Joanna Macy (at 92) is an environmental activist, author, and scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. She is the author of twelve books. See a recent documentary film here with an interview of her.
Macy graduated from Wellesley College in 1950 and received her PhD in Religious Studies in 1978 from Syracuse University, Syracuse. Her doctoral work, under the mentorship of Ervin László, focused on convergences between causation in systems thinking and the Buddhist central doctrine of mutual causality or interdependent co-arising. She is an international spokesperson for anti-nuclear causes, peace, justice, and environmentalism, most renowned for her book Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World and the Great Turning initiative, which deals with the transformation from, as she terms it, an industrial growth society to what she considers to be a more sustainable civilization. She has created a theoretical framework for personal and social change, and a workshop methodology for its application. Her work addresses psychological and spiritual issues, Buddhist thought, and contemporary science. Following is 20 min film created in 2021 giving voice to her thoughts about the current situation on planet earth:
Key Influences in Joanna Macy’s Life
Macy first encountered Buddhism in 1965 while working with Tibetan refugees in northern India, particularly the Ven. 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche, Sister Karma Khechog Palmo, Ven. Dugu Choegyal Rinpoche, and Tokden Antrim of the Tashi Jong community. Her spiritual practice is drawn from the Theravada tradition of Nyanaponika Thera and Rev. Sivali of Sri Lanka, Munindraji of West Bengal, and Dhiravamsa of Thailand.
Key formative influences to her teaching in the field of the connection to living systems theory have been Ervin Laszlo who introduced her to systems theory through his writings (especially Introduction to Systems Philosophy and Systems, Structure and Experience), and who worked with her as advisor on her doctoral dissertation (later adapted as Mutual Causality) and on a project for the Club of Rome. Gregory Bateson, through his Steps to an Ecology of Mind and in a summer seminar, also shaped her thought, as did the writings of Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Arthur Koestler, and Hazel Henderson. She was influenced in the studies of biological systems by Tyrone Cashman, and economic systems by Kenneth Boulding. Donella Meadows provided insights on the planetary consequences of runaway systems, and Elisabet Sahtouris provided further information about self-organizing systems in evolutionary perspective.
Joanna Macy’s Work
Macy travels giving lectures, workshops, and trainings internationally. Her work, originally called “Despair and Empowerment Work” was acknowledged as being part of the deep ecology tradition after she encountered the work of Arne Naess and John Seed, but as a result of disillusion with academic disputes in the field, she now calls it “The Work That Reconnects”. Widowed by the death of her husband, Francis Underhill Macy, in January 2009, she lives in Berkeley, California, near her children and grandchildren. She served as adjunct professor to three graduate schools in the San Francisco Bay Area: the Starr King School for the Ministry, the University of Creation Spirituality, and California Institute of Integral Studies, where she is still on the faculty.
This biographical sketch was taken from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Joanna_Macy.jpg
The film is a donation to the world from Anne Macksoud and John Ankele of Old Dog Documentaries
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