Human agency or the expression of intentionality towards some form of betterment has long occupied human imagination and creativity. The ways in which we express such aspirations are fundamentally informed by our beliefs about the nature of reality, meanings of human well-being and progress, and the ways in which our social locations shape our interests. Within Western health-promoting discourse and practice, such processes have largely been expressed through the construct of empowerment. To date, like health, much empowerment practice has been implicitly rooted in Cartesianism, has tended towards anthropocentrism and in cases where it has engaged with environmental issues, has mirrored environmentalism's focus on externalities and objectivity. These tendencies coupled with the increasing complexity of global, ecological, human well-being issues call empowerment practitioners to integrate new kinds of capacities more suited to addressing the ecological determinants of health. Drawing in part on the author's empowerment research over more than a decade, this article distinguishes between a range of epistemological perspectives underlying contemporary empowerment practices while fore-grounding the concepts of place-based agency and social–ecological resilience. These constructs in turn form the basis for three capacities considered critical for practitioners addressing human-ecological well-being.