Margo Adair Remembered ~ by Rick Whaley and Ellen Smith (Milwaukee)


Margo Adair (San Francisco, Seattle) passed away in early September 2010 surrounded by loved ones.

Margo’s activism and commitment in Green circles was always at the highest level. She facilitated early, national Green Party (GP/GPUSA) meetings. Over the decades, Margo fearlessly facilitated mediations among some Green titans at various bioregional and Green gatherings (notably at Amherst in the very beginning of Greens, 1987). She was a main facilitator at GPUSA gatherings at Estes Park, Elkins, and Twin Cities, and it was a great gift to the formative stages of the Green movement in the United States. The “Racism and the Land” workshop she did at the Turtle Island Bioregional Congress in Squamish, British Columbia, was Olympian.

Her work directly and indirectly aided our regional environmental-justice work in Wisconsin, including the boat landing Witness for Non-Violence around Chippewa treaty rights.

She gave Chippewa activist, the late Walt Bresette, a national audience and even hosted Walt and his kids in San Fran as well in his California political tour in 1991. Her Green Letter/Greener Times was the first national environmental justice journal (unless I count The North Country Anvil as national) to publish my (RW) Green writing and theory.

Just as important as her political leadership has been the breadth of her political ideas, especially the integration of spirituality into politics…meditations I still use…this notion of personal transformations as part of the highest citizenship …alliance building skills and principles that she did with Shea Howell…her vision and relentless activism…all of it was immensely helpful. She managed to make a living doing her politics (not merely bring her politics to her job like most of us) and that was no small accomplishment.

The fondest memory Ellen Smith (former chair of the Upper Great Lakes Green Network) has of Margo is of her leading the Black revolutionary heavies through meditations to start cadre meetings in the 1980s. What I learned most from Margo and Ellen was how to facilitate difficult meetings and why, especially this feminist notion of having participants listen for the emerging consensus, rather than put up with what position or tendency was trying to dominate or win.

Ellen and I also both remember what a wonderful stay we had in San Francisco with Margo at her home/collective on Church St. in 1997. We had just finished camping and hiking the Redwoods and needed some city amenities (warm showers, organic food, and urban culture). We greatly enjoyed Margo’s hospitality, friends, conversations, trips to the markets and Telegraph Hill, the political murals (especially at the Women’s Center), the neighborhood stories, all of it.

As the Tools for Change website notes:

“Margo worked in hundreds of different settings, including hospitals, conferences, grief groups, healing centers, corporations; AIDS support agencies, college campuses, jails, youth organizations, labor unions, women’s centers and neighborhood groups. Her earlier two books, Working Inside Out and the companion volume Meditations on Everything Under the Sun, as well as her newest book (coauthored with William Aal), Practical Meditations for Busy Souls, outline the techniques of Applied Meditation as an extremely successful way to awaken imaginative and intuitive capacities.

Margo wrote numerous pieces on [political empowerment], including two pamphlets co-authored with Sharon Howell: The Subjective Side of Politics and Breaking Old Patterns, Weaving New Ties. These pamphlets have been widely reprinted and influenced the development of workshops across the country concerning issues of race, class and gender. Her ideas have been instrumental in the development of the Inter-group Dialogue movement on college campuses, helping thousands of young people grapple with issues of diversity. Her work has also been used extensively in the movement against domestic violence and for trainings in corporate and non-profit worlds.”

Ellen and I want to express our appreciations for Margo, her work, and to who she was in our lives and politics. Please check out the other remembrances of Margo and her work, especially Starhawk’s, at

  1. hank chapot says:

    I met Margo early in my green years, we both lived in San Francisco. I took workshops on mediation and facilitation from her because I was flummoxed by the communication traps the California greens were falling into, and Margo was a sage on that kind of stuff. We all die too soon…

  2. John Salter says:

    My family and I met Margo in the early sixties when I was a graduate student writing my anthropology dissertation and caretaking the Adair family house in whale Gulch. At that time I had worked with John Adair and known Casey for around ten years. We always looked forward to seeing any of the Adairs. I was always interested in talking with Margo about the overlapping elements of our environmental/cultural work. I will miss Margo very much.
    John salter