A Buddhist philosopher of ecology, Joanna Macy says we are at a pivotal moment in history with the possibility to unravel or create a life-sustaining human society. Now entering her 90s, Macy has lived adventurously by any definition. She worked with the CIA in Cold War Europe and the Peace Corps in post-colonial India and was an early environmental activist. She brings a poetic and spiritual sensibility to her work that’s reflected in her translations of the early-20th-century poet Rainer Maria Rilke. We take that poetry as a lens on her wisdom on the great dramas of our time: ecological, political, personal.
Ecology & Nature
“The sudden passionate happiness which the natural world can occasionally trigger in us may well be the most serious business of all,” Michael McCarthy writes. He is a naturalist and journalist with a galvanizing call — that we stop relying on the immobilizing language of statistics and take up our joy in nature as our defense of it. And he reminds us that the natural world is where we first found our metaphors and similes and it is the resting place for our psyches.
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Oceanographer Sylvia Earle was the first person to walk solo on the bottom of the sea, under a quarter mile of water. She has watched humanity’s enduring fascination with “outer space” while she has delighted in “inner space” — the alien and increasingly endangered worlds beneath earth’s waters. These frontiers, as Sylvia Earle points out, are our very life-support system. She takes us inside the knowledge she’s gathered from a lifetime of research and literally swimming with sharks.
Xavier Le Pichon, one of the world’s leading geophysicists, helped create the field of plate tectonics. A devout Catholic and spiritual thinker, he raised his family in intentional communities centered around people with mental disabilities. He shares his rare perspective on the meaning of humanity — a perspective equally informed by his scientific and personal encounters with fragility as a fundament of vital, evolving systems. Le Pichon has come to think of caring attention to weakness as an essential quality that allowed humanity to evolve.
Dan Barber is a celebrated young chef — but his passionate ethics and intellect have made him much more. He’s out to restore food to its rightful place vis-à-vis our bodies, our ecologies and our economies. And he would do this by resurrecting our natural insistence on flavor.
May 15, 2013
A Shift to Humility: Resilience and Expanding the Edge of Change
Disruption is around every corner by way of globally connected economies, inevitable superstorms, and technology’s endless reinvention. But most of us were born into a culture which aspired to solve all problems. How do we support people and create systems that know how to recover, persist, and even thrive in the face of change? Andrew Zolli introduces “resilience thinking,” a new generation’s wisdom for a world of constant change.
Terry Tempest Williams is a naturalist and writer, a biologist by training with a literary mind, who comes from a long Mormon lineage in Utah. She draws political, spiritual, and creative inspiration from her experience of the interior American West. She offers stories of neighborly collaboration that turns into environmental protection, and the value that comes from vitriolic disagreement inside families.
April 5, 2012
Restoring the Senses: Gardening and Orthodox Easter
An understanding of Easter from inside the Armenian Orthodox tradition that is at once mystical and literally down to earth. Vigen Guroian is a theologian who experiences Easter as a call to our senses. He is passionate about the meaning of grand ideas like incarnation, death, and eternity as revealed in life and in his garden.
A conversation about climate change and moral imagination with a leading environmentalist and writer who has been ahead of the curve on this issue since he wrote The End of Nature in 1989. We explore his evolving perspective on human responsibility in a changing natural world.
Kingsolver describes an adventure her family undertook to spend one year eating primarily what they could grow or raise themselves. As a citizen and mother more than an expert, she turned her life towards questions many of us are asking. Food, she says, is a “rare moral arena” in which the ethical choice is often the pleasurable choice.
January 17, 2008
Cal DeWitt and Majora Carter
Discovering Where We Live: Reimagining Environmentalism
Environmentalism and climate change are hot topics; yet they’re still often imagined as the territory of scientists, expert activists, and those who can afford to be environmentally conscious. We discover two people who are transforming the ecology of their immediate worlds in Dunn, Wisconsin and New York’s South Bronx.
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The Pause is our Saturday morning newsletter, a gathering of threads from the far-flung, ongoing conversation that is The On Being Project. Stay up to date with our latest podcasts, writings, live events, and more.
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