Addressing Activist Burnout

This is a guest article written by my friend and colleague Scott Brown:

activists protestingLooking back on my career as an environmental campaigner is a bittersweet experience. There were many highlights: Getting the news that the hazardous waste incinerators I’d been involved in helping to block would not be built; learning that the chemical company we’d targeted had decided to not produce CFCs (chloroflourocarbons); making headlines through research, large protests, and civil disobedience; and many other positive decisions and developments that I felt I had helped influence. Not to mention all the wonderful people met and relationships formed.

At the same time, I have to own the fact that unconscious forces in my psyche were driving my behavior and attitudes, and that I did not really mature as a human being over that span of those years. Like so many activists, I was angry and felt victimized. I believed that shame and blame were appropriate and effective tactics to use against my “opponents,” and I took myself and my work very, very seriously. I was burning out and this only fed the anger and resentment. I was also not as effective as I could have been with a healthier attitude.

Thanks in part to the wake up call in the form of a failed marriage, about five years ago I realized it was high time to make a fundamental shift in how I approached my activism and the world in general. It was time to do my own inner work and bring consciousness to what had been unconscious and automatic for my whole life. I don’t think I’m alone in this respect, either in the degree of unconsciousness or in the desire for change. I was fortunate to have been guided to teachers who could help me find a new, peaceful way to live and work.

Shortly after starting that journey of training and transformation I knew that part of what I wanted to do was share what I was learning with other activists. I knew that my main contribution to healing the planet was to help heal the people—to make the link between body, mind, spirit and action, to put some meat on the bones of Gandhi’s dictum to “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If we want a nonviolent world we must begin with ourselves and practice nonviolence in a dedicated and consistent way.

So it is with happy heart that I offer, along with John Ehrhart, the upcoming Introduction to Restorative Activism workshop. My hope is that it will be fun and engaging, and that on-going communities of support may emerge. Information on this workshop can be found at

For the Great Turning,
Scott Brown

Scott is cofounder of Open Path Trainings and Restorative Divorce. He is trained in peacemaking, mediation, restorative justice, and the Hakomi method of psychotherapy. Currently finishing a Master’s degree program at Naropa University in Transpersonal Psychology/Ecopsychology, Scott worked as an environmental campaigner for 15 years with Greenpeace, the Idaho Conservation League, and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. He can be reached at or 720.565.9388.