Confronting Ecological Grief: Joanna Macy & Active Hope

The Spiral

One of my core motivations for initiating this project was to engage other women in my community in an active exploration of how to translate ecological grief into hopeful action. Ecological grief has been defined as “the grief felt in relation to experienced or anticipated ecological losses, including the loss of species, ecosystems, and meaningful landscapes due to acute or chronic environmental change.” Anyone who is paying attention to what is happening to the environment is probably feeling this in one way or another.

So what do we do about it? I have personally felt stuck in a cycle that has often left me numb or in denial, and I wanted to move into a place where I was actively participating in change. I have known about Joanna Macy’s work for a long time—The Work That Reconnects—but only recently decided to engage with it more deeply. Last fall, I participated in a workshop series led by Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light at the Cranaleith Spiritual Center in Northeast Philadelphia that used Macy and Chris Johnstone’s book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy. Macy defines active hope as “something we do rather than have. It involves being clear what we hope for and then playing our role in the process of bringing that about”. At the heart of the practice of active hope is what Macy calls the Spiral, pictured below.

The work of active hope begins with gratitude, allows space for grief and pain, offers new ways to see and think about our present moment, and provides the tools to define how we will each act. I had already planned to embed many of these practices into the creation process for “Women’s Responses to the Ecological Crisis” around most of these ideas, so the Spiral has offered a wonderful structure for the project. Another perspective on this process recently appeared in the New York Times.

I am now actively seeking self-identified women/non-binary/genderqueer members of the Cheltenham, Jenkintown, East and West Oak Lane, and La Mott communities who are interested in joining me on this journey! I have scheduled two orientation workshops, which are an opportunity to learn more about the project and participate in some interactive exercises that will give you a taste of the creation process:

Saturday, February 22nd, 1-3pm at the Cheltenham Center for the Arts,
439 Ashbourne Road, Cheltenham
Wednesday, March 11th, 6-8pm at the Elkins Park Train Station

Interested in attending? Please email me at to RSVP. I’m excited to manifest more active hope!