Kathleen Dean Moore

Award Winning Environmental Writer
Public Philosopher
Travels from: Corvallis, OR

“I don’t know who else needs this [book], but I sure did–and I suspect I’m not alone.” – Bill McKibben, Bestselling Author

Kathleen Dean Moore is a writer, moral philosopher, and environmental thought-leader, devoted to the defense of the lovely, reeling world.

As a writer, Moore first came to public attention with award-winning books of essays that celebrate and explore the wet, wild world of rivers, islands, and tidal shores – RiverwalkingHoldfastPine Island Paradox, and Wild Comfort. But her growing alarm at the devastation of the natural world called her to respond directly to the moral urgency of climate action. With that decision, Moore quit her university position. She began to write and speak out about our responsibility to protect a thriving future from corporate pillage and imminent climate chaos.

Her first climate ethics book, Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril (co-edited with Michael P. Nelson, foreword by Desmond Tutu) gathered testimony from the world’s moral leaders about humanity’s obligation to the future. A special tenth-anniversary issue of that book will be released in 2020. In 2016, Moore published Great Tide Rising: Finding Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change, and a novelPiano Tide, that Bill McKibben described as “savagely funny and deeply insightful.”

Moore has finished three new books that are in line to be published over the next few years. They are Witness: The Human-Rights Impacts of Fracking and Climate Change (co-edited with Tom Kerns), a report on the recent trial of fracking before an international human rights court; Heartening: Encouragement for Earth’s Weary Lovers, a chapbook that pairs short essays with drawings by Canadian artist Bob Haverluck; and The Terrible Silence of the Sky, a book of Moore’s essays that celebrate birdsong and mourn its passing.

Moore’s essays are widely published and anthologized, having appeared in magazines such as High Country NewsOrionDiscoverAudubonUtne ReaderEarth Island JournalNew York Times MagazineConservation Biology, and many others. Her writing is honored by awards that include the Willa Cather Award for Contemporary Fiction, the Oregon Book Award, a Choice magazine Outstanding Book Award, the Pacific Northwest Book Association Book Award, and the Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. Moore was granted an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and appointed an Honorary Member of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment.

A moral philosopher, Kathleen holds a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. For many years, she taught critical thinking and environmental ethics as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University. She has published philosophical books on forgiveness (Pardons: Justice, Mercy, and the Public Interest), Apache philosophy (How It Is: the Native American Philosophy of Viola Cordova), Rachel Carson (Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge), and critical thinking (Reasoning and Writing). Currently, she is a member of the Council for an Uncertain Human Future, Clark College, Massachusetts.

Moore has a special interest in the role of the arts in environmental action. While at OSU, she co-founded and for many years directed the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word, where she now serves as Senior Fellow. She co-founded the Long-term Ecological Reflections program at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, a program intended to gather literary responses to the forest for two hundred years. She is currently touring a musical performance about species extinction, “The Extinction Variations,” in which she weaves her words into a Rachmaninoff composition performed by concert pianist Rachelle McCabe.

Moore is a “public philosopher” who speaks widely and offers workshops about the moral obligation to stop fossil fuels and the climate chaos they are causing. She has addressed audiences ranging from 350.org activists to Nobel Conference scholars to Disneyworld executives and students all over the country, calling people to moral courage as they confront the forces that would wreck the world.

Moore is joyously embedded in a family of environmentalists and biologists. Her parents were science educators who led nature walks in the beech-maple forests in Ohio. Her husband, Frank, a neurobiologist, is an expert on amphibian behavior. Their daughter, Erin, is the Head of the School of Architecture and Environment at the University of Oregon; and their son, Jonathan, holds the Liber Ero Chair in Coastal Studies and Management at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. Between them, they have given Moore three grandchildren who are wildly in love with the world. Kathleen and her husband live in Corvallis, Oregon, but spend summers in a cabin where two creeks and a bear trail meet a tidal cove in Alaska’s maritime wilderness.

For Environmental Topics, check out Kathleen’s profile at Authors Outside!

Prepare an Invitation for:

Take Heart: Encouragement for Earth’s Weary Lovers

Oregon State University Press |
Nonfiction

Earth’s weary lovers are tired, perplexed, and battered from all directions. Their hearts have so often been broken. It’s hard to go on, but it is morally impossible to quit. How do Earth’s protectors find the heart to continue the struggle?

