Naturalist to share message of hope

A student recently burst into Kathleen Dean Moore’s office at Oregon State University having figured out the answer to a question she was pursuing — the ingredient needed to motivate people to change.

“The only thing that is statistically significant,” Moore, a philosophy professor, recalled the student telling her, “is hope. Whether hope makes sense or not from a practical view, it’s the only external thing that keeps us going. It’s the necessary condition for change.”

Moore, a well-known essayist and naturalist who teaches environmental ethics, Native American philosophy and a field course on the philosophy of nature, plans to bring her message of hope and change to Vashon next week.

It’s an auspicious time, she noted. Despite the pain and suffering she sees in the world, she believes Americans are poised for change.

“This year is the turning point towards a new kind of future, a new kind of economics,” she said.

As evidence, she points to the shifting attitudes about climate change as well as the collapse of Wall Street: “We finally get it about climate change. We finally grasp our obligation to the future. We finally understand that greed is not a virtue and can’t drive our economy.”

Moore occupies a place in the small but growing niche of nature writers who not only understand the science of ecology but also something deeper and much more profound: what it means to love a place, to feel a connection to it, to translate that connection into a deep environmental ethic.

Like Terry Tempest Williams, Rick Bass and, long before them, Aldo Leopold, she writes about places she knows and loves, their meaning to her and the way an environmental ethic has infused her life. Tempest referred to one of her collections of essays, Riverwalking: Reflections on Moving Water, as “a wise meditation on living in place.”

Islands particularly speak to her, Moore said in an interview from her home in Corvalis, Ore. She and her family have a long and deep connection to an island off the coast of Alaska, a place she wrote about in “Pine Island Paradox,” and in her writing, she said, she has often discussed the nature of islands.

“People think about islands as places of separation, as places that are hard to get to,” she said. “When I think of islands, I think of them as the visible portion of the skin of the earth that connects everything. … An island is not a sign of separation. For me, it’s a sign of connection, because it’s this upwelling of matter that connects us all.”

As a result, she said, she is particularly pleased to be coming to Vashon, where many residents, she said, feel a strong sense of place and connection.

“It’s fun to be with people who know a place well and love it deeply,” she said.

But she added that she’s also aware that the ongoing battle against Glacier Northwest hangs over the Island. Told of the protests that have been taking place near its site in recent weeks, she said she hopes to encourage people to not give up.

“I think the activists right now should be in a holding action, to save as much that is glorious and beautiful and special as they can,” she said. “Hold it. Hang on, hang on. … Glacier won’t live another year.”

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