Novasutras Founder & Community Organizer

Michelle Merrill founded Novasutras as an exploration of how we can connect with, learn from, and teach each other to co-create a more regenerative, resilient culture. She is a meditation teacher, a writer, a climate justice activist, a community organizer, a workshop facilitator, and a public speaker.

Dr. Merrill began her career as an evolutionary anthropologist. She studied the social behavior of wild bonobos in the rainforests of Africa and orangutans in Indonesia in the late 1990s. Her dissertation work focused on cultural variation in orangutans, and was published in the prestigious journal Science.

Seeing the effects of deforestation in the tropics, Michelle started looking for the underlying causes of that crisis. She began to study systems thinking and work on global Education for Sustainability – especially on transforming teaching in colleges and universities. (learn more)

While she has been involved in environmental activism since she was a teenager, it was only recently that Michelle has shifted her primary focus to community organizing. Michelle has been developing the Novasutras movement’s core ideas and online presence, recording guided meditations, and leading online and local events near Santa Cruz, California.

Michelle is a certified meditation instructor and has been ordained as a minister through American Marriage Ministries and as a cleric through The Atheopagan Society to perform ceremonies. While gathering the ideas that emerged as Novasutras, she took courses in Theory U from the MIT Presencing Institute, and has completed facilitator training for the Work That Reconnects and En-ROADS climate simulation workshops. She also facilitates Pachamama Alliance programs, and completed their Game Changer Intensive course.

Her recent sacred activism has included working to Stop Line 3, participating in actions in Minnesota at the Treaty People Gathering, and getting arrested in San Francisco for a peaceful sit-in at the Army Corps of Engineers office in 2021. She was also arrested at Wells Fargo Bank’s headquarters while calling on shareholders to stop funding fossil fuels in 2022.

Michelle offers closing after arrest at San Francisco action July 16th 2021.
Defund Line 3 demonstration 13 Aug 2021, Santa Cruz, California
Defund Line 3 demonstration on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, August 2021

Michelle is very active in local climate justice organizing in Santa Cruz. She helped organize the 2019 Global Climate Strike Coalition. She is a leader in the Santa Cruz Climate Justice Crew and a participant in The Climate Alliance of Santa Cruz County (emerging in 2022).

Michelle and friends marching in the September 2019 Climate Strike in Santa Cruz, California. Photo from Santa Cruz Climate Action Network - scruzclimate.org
Michelle and friends marching in the September 2019 Climate Strike in Santa Cruz, California.
The Santa Cruz Climate Justice Crew dance in front of Chase Bank, to call for a halt to Chase’s funding of fossil fuel projects, May 2022.