Marty Janowitz’s journey to Nova Scotia began with a youthful, “completely ridiculous” idea to buy farmland with his future first wife Gina. There was no purchase, but that 1969 trip proved prophetic. The native New Yorker graduated in sociology from Boston’s Brandeis University, later intending to teach school. He and Gina became students of Buddhism and moved to Boulder, Colorado, in 1971, to study with Tibetan teacher Trungpa Rinpoche, where Marty became the first executive director of Naropa Institute (now University) at 23.
In 1975 Rinpoche announced that, to thrive, the Buddhist community must move its centre. The new home should not be so materialistic, with a strong sense of values and lineage, fundamental decency and a natural connection to the US and Europe. Marty and Gina suggested Nova Scotia. “Trungpa had an immediate intuitive feeling that this was a compelling, unique place.” As a primary aide, Marty helped Rinpoche settle here. In 1987 when Rinpoche became terminally ill, Marty moved here full time with his second wife Susanna. Having trained as a gemologist, he worked at a jewelry store before starting an appraisal business.
But he was searching for more. “I wanted to work in something around social good in concert with my spiritual motivation, and support my family.” With Susanna’s encouragement, Marty became executive-director of Clean Nova Scotia, an environmental education organization. To improve his credentials and experience he enrolled in Dalhousie University’s Master’s of Environmental Studies program. He was also father to three children and a part-time advertising copywriter. In his six years at Clean Nova Scotia, staff grew from three to 18 and the organization was soon on the cutting edge of change with its collaborative sustainable community approach. Marty worked with the Province to develop a beverage container policy and chair the waste management public consultations leading to pioneering policies and programs. He guided the award-winning Beach Sweeps and creation of Waste Reduction Week.
Marty took his impressive record to the environmental/engineering consulting firm Jacques Whitford as National Operations Manager for their new environment division, leading the firm’s evolution as a leader in sustainable practices. When Stantec acquired Jacques Whitford, he became Vice-President of Sustainability. Energetic Marty volunteered as president of Nova Scotia Nature Trust and GPI Atlantic, and chair of Authentic Leadership in Action and the Nova Scotia Round Table on Environment and Sustainable Prosperity. “I’m focused on how change occurs.” Still a committed Buddhist, he teaches meditation regularly at home and internationally.
Marty has resisted opportunities to move. “In our own humble and complicated way, and despite obstacles, Nova Scotia has every possibility of becoming an exemplary example of what a decent society could be.” Marty is committed to helping that happen – “but not to the point of feeling guilty if we’re not here all the time,” referring to their second home in Belize. Most Buddhist community members remain here and are successful. “We’re part of something important, if challenging, and share in generating ideas that are worthwhile to this society.” He still feels like an immigrant. “But I’m one with some sort of DNA connection. I’m rediscovering my home rather than landing in a foreign place.”