Social Ecologist Profile: Hilary Moore of Oakland, California USA

Please introduce yourself (What kind of work you do, Where you live,  etc.)

My name is Hilary Moore. I live in Oakland, CA and work with the Mobilization for Climate Justice West, an alliance of Bay Area groups dedicated to amplifying grassroots struggles through direct action and education. I just finished school at Prescott College, with an M.A. in Social Ecology, and now I’m hitting the ground running trying to make my academic experience relevant to the organizing I am part of.

How did you become introduced to the ideas of social ecology? How do you define social ecology when asked about it?

I first came across Social Ecology when reading Ecology of Everyday Life by Chaia Heller. That book was a really important bridge for me between feminist and environmental philosophy. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the transformation of my relationship to Social Ecology. If someone were to ask me about Social Ecology today, I’d say it’s a cross between principles and vision for a reconstructive society. What’s most useful for me in reflecting on what Social Ecology could and has been, is the work of the institute during the 70’s in the Lower East Side of Manhattan – exemplifying what’s possible for justice and ecology projects led by those most impacted by the system.

How does social ecology and/or your experience with the Institute for Social Ecology influence your current work?

I’d say Social Ecology is intimately linked, if not the same, as Climate Justice. Many of the core elements of the philosophy are enacted in Climate Justice and vice versa. For me, Social Ecology has really instilled the idea of what’s possible, what’s rational, and what’s simply exciting!

Could you tell us more about your work with Mobilization for Climate Justice West?

MCJW is an alliance of Bay Area groups that are politically aligned for climate justice in a very specific way: we support, amplify, and bring resources to community-based frontline struggles. Through direct action and education we try and connect local campaigns and fights to the international arena, which often entails climate policy or other displaced communities. Over the span of the alliance more than 50 different groups have contributed, with varying levels of participation. Most of our work has centered around Chevron in Richmond CA, and now we’re really excited to reach across the bay, igniting new alliances with amazing San Francisco community-based organization, like PODER (People Organizing to Demand Economic and Environmental Rights) and MUA (Mujeres Unidas y Activas). My participation in the alliance has been shaped by its needs: I’ve been contracted as an outreach coordinator, I sat on the coordinating council, I’ve taken up a ton of admin work, etc. Overall, it kind of doesn’t matter the roles I’ve taken up because we work in a really collective fashion. True, there are people and organizations with particular skills, but we tend to share those skills and come to decisions through extensive deliberation, which gives everyone a decent chance to contribute. I’ve been with the alliance for over two and a half years and I’m continually impressed with the way the people and organizations find new ways to collaborate with each other.

How would your characterize the current state of the Climate Justice movement?

I hesitate to say anything sweeping because there are vastly different things happening in the climate movement in general – like very different approaches to solidarity work – that complicate what this question is asking. The Climate Justice movement is much more specific in what it demands than general currents of the climate movement. Demands include, but aren’t limited to the idea and practice of reparations, challenging the root causes of the climate crisis, advancing collective rights, and true, democratic representation. While I tend to do more local work, I am also surrounded by people that venture into the international arena, mostly COPs (Conference of Parties) meetings where different sectors of the Climate Justice movement converge. Personally, I think the Climate Justice movement is alive and well, forging new alliances, and articulating clear and direct paths to a more justice, equitable, and resilient society. I think political leadership is a really important part of that. Being from the Global North, I look to people and organizations with relationships that span state and country borders.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities and greatest challenges for achieving a sustainable relationship between humanity and the wider world?

That’s a loaded question. Yet, I will continually point to relationships between people as the most important site to model an ethic necessary and sane for the wider world. Undoubtedly, our social relations are also the greatest challenge in that they reflect and engrain the unjust power relations we face — all the more reason to investigate our relationships more seriously.

Any great stories about being around the ISE?

I really enjoy the emerging intergenerational aspect to the ISE. I value the opportunity to transmit knowledge in such a way that I haven’t really experienced that much in my life. I like storytelling. I like hearing the choices, challenges, and hardships of people that came before me in this work. I hope we do this more. Also, the “open mic night” at the August 2010 was pretty rad. Dan Chodorkoff can really wail on the harmonica!

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