When the places we love are hurt, we hurt, too. Up until now there has been no way to cope with those feelings of loss—and to recognize and enhance the ongoing beauty and vitality they stubbornly continue to exert.

Radical Joy for Hard Times supports communities in reconnecting with these “wounded” places through simple practices called Earth Exchanges. Every year in June we sponsor an annual “Global Earth Exchange,” when people of many different cultures around the world go to wounded places, share their stories, get to know the places as they are now, and make a simple gift of beauty there.

I founded RadJoy in 2009 after searching for many years for a meaningful, creative, inclusive way in which we could express our sorrow for what has happened to the places that have given so much to us—and then show our gratitude and our regrets by making a simple gift of beauty for them.

The original inspiration for Radical Joy for Hard Times came from David Powless, an Oneida man I interviewed in 1987 for a video. David told me about an insight he had after climbing a towering reddish mound of steel waste, which he had received a prestigious National Science Foundation grant to recycle. At first he saw the waste as an enemy he had to conquer. Then, considering the native spiritual traditions he had grown up with, he realized that, “the waste was an orphan that had gotten separated from the circle of life. My job was to bring it back to the circle.”

To me this was a revolutionary way to think about those places on the Earth that have fallen on hard times, and I wanted more than anything to find a way to combine it with an action that all kinds of people could apply to all kinds of places in all kinds of situations.