The Empowerment Manual

Maddy Harland | Monday, 12th January 2015
Starhawk's captivating book exploring the ideas and techniques for us all to improve our communication skills and our ability to work collectively, so we can work more effectively to restore Earth and its people.
Author: Starhawk
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Publication year: 2011
RRP: £16.99

It is often said that we have most of the solutions to restore the Earth, it is people and our relationships that get in the way. With political failure at COP15 and Rio+20 weighing heavily on many activists' hearts and struggling to work together on a local level taking up time and energy, it is ever more important to learn social skills as well as ecological ones.

Trouble is, many of us tend to glaze over when reading self-improvement manuals. Being outdoors is so much more alluring. One thing you cannot accuse Starhawk of being is boring.

She is an author, activist, filmmaker, pagan and passionate advocate of permaculture. She is also a collaborator and this book draws on four decades of experience working with groups of all kinds. It is filled with case histories and exercises but also with stories. It covers the areas of communication, power and responsibility, leadership (in leaderless groups), group conflict, sex in groups, 'difficult' people and examples of groups that work.

It is full of great ideas and techniques. Some of the content may challenge more 'conventional' permaculturists – Starhawk by nature pushes the boundaries – but she is brilliant.

I was particularly captivated by her incisive description of earned and inappropriately assumed social power. I also loved her 'green soap' about the fictitious, dysfunctional Rootbound Ecovillage. It is a device that enables her to unflinchingly unpack the failures of a 'right on' community and lightens the book.

Starhawk is an accomplished storyteller and I just wanted to read the next episode! If the green movement is to succeed at this eleventh hour for the planet, we have to build an effective collaborative global movement rather than arguing over our differences. We are going to have to get smart in the arena of human relationships.

This is an effective, captivating book and a valuable companion to Looby Macnamara's People & Permaculture. I guarantee you will not fall asleep!

Maddy Harland is the editor and co-founder of Permaculture magazine and Permanent Publications.

Buy The Empowerment Manual for a special price of £14.99 from our Green Shopping site

US customers can buy this book directly from the Publisher at

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