The Great Turning – 3 Ways to Confront the Crisis


If we will have the wisdom to survive/to stand like slow growing trees/on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it/then a long time after we are dead/the lives our lives prepare/will live here.

~Wendell Berry

It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the shear scope of our environmental crisis. It seems that daily I am bombarded by more and more bad news: oil pipelines are bursting, the arctic is melting, oceans are rising, storms are getting stronger. Despite the magnitude of these issues, I still feel called to do what I can to improve our situation.

But, where does one start?

In reading Joanna Macy’s book, World as Lover, World as Self: Courage for Global Justice and Ecological RenewalI came to appreciate how she  conceptualizes the environmental movement. Macy suggests that actions taken in support of our planet can be broken down into three categories: Holding Actions, Structural Change, and A Shift in Consciousness.

The first dimension, Holding Actions, are the political actions taken by environmentalists to (try and) slow the damage that our current industrial growth society is inflicting on our planet (for example, think of actions taken by Greenpeace or Sea Shepherd).

Macy calls the second dimension Structural Change. These are the alternative forms and structures that are being created to replace our current unsustainable economic and legislative systems (for example, community-supported agriculture (CSA) and renewable energy systems).

Finally, Macy refers to the third dimension as A Shift in Consciousness. Drawing on ideas from science and spirituality, work done in this area is trying to shift our perceptions so that, “Like our ancestors, we begin again to see the whole world as our body, and whether we say the word or not, as sacred” (Macy, 2007, p. 146). Within this grouping are ideas such as systems theory ecopsychology.

While environmentalists may choose (and should) work in each of these three areas, I personally feel called to focus my energies on the third. If our perceptions of ourselves and the world in which we live shifted, if each of us realized just how intimately related everything is,

I believe that holding actions would no longer be needed, and that structural change would naturally occur.

Where do you feel called to contribute to this Great Work?