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David Orr, Hope, and Ecological Civilization

Destiny is the sum total of the choices we make, and we have the power to make different choices and hence to create a destiny better than that in prospect. The challenge to those intending to lead is to help create a vision of a decent human future within the bounds of ecological possibility. We must honestly face the forces we’ve set in motion and look to a farther horizon. -David Orr in Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse

On April 1 EcoCiv convened a major symposium, hosted at home of George Washington University’s president, Steven Knapp. The event included leaders of environmental organizations, policy experts, scholars, and activists. For participants, it was a practice in stepping back from their day-to-day efforts to construct and implement sustainable policies and to consider their work from the standpoint of the longer-term goal, an ecological civilization.

David Orr set the stage by highlighting evidence of climate change and demonstrating that global society is on a path toward social, economic, and political collapse as a result. Through backcasting– working backwards from the goal of an ecological society to guide decision-making today —participants were invited to think how their current work should be reoriented, especially in light of the danger of climate-induced economic collapse. Individual policy experts made proposals for roadmaps in their sectors that would help move society toward our ultimate goal: ecological civilization. In the same pursuit, EcoCiv will continue to engage policy experts along with grassroots organizations to promote the societal and cultural transition to ecological civilization.


David Orr (Featured Speaker) is Professor of Environmental Studies at Oberlin College. He is one of the most significant figures in environmental studies and philosophy of the last four decades. He has