Eco-Philosopher Joanna Macy Inspires People to Embrace ‘Work That Reconnects’

Renowned activist and eco-philosopher Joanna Macy comes to Laguna Feb. 3-5 for a lecture and workshop.

By Michele McCormick, Special to the Independent

Well meaning environmentalists may push rhetoric devoid of action when they urge us to “create sustainable futures for our children.” Sounds good. But what does it mean? Such heady talk from academics meant to turn us green often leaves me with the blues. However, I ditched my lethargy and signed up for action after listening to international scholar and activist Joanna Macy describe the purpose of her “Work That Reconnects” lecture and weekend retreat coming to Laguna Feb. 3 to 5 that Transition Laguna Beach is co-sponsoring with SEEDS and Annaleise’s School.

Just prior to our interview, I was slugging my way through the dregs of volunteer burnout as a founding member of Transition Laguna Beach, an organization committed to creating sustainable community in our town. After 40 minutes with Macy, I was back in the game. Maybe it was her warmth, playfulness, and conviction. No, it was the passion of this 82-year-old activist freely using the word “revolution” that moved me. As a moderate and a psychologist, when promoting change I prefer conciliatory, process-oriented terms like “paradigm shift.” Macy’s message calls for radical change sooner than later.

When asked about her intentions for the workshop she said, “I’d like to inspire a sense of readiness for adventure, gratitude for being alive, an appreciation for one another, and a renewed sense of belonging to the natural world. We have a hard time ahead as this industrial society is coming apart. There will be more suffering. My hope is that participants will find a renewed sense of resilience for the transformation that is already happening through their connection with each other.”

Past retreat participant Elise Higley said, “I walked out feeling more clear about my role in life’s bigger picture; and, for days following the retreat, I felt compassion for everyone I met.” Higley became more intentional in her role as a mother, wife, educator, and as a community leader in SEEDs, the Anneliese Schools, and Transition Laguna. Recently, the Higley family’s dreams hit pay dirt when they bought land in Oregon and left Laguna to become organic farmers. That is radical change.

On Friday night, Macy will hold a public lecture to share her theoretical framework for personal and social change. As a scholar of general systems theory, deep ecology, comparative religion, and as an author of over 10 books, she will draw from this rich academic background to detail a theoretical framework for personal and social change. Proactive values that have become guiding principles for the global Transition Town and other social movements will be discussed.

Over the weekend, through experiential exercises, participants will walk with Macy from despair about the current destruction of our natural world toward hope as they remember their interconnection with all of life. Wes Nisker, Macy’s colleague, author, and teacher of contemporary Buddhism said, “Joanna is one of the true visionaries of our time. One of the things she does beyond showing us that we need a new guiding myth is to take people into deep time, experientially, so that they feel connected to their ancestors and to future beings who will inherit what we do here on this planet. That’s the creative genius that comes through when you do a workshop with her.” Nisker and Macy often teach together at The Spirit Rock Center in Marin County. When not traveling internationally to lecture, Macy lives in Berkeley, Calif., near her children and grandchildren. For more information on Joanna Macy, visit


Work That Reconnects events:

All events will be held at the Willowbrook Campus of Anneliese School, 20062 Laguna Canyon Road. Register now at or call Elise Higley at 949-292-5960 for more information.

Friday Feb. 3 – Public Lecture at 7 p.m.

Admission is $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

Saturday and Sunday Feb. 4 and 5 – Weekend Workshop: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 4, meals provided; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 5, breakfast and lunch included. The cost of the two-day workshop is $295 and includes the Feb. 3 lecture.

Michele McCormick, Ph.D., is Licensed Clinical Psychologist and writer who lives in Laguna Beach.           

Share this:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here