To this question, environmental philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore and Canadian artist Bob Haverluck bring twenty-two life-affirming essays and drawings. Their entwined art offers pluck, stubborn resolve, and even some laughter to those who have for years been working for environmental sanity, social justice, and ecological thriving.

What Moore and Haverluck offer is encouragement to join or keep on with Earth’s work—not distractions, but deep and honest reasons to remember that the struggle matters. Rather than another to-do list or an empty promise of hope, Take Heart is a thank-you gift to the multitudes of Earth’s defenders. Inside its pages, they will find reason to take heart.

Taking heart is not hope exactly, but maybe it’s courage. Not solutions to the planetary crisis, but some modest advice for the inevitable crisis of the heart. A rueful grin, and gratitude to be part of this strange and necessary work for the endangered Earth.

Earth’s Wild Music

Counterpoint |
Narrative Nonfiction

Finalist for the 2022 Oregon Book Awards

At once joyous and somber, this thoughtful gathering of new and selected essays spans Kathleen Dean Moore’s distinguished career as a tireless advocate for environmental activism in the face of climate change.

In this meditation on the music of the natural world, Moore celebrates the call of loons, howl of wolves, bellow of whales, laughter of children, and shriek of frogs, even as she warns of the threats against them. Each group of essays moves, as Moore herself has been moved, from celebration to lamentation to bewilderment and finally to the determination to act in defense of wild songs and the creatures who sing them.

Music is the shivering urgency and exuberance of life ongoing. In a time of terrible silencing, Moore asks, who will forgive us if we do not save nature’s songs?

Great Tide Rising: Towards Clarity and Moral Courage in a time of Planetary Change

Counterpoint |
Nonfiction

Even as seas rise against the shores, another great tide is beginning to rise – a tide of outrage against the pillage of the planet, a tide of commitment to justice and human rights, a swelling affirmation of moral responsibility to the future and to Earth’s fullness of life.

Philosopher and nature essayist Kathleen Dean Moore takes on the essential questions: Why is it wrong to wreck the world? What is our obligation to the future? What is the transformative power of moral resolve? How can clear thinking stand against the lies and illogic that batter the chances for positive change? What are useful answers to the recurring questions of a storm–threatened time – What can anyone do? Is there any hope? And always this: What stories and ideas will lift people who deeply care, inspiring them to move forward with clarity and moral courage?

Piano Tide: A Novel

Counterpoint |
Novel

Do we belong to the Earth or does the Earth belong to us? The question raised by Chief Seathl almost two centuries ago continues to be the defining quandary of the wet, wild rainforests along the shores of the Pacific Northwest. It seethes below the tides of the fictional town of Good River Harbor, a little village pressed against the mountains—homeland to bears, whales, and a few weather–worn families.

In Piano Tide, the debut novel by award–winning naturalist, philosopher, activist and author Kathleen Dean Moore, we are introduced to town father Axel Hagerman, who has made a killing in this remote Alaskan harbor by selling off the spruce, the cedar, the herring and halibut. But when he decides to export the water from a salmon stream, he runs head–long into young Nora Montgomery, just arrived on the ferry with her piano and her dog. Nora has burned her bridges in the lower 48, and she aims to disappear into this new homeland, with her piano as her anchor. But when Axel’s next business proposition, a bear pit, turns lethal, Nora has to act. The clash, when it comes, is a spectacular and transformative act of resistance.

Pardons: Justice, Mercy, and the Public Interest

Oxford University Press |
Nonfiction

In Pardons, Kathleen Dean Moore addresses a host of crucial questions surrounding acts of clemency, including what justifies pardoning power, who should be pardoned, and the definition of an unforgivable crime. Illustrating her arguments with rich and fascinating historical examples–some scandalous or funny, others inspiring or tragic–Moore examines the philosophy of pardons from King James II’s practice of selling pardons for two shillings, through the debates of the Founding Fathers over pardoning power, to the record low number of pardons during recent U. S. administrations. Carefully analyzing the moral justification of clemency, Moore focuses on presidential pardons, revealing that over and over again–after the Civil War, after Prohibition, after the Vietnam War, and after Watergate–controversies about pardons have arisen at times when circumstances have prevented people from thinking dispassionately about them. Her groundbreaking study concludes with recommendations for the reform of presidential pardoning practices.

Riverwalking: Reflections on Moving Water

Harper Perrennial |
Nonfiction

In these twenty elegant essays, a philosopher and amateur naturalist meanders along the rivers and streams of the american West-and muses on love, loss, aging, motherhood, happiness, the art of poking around, and other important matters. “A smart, compassionate, and wise meditation on living in place” (Terry Tempest Williams).

A River and a Song

The lovely, reeling planet is rushing toward two tipping points. On one hand, the world approaches climatic changes that could tip the planet into conditions that won’t support human life. At the same time, the world approaches transformative moral change — rising levels of commitment to social justice and human rights, which could tip it into a future based on linked environmental and human thriving. What can a river tell us about how we can create the change we want? How can a song give us the love and courage that will require?

Great Tide Rising: Toward Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change

Even as seas rise against the shores, another great tide is beginning to rise – a tide of outrage against the pillage of the planet, a tide of commitment to justice and human rights, a swelling affirmation of moral responsibility to the future and to Earth’s fullness of life. Climate change may be an economic and technological problem. But fundamentally, it is a moral problem, and it calls for a moral response.

In a Time of Extinction, A Call to Life

This performance piece is a stunning collaboration between essayist/activist Kathleen Dean Moore and concert pianist, Rachelle McCabe. The performance weaves the spoken word into the movements of Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Corelli. It’s a sometimes thunderous, sometimes heart-aching piece, and it carries a strong message straight into the listeners’ hearts – the lives on this planet are beautiful and worthy beyond measure, and we cannot, must not, destroy them at this rate and with this terrible disregard. It’s a call to life, a call to reverence, and a call to action.

Workshop: “Keep on Strong Heart”

We may be tired, we may be discouraged, but the assaults on a just and sustainable planet keep coming, like birdshot to the face. In this workshop, we will collect our thoughts, confront our dismay, obliterate our obstacles, gather our courage, summon our communities, and reclaim our laughter and joy (!) for the work ahead.

The workshop is to lift up all varieties of the “active and engaged” – experienced, aspiring, or maybe just thinking they ought to get started. All those engaged in climate action or environmental and environmental justice advocacy, and anyone interested in new and effective ways to further constructive dialogue and action to save our planet, will find support and inspiration here.

Public Talk / Divestment is a Moral Issue

The purpose of divestment is not to destroy Big Oil; it’s to save the university’s integrity. Five fallacious arguments against divestment, named and refuted.

Writing Workshop / The Work of a Writer in a World of Wounds

Is it enough for a nature writer to celebrate frog song – even as marshes disappear? Can we praise meadowlarks in the morning – even as suburbs replace their open meadows? What is a writer’s duty toward what Robinson Jeffers called “the heartbreaking beauty that will remain when there’s no heart to break for it?” Many nature writers have given up literary writing and turned instead to activism – community organizing, direct action, polemic journalism. But is nature writing itself a kind of activism? If so, what is our purpose, and who is our audience?

Writing Workshop / The Nature Essay: Practicing the Osprey's Art

Here is how an osprey hunts: soaring over water, patiently watching. All she sees are surfaces, reflections on the riffles, the glistening pines. Then the angle of light changes, or the direction of the wind, and the osprey catches a glimpse of a shadow under the surface of the water. She tucks her wings and dives. So it is with the nature essay. A nature essay begins with patient, loving, informed observation of a particular location. Then it pursues a truth briefly revealed in that place. In this workshop, we will practice diving, the art of moving between experience and an exploration of its meaning.

Kathleen’s Blog

Music To Save Earth’s Songs

Kathleen’s Upcoming Events

A Call to Life

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Willa Cather Award for Contemporary Fiction
Oregon Book Award
Choice magazine Outstanding Book Award
Pacific Northwest Book Association Book Award
Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award
Co-Founder of Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word
Co-Founder of Long-term Ecological Reflections program at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest
Member, Council for an Uncertain Human Future, Clark College, Massachusetts

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