Hope in a Dark Time: Reflections on Humanity’s Future
Edited by David Kreiger, Foreward by Archbishop Desmond Tutu)


“All the Time in the World.”
Earthlight, Winter 2002,  pp. 24-25.

“The Meditation That Can End a War”
Inquiring Mind, Fall, 2002, pp. 20-21, 29.

“Giving Voice to Earth”
Earthlight, Summer 2002, pp. 34-35


“9/11 and the Heart of the World”
EarthLight, Fall, 2001, pp. 16-17

“Mother of All Buddhas”
Inquiring Mind, 2001, pp 28-29

“Doing the Work”
Witness, March 20001, pp 6-8
(Interview with Marianne Arbogast)


“The Wisdom of Uncertainty: Living with the Shambhala Prophecy”
ReVision, Fall 2000, pp. 19-23
(Interview with Mary E. Gomes and Jurgen Kremer)

“Wild Goose”
Orion Magazine, Spring 2000, pp. 12-14

“The Great Turning”
Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures, Spring 2000, pp. 34-37
Interview with Sara Ruth van Gelder)


“Coming Back to Life”
Timeline, September/October 1999, pp. 6-11

“An Interview with Joanna Macy, Environmental Activist,
Educator, Speaker and Bestselling Author”
Share Guide, The Holistic Health Magazine, May/June 1999,
Issue #43, pp 12-13, 26

“The Great Turning”
Sojourn: Awakening Spirit, Culture and Knowledge, Vol. 3, Issue 4,
Spring 1999, pp. 42, 44-46


“The Great Turning”
Wild Duck Review, Vol. IV, No. 1, Winter 1998, p. 14

“Challenge at the Millenium: Waking Up in Indra’s Net”
Shambhala Sun, September 1998, pp. 36-43

“Contemplation and Revolution: an Interview with Joanna Macy”
Turning Wheel, Summer 1998, pp. 21-23


“Zeit der Groben Wende (Time of the Great Turning)”
Connection, Special Issue #34,  III 97, pp. 12-17

“To the Limits of Our Longing”
Permaculture International Journal, Issue No. 63, June-August 1997, pp. 35-38

“Woman on the Brink of Time: Religious Studies and the Global Crisis”
Spring Journal, Starr King School for the Ministry, May 1997, pp. 3-6

“Respect for Sentient Life”
Inquiring Mind, Fall 1997, pp. 9, 36)


“The Feminine Face of the Buddha” Barbara Graham
Common Boundary, March/April 1996, pp. 28-35


“Ecology from the Inside Out”
Kindred Spirit Quarterly, The Guide to Personal and Planetary Healing.  Spring 1995
(Interview with Joanna Macy)

“Interview With Joanna Macy”
Wild Duck Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, November 1995, pp. 1-2

“Wir Mussen Lernen, Den Shit Zu Begreifen, Den Wir Fabriziert Haben”
Raum & Zeit, vol 73, 1995
(Interview with Joanna Macy by Hans Joachim Ehlers and Christopher Baker)

Written for “On Being Human” by Frederick Franck, 1995

“Collective Self-Interest: The Holonic Shift” 
World Business Academy Perspectives, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1995, pp 19-22

“The Incredible Exploding Self”
Inquiring Mind, Spring 1995, pp. 6, 8, 14
(Interview with Joanna Macy by Wes Nisker and Barbara Gates)

“Eine Stimme der Erde.” Claus Biegert article on work of Joanna Macy
Natur, Vol. 7, 1995


“From Despair to Empowerment”
Resurgence, 1994
(By Anita Barrows)

“Asking to Awaken”
ReVision, Fall 1994, pp 25-33
(Interview by Donald Rothberg)

“Rivers Running Through Our Lives”
Preface to Lifelines, edited by Birgit Engelhardt, 1994


“Deep Ecology or Shallow Environmentalism”
Human Potential, Spring 1992, pp. 10-13, 29-32

“World As Lover, World As Self”
Lotus, Winter 1992, pp. 20-23


“What’s So Good About Feeling Bad?”
NewAge, Spring 1991, pp. 32-37, 91-95

“Guarding The Earth”
Inquiring Mind, Spring 1991, pp. 1, 4-5, 12
(Interview with Joanna Macy by Barbara Gates)

“Guardians of the Future”
In Context, Spring 1991, pp. 20-25
(Interview with Joanna Macy by Alan AtKisson


“Guardians of Gaia”
Yoga Journal, Winter 1989, pp. 53-55

“Breaking The Spell”
In Context, Issue 22, 1989, pp. 20-23


“Embracing The Tiger”
Tai Chi Journal, Fall 1987, p. 3
(Interview with Joanna Macy by Mackenzie Stewart)

“The Eroticism of Deep Ecology”
Creation, May/June 1987, pp. 29-31
(Interview with Joanna Macy by Charlene Spretnak)

“Going Back Into The World”
A Gathering of Spirit, Primary Point Press, 1987, pp. 52-56


“Gaia Meditations – At the Council Of All Beings”
Awakening in the Nuclear Age, Summer/Fall 1986, p.10


“Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age”
Yoga Journal, January/February 1985, pp. 22-29
(Interview with Joanna Macy by Stephan Bodian)


“Notes From an Interview on Womanpower”
Woman of Power, Spring 1984, pp. 10-13
(Interview with Joanna Macy by Bobbi Lev)


“Taking Heart: Spiritual Exercises for Social Activists”
Fellowship, July/August 1982, pp. 3-6

“Interview with Joanna Macy”
AHP Newsletter, July/August 1982, pp. 15-18
(Interview by Liz Campbell)


“How to Deal with Despair”
New Age, June 1979, pp. 40-45





Leading in a Climate Change World

Deep Adaptation - Q&A with Joanna Macy


Joanna Macy and the Great Turning, a film

The Great Turning talk

The Active Hope Show 1

Global Oneness Project

The Call of Life: Facing the Mass Extinction

Joanna Macy on Rainer Marie Rilke

Planetary-Reconnect to Something Bigger
(Joanna featured in The Three Stories of the Great Turning  35:10 - 37:10
and The Kiss of the Universe 1:16:43 - 1:18:02)


“The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe.”