The Great Turning

This project is inspired heavily by one of my greatest mentors and sources of inspiration, Joanna Macy, based on her work of “spiritual activism.” She is among the many people teachers and writers who have used their experience and practice of Buddhist principles and practices to inform and guide their work. In her book Coming Back to Life, (2014) ( she describes the shift from the Industrial Growth Society (IGS) to a “Life-sustaining society.” This has subsequently become known as The Great Turning. (

This is “an extraordinary moment on Earth,” she proclaims, yet one which is also scary, stressful and sad. There is so much evidence of environmental destruction and human suffering. In order to regain confidence, hope and joy, it is necessary that we first squarely face this destruction and suffering, and the pain and grief it causes. Many people around the world are doing this, but there is a critical next step: we need to acknowledge that the pain and grief not just “out there,” but deeply embedded within our own psyches, and bodies. It’s as if the instinctual, animal part of us feels the tortured screams of nature as she is raped and pillaged. Yet this is a cultural taboo; there is a deep unconscious agreement to not be seen as “negative,” to put on our happy faces, and to pretend like nothing is happening. Or at least act as if things are not that bad, right? This is what Macy describes as Business as Usual.

In addition to the societal pressure to “not go there,” there is an instinctual fear of letting ourselves grieve too deeply. There is a part of us senses, deeply, that this pain – of witnessing so many pristine places despoiled, so many wondrous species dying off, so many people suffering – is just too deep to feel fully. If I did I would be decimated, could not endure it, and, well, die. Our very instinct to survive resists the call to allow ourselves to feel this pain and grief.
However, fortunate for us, and the salvation of the world, we have brave pioneers who have blazed the path for us, who have faced, felt fully and moved beyond this grief. Joanna Macy is one such pioneer. Her message, along with virtually all who have taken this journey is clear: beyond the pain and grief is enormous relief, joy, vitality and assurance.

We all long to know that our actions, our life energy, is contributing to a better world.  In this pivotal transition, there are increasing numbers of young people who are actively and consciously refusing to continue to serve and be enslaved by the business as usual model, and who and focusing their actions on contributing to a sustainable, peaceful and equitable world. And these actions take many different forms.

Macy outlines three primary dimensions of this “Work That Reconnects;” Holding Actions, Analysis of Structural Causes of the Destruction and Suffering and Creation of Alternative Institutions, and Changes in Attitudes, Perceptions, Values and Consciousness.  I have spent MANY hours researching each dimension and providing links for information and organizations related to each.  Please take some time to go through the list and find one or more areas that peaks your interest and passion, and GET INVOLVED!


I . Holding Actions
These include all the political, legislative, activist and humanitarian work to slow down the destruction of the environment and suffering of people:


  1. Documenting the ecological and health effects of the IGS:
  2. Lobbying or protesting against the World Trade Organization and the international trade agreements that endanger ecosystems and undermine social and economic justice:                                                                   
  3. Blowing the whistle on illegal and unethical corporate practices:
  4. Blockading and conducting vigils at places of ecological destruction, such as old-growth forests under threat of clear-cutting or at nuclear dumping grounds:
  5. Campaigning for laws to reverse the negative effects of pollution, loss of habitat and poverty:
  6. Promoting legislation that create real and lasting environmental and social protections   
  7. Boycotting corporations that endanger living systems through pollution and weapons production
  8. Protesting against the global arms trade
  9. Providing food and shelter to the poor and homeless
  10. Action Against Hunger                   


II. Analysis of structural causes of the destruction and suffering and creation of alternative institutions
This second component first examines the underlying agreements and strategies that create obscene wealth for a few and make the rest indentured servants to a system and economy that uses the Earth as merely a supply house and treats most of its inhabitants as expendable.  Once we understand this, we can start to build the structural alternative; the institutions that serve Life, not those in power.

  1. Teach-ins and study groups on the nature and workings of the IGS, and its foundation, the global economy which is controlled by a tiny minority of the world population
  2. Education on the ecological and human costs of a unthinking consumer society
  3. Creation of new, more accurate measures of economic health and vitality, such as the Gross National Happiness index of Bhutan, vs GDP
  4. New models of conflict resolution and mediation, to replace litigation and needless incarceration 
  5. Strategies and programs for nonviolent, community-based defense, to replace reliance on police and military
  6. Transition from reliance on fossil and nuclear fuels to renewable energy
  7. Increasing land trusts and conservancies
  8. Collaborative living arrangements
  9. Creating local consumer and marketing cooperatives
  10. Community gardens and farms and tool-sharing and skills banks
  11. Community and municipal composting and recycling programs
  12. Holistic health and wellness methods replacing traditional models of diagnosis and treatment
  13. Local currencies, such as the Ithaca Dollar on New York, based on the exchange of goods and services
  14. New ventures in education, replacing the model of schooling to serve the IGS to Life-sustaining values
  15. Electronic communication systems enabling activists and entrepreneurs worldwide to rapidly share information

III. Changes in attitudes, perceptions, values and consciousness
The structural changes will not be lasting if our fundamental world views, attitudes and values remain the same; we need a consciousness that can truly sustain them.  As with the first two dimensions, it has many aspects:

  1. Creating a More Just and Sustainable World
  2. Living Systems Theory,” revealing the self-organizing nature of the world and the presence of “consciousness” in nature
  3. Gaia theory, showing the Earth to be a living, wholly interdependent system
  4. Creation Spirituality and Liberation Theology, shaking us loose from hierarchical religious dogma
  5. Engaged Buddhism, and similar movements in Hindu, Hassidic, Sufi, Taoist, Neo Paganism, Indigenous and other traditions, integrating spiritual principles with activism
  6. Ecofeminism, bringing together political and social critique with the work of women’s spirituality /Sacred Feminine movement
  7. Ecopsychology, blending psychotherapy and social pathology
  8. The simple living/voluntary simplicity movement
  9. Music and art which reflect and express components of the Great Turning