Active Hope for Whales

Lately I feel swamped by all that needs doing to help whales survive in our compromised oceans. I find it hard to pick what to focus on and blog about. As one guide for choosing, I considered, in a previous blog, the medical guideline of “Do no harm”*. Well, it turns out, I didn’t get that quite right – it’s really “First, do no harm.” Which leads directly to “What is second?”

Do Something

If we haven’t fully taken in and digested the bad news of our planetary predicament, then we might see little reason to step outside the story of Business as Usual. But if the disturbing diagnosis of unraveling has really landed inside us, then we know we can’t go back to pretending that all is well.
— Macy, Joanna & Johnstone, Chris. Active Hope. 2012 p. 71

For me, what is second is to actually Do Something. Even though I’ve chosen blogging, I still have to focus on particular problems and solutions. Here’s where the work of Joanna Macy comes in; her book, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in without Going Crazy, is helping me defend against hopelessness that can stall me before I even start.

At first, her long and wide list of global threats was overwhelming. For example, her life-long fight against nuclear weapons is a wake up, especially with the current missile rattling of both North Korea’s ruler and our own president. It’s hard to write about Orcas getting enough salmon to eat when a nuclear event offshore would certainly overshadow any local efforts.

The Whole Ball of Wax

As I encountered the overwhelming list, though, I could see how most would indirectly affects whales. I became convinced that actually everything does need to be worked on, and all at once. Not all by any one person, of course, but at least morally supported by each of us. I became aware of how much energy is spent on debating where to put our efforts, certainly in my own head and in the talking heads of our 24/7 TV media.


Step by Step

So now I have 3 steps to guide my choices:
1. First, do no harm.
2. Do something.
3. Acknowledge and support others’ efforts.

That last one calls me to avoid the temptation to debate or criticize others’ choices. Hopefully my 3 steps will take me closer to blogs that support all types of work being done to counter threats to both whales and people. And, maybe my adventures in choosing how to do my part will spur clearer choices for others.


For more inspiration, check out Macy’s book where she describes the exercises and processes that she uses in her workshops called The Work that Reconnects. There, people explore their connections to the natural world and face the reality of its threats to find their own version of “active hope”. A later volume, Coming Back to Life, goes into more workshop details including lists of problems and causes that you might choose for taking action.