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Dr. Kathleen Dean Moore's Commencement Address

Speaker: 'Everyday heroes' will defend the earth

Dr. Kathleen Dean Moore received an Honorary Degree during ESF's Commencement ceremony May 9. This is her address to the ESF Class of 2015:

Copyright © 2015, Kathleen Dean Moore

It's a stunning time to be graduating from the university, a pivotal time in planetary history. You could drive a nail through this decade, and the fate of the Earth and its lives would swing in the balance. In this decade, we will learn how to live in harmony with other lives and with all the great systems that sustain life on Earth, or we will helplessly watch them fray and fail.

Our grandchildren will want to know the story of this time. Was it like this? -- Storm clouds building on the horizon, desperate people pushing into cities, shouting and gunfire, bullies? Or was it a great wave of moral affirmation of the rights of all creatures and the inherent worth of the Earth? Was it exciting? -- the new ideas, sudden freedom from old patterns of destruction and grief, the weepy joy of relief and redemption?

How did they finally do it? our grandchildren will ask. How, at the absolutely last possible moment, did that generation crank the heavy, creaking wheel of the world to make the great turning? The great turning away from a culture enslaved by fossil fuels, away from a culture that prided itself on accumulating wealth instead of sharing it, away from a culture that gobbled up the fecundity of the planet instead of nurturing it, a great turning away from an economy of infinite extraction that could have been a giant going-out-of-business sale.

How did they make a great turning toward a new understanding that human beings are kin, woven into a world of living beings, who all share the same origins, who will share the same fate? How did they create a culture based on gratitude, reciprocity, and restraint? Who were these people?

I think I know.

The everyday heroes of this time will be people of intellectual integrity, educated to viscerally understand the evolutionary, ecological, indigenous story of a world that is finite, resilient, interdependent, and astonishingly beautiful.

They will be people of radical imagination, reinventing everything. Starting over. They will know there has to be a better way, so they will set about to imagine it into existence.

They will be people of deep moral courage, who refuse to be made into foot soldiers in the old economy's war against the world, who refuse to be disempowered by despair. They will be people who love this raucous, reeling world, who affirm its absolute value and defend it fiercely and faithfully, for all time.

You have the education, and you have the wild, roaring imagination. May you summon the moral courage, and may it sustain you in the great work ahead.