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Evolving stories About Growing Food in a Big City

Chicago forum focuses on ethics, sustainability

Cassandra West


If the sky knew half of what we’re doing down here

it would be stricken, inconsolable, and we would have nothing but rain — Brian Turner

Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson, the editors of “Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril,” will be at the Chicago Botanic Garden Friday, Oct. 29 for a daylong forum on ethics and sustainability. Their book includes contributions from more than 80 visionaries—naturalists, scientists, activists, theologians, poets, professors, philosophers and leaders from across the intellectual, political, religious and cultural spectrum and from around the world.

In essays and sometimes poems, stories and economic analyses, the contributors make their case for why humans have a moral obligation to take action to assure the future of our planet. The poem above comes from one of New Zealand’s leading poets, and it is his complete contribution.

Other contributors include Derrick Jensen, an environmental activist and small farmer who writes: “Industrial capitalism always destroys the land on which it depends for raw materials, and it always will.”

Writers Barbara Kingsolver and bell hooks both look back over U.S. history for lessons on how social progress unfolds. Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Africa’s Green Belt Movement Wangari Maathai writes that we are all called to help heal the Earth. “In the course of history, there comes a times when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground,” she writes.

Each of the book’s 14 sections ends with an “Ethical Action” — from how to protect the children to how to express gratitude to the Earth for all its gifts.

The Chicago Botanic Garden’s website has complete information on the “Chicago Regional Forum on Ethics and Sustainability,” 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 29. Tickets to the symposium also can be purchased online.

Kathleen Dean Moore is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and University Writer Laureate at Oregon State University, where she teaches environmental ethics and moral reasoning. Michael P. Nelson holds a joint appointment as professor of environmental ethics and philosophy in the Lyman Briggs College, the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Department of Philosophy at Michigan State University.

Seeding Chicago spoke with Moore and Nelson by phone Monday, Oct. 25. You can listen to the interview by clicking the play arrow in the video box (top right).