To me being green isn’t solely about renewable technology or organics or permaculture. We may get involved in these aspects of being green, but they are not the whole story.
Something has happened to me. I have fallen in love. It didn’t happen overnight. It has been a gradual, lifelong immersion. It started by becoming aware of different species – the wonder of the lifecycle of amphibians, to be precise – and progressed to gardening and the wonder of seeds and growth. Then out into the landscape and the sense of being held and nurtured within the folds of hills and valleys, the beauty of rivers, the power of the sea. Then a sense of communing with the Earth as a being. I fell hopelessly in love. When we are merged with our beloved, their wellbeing is our primary concern. Whilst there is great joy and appreciation for the beauty of our miraculous planet, there is also growing awareness of the shadow: the terrible destruction of ecosystems, the extinction of countless species, the insanity of war, the awful displacement and starvation of whole nations, the suicidal madness of nuclear weapons, the stockpiling of nuclear waste.
For years, Joanna Macy has been helping me look unflinchingly into the face of our global ecological crisis and the madness of the nuclear age, without burning out. I have taken great heart from The Work That Reconnects, a radical empowerment process she has pioneered, and I recommend it to anyone feeling desperate about the state of the world. Joanna has joined forces with a colleague Chris Johnstone to present this work in a book called Active Hope.
Seasoned ecologists will recognise: we move through realising the desperate mess the world is in, to our gratitude for being alive at this time of transition; we discover our capacity to see with new eyes; explore practical ways of building support networks, then go forth with new resolve to play our part in the future world.
Active Hope is something we do rather than have. It helps us develop the capacity to acknowledge the true dimensions of the crisis in the world, and not be overwhelmed by the scale of it. It helps us find an effective, life-affirming response full of compassion and strength, a love of life, a commitment to life, turned into effective action.
The crux of this work is a profound understanding that goes beyond making a difference. We are invited to join in a great adventure, whatever the outcome. Our actions are not constrained by results.
We can be strengthened by uncertainty, alive in the present moment, open to new possibilities. Active Hope reinforces in me my connectedness with all life. It’s hard to describe this joyful place; it strengthens my resolve to live my life to the full.
I urge you, go out into the landscape in all seasons and in all weathers; be intimate with the flora and fauna, changing skies, moons, sunrises and sunsets. Fall in love and merge with nature. Our collective reconnection with this sense of reverence for creation is a joyful practice. It enables us to become passionate advocates of our living planet. Never has she needed us more. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Maddy Harland co-founded and edits Permaculture Magazine exploring practical and inspirational solutions for sustainable living.