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Meet Alastair McIntosh, one of Scotland’s leading activists. His books include Soil and Soul, Spiritual Activism and Poacher’s Pilgrimage: An Island Journey which a reviewer described as “being led to holy ground.”

How did you become interested in this line of work? (tell us a little bit about your background)

I grew up on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, so was immersed in a part of the Celtic world. I am an Associate of the Iona Community and for a number of years was on its staff as the business advisor, which opened up an interested in what and how people set about their seeking on life’s spiritual journey. My main life’s work has been with social justice and environmental sustainability, and I’m best known for my work on land reform and urban poverty. I am an honorary professor at the University of Glasgow.


My best known book is Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power. My most spiritual book is Poacher’s Pilgrimage: an Island Journey. My most recent book is Riders on the Storm: the Climate Crisis and the Survival of Being, described by Michael Mann as “a climate primer for our times” and by Katharine Hayhoe, now chief scientist to The Nature Conservancy, as “solid on the science yet dedicated to the human spirit.”

Please share a wellness tip or word of advice that relates to the workshop you will be presenting.

Recently, most mornings when I wake up, I’ve entered into a little meditation on verse 35 in the first chapter of Mark’s gospel. “And rising early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed [the town] and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.”


The Greek word that is translated there as “lonely”, or as solitary, desert or wilderness, is eremon, from which we get the word “hermit”. In other words, he left the busyness of the town behind him, and went out to prepare to meet the day. In my meditation, I follow him out there, and sit in a hermetic place perhaps by a stream or amongst the rocks and bushes, and reflect upon the day to come, and how I might put it to wise use.

What or who inspires you? (This could be anything from your mentor to your favorite quote)


I love the work of the late Jewish-Hindu spiritual teacher Ram Dass, and have discussed it in a recent podcast with Raghu Markus in his Mindrolling series. His saying that I most often quote in my work is, “If in doubt what to do with your life, feed the hungry.”

What personal or professional accomplishments are you most proud of?


As told in Soil and Soul, my work has involved stopping the destruction of Hebridean mountain in a National Scenic Area, they wanted to turn it into the biggest roadstone “superquarry” in the world, and helping communities to acquire control over the land where they live. I’ve written a dozen books that integrate social and environmental action with the spiritual life. But in many ways, it’s the small things that have the greatest integrity. I spend a lot of my time these days informally mentoring people, doing Zooms with reader groups, and that kind of thing where I can pass on what I’ve learned down the years.

Alastair McIntosh, PhD, is one of Scotland’s leading activists. His books include Soil and Soul, Spiritual Activism and Poacher’s Pilgrimage: An Island Journey which a reviewer described as “being led to holy ground.” Raised on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, he is an honorary professor at the University of Glasgow and leads events at such centers as Iona Abbey.


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