Transforming eco-anxiety

How to face the mess we’re in with unexpected resilience and creative power

Building on the momentum of the bestselling first edition of Active Hope which, published in 14 languages, sparked an international movement transforming the way we think about hope, the updated 10th anniversary edition – to be published 15 July - shares powerful new tools, practices and inspiration to help us rise to the challenge of addressing the disturbing global issues we face, and in doing so discover a fresh sense of meaning and satisfaction in our lives.

Joanna Macy Ph.D, respected 93-year old veteran of the peace, justice and ecology movements, says:

“Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we can act. It makes us feel more alive at this moment of human history. It charges our days and our lives with meaning and effectiveness, as we realise that every one of us has a role to play. We can be glad to be here and play our part at this time of great danger.”

A scholar of Buddhism and Living Systems Theory, as well as author of 18 books, Joanna is best known as the root teacher of The Work That Reconnects, a ground-breaking framework for personal and social change. Over the last forty years, hundreds of thousands of people have benefitted from her workshops, or those run by people she has trained. These include people living in areas of Ukraine contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster, where thirty years ago Joanna ran workshops offering psychological tools for coping with the effects of massive collective trauma. These same tools are used today with communities suffering the impact of the environmental crisis, whose homes have been flooded or burned in climate related disasters. They have also been used worldwide with increasing numbers of people feeling overwhelmed by the scale of global issues we face, from extreme weather and pandemic infections to social injustice and the horror of war.\-radio\-6\-active\-hope\-with\-dr\-chris\-johnstone

Chris Johnstone, a 60 year-old medical doctor and resilience specialist says:

“Active Hope is a practice, it is something we do in support of the future we hope for. This represents a different way of thinking about hope, where we see it less as a feeling we have and more as a living energy of engagement expressed by taking steps in our hoped-for direction. Our new edition of Active Hope offers tools to help us get better at this, growing our capacity to face disturbing realities, to feel less overwhelmed and to tap into deeper sources of strength. When we’re stretched by difficult conditions, we can surprise ourselves and discover hidden strengths. We look at how our very act of facing the mess we’re in can help us discover a more enlivening sense of what our lives are about, what we’re here to do, and what we’re truly capable of.”

With nearly forty years’ experience of teaching resilience skills, Chris’s life work has focussed on exploring what helps us face disturbing realities and respond in ways that nourish wellbeing and support positive change. Working for many years as an addictions specialist in the UK health service, he pioneered the role of self-help and group-based approaches to promoting mental health. Working closely with Joanna Macy over more than three decades, Chris draws on both her work and health psychology in his trainings with climate activists, health and social care workers, people living with cancer, and mental health professionals around the world. His online courses now reach people from over sixty countries.

The new edition of Active Hope highlights three core stories of our time: the Great Unravelling, where our world seems to be falling apart and heading towards catastrophe; Business as Usual, where we play down any sense of crisis and carry on doing the things that are wrecking our world; and the Great Turning, where crisis becomes a turning point as we rise to the challenge of changing the way we do things, creating new systems and structures that support the flourishing of life. Active Hope is about choosing the story we hope will grow stronger, and actively supporting it to happen in our lives, communities and society.

Joanna Macy says:

“Recognising that we can choose the story we live from is liberating. Describing the epochal transition from a doomed industrial society to a life-sustaining society, the Great Turning is the essential adventure of our time. This far-reaching change is comparable in scope and magnitude to both the agricultural revolution ten thousand years ago and the industrial revolution less than three centuries back. We make The Great Turning happen by turning up with an intention to play our part.”

While how to engage with The Great Turning remains a central theme of the book, the new edition brings a shift in emphasis in the way we think about this collective transition - from will it happen? to what helps this happen? The book explores how this larger story can happen through us, bringing a focus on three types of turning - turning up with an intention to play our part; turning away from that which causes harm; and turning towards a way of living that supports the flourishing of life.

A key part of the Active Hope journey involves a shift in consciousness, and the book shares spiritual development tools and exercises that strengthen our compassion and enhance our capacity and desire to act for our world. The book also invites us to expand our view of time, shifting from the harmful short-term ‘Busines as Usual’ mindset to a longer view of time which considers the effect of our actions today on future generations 200 years from now.

Drawing on the structured transformative process described in the book, Chris has worked with Joanna to develop a companion free online course in Active Hope. In an outcome survey of over a hundred people who recently completed this course, 90% of participants reported that it had significantly strengthened both their motivation to act for positive change and their belief that they could make a difference, leaving them feeling less overwhelmed by their concerns for the world and personally nourished by their experience of taking part.

Chris Johnstone says:

“What helps us face the mess we’re in and take part in the Great Turning is the knowledge that each of us has something of great value to offer, a priceless role to play. In rising to the challenge of playing our best role, we discover something precious that both enriches our lives and contributes to our world. An oyster, in response to trauma, grows a pearl. We grow, and offer, our response of Active Hope.”

The new 10th anniversary edition of Active Hope is available in Waterstones, WH Smiths and all good book stores from 15 July and available on Amazon for £12.79 and the Book Depository for £14.31