Book Review: Active Hope

“Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy” by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone, New World Library ISBN 978-1-57731-972-6

ActiveHope-Book“We live at a time when the living body of our Earth is under attack and when the attacker is not an alien force but our own industrial-growth society,” Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone write in Active Hope. At the same time, as they point out, “an extraordinary recovery process is under way, a vital creative response we call the Great Turning.”

I found Active Hope to be full of passion and compassion as well as bodhichitta, the desire for the welfare of all beings. Inspiring stories, engaging exercises and clear, concise writing help to make this a must-have handbook for everyone.

People everywhere are getting in touch with what they have to offer to the Great Turning. In fact we all have something to contribute. In rising to the challenge, we actually enrich our own lives as well as offer aid to the healing of the world. So much more satisfying and beneficial to grow Active Hope than to try to find contentment through consumerism.

Rather than rely on external agencies to bring about what we desire, we become active participants in Active Hope. It’s a practice with three key steps: first, a clear view of reality; second, the identification of what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move or the values we’d like to see expressed; and third, taking steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction. “Since Active Hope doesn’t require our optimism, we can apply it even in areas where we feel hopeless.”

In the late seventies, Joanna developed an empowerment process called the Work that Reconnects which she has offered in workshops since then. The chapters in the book guide readers through the four stages of that spiral as it moves through Coming from Gratitude, Honouring Our Pain for the World, Seeing with New Eyes, and Going Forth.

Joanna Macy, PhD is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. Hers is a respected voice in the movements for peace, justice and ecology. Check Joanna’s website for her teaching schedule: (She offers programs at Royal Roads University in Victoria.)

Dr. Chris Johnstone is a physician, coach, and specialist in the psychology of resilience, happiness, and positive change. He has taught and written about the psychology of sustainability for more than twenty years. He co-edits a free email newsletter which you can sign up for at

Mary Ann Moore is a poet, writer and creator of Writing Home: A Whole Life Practice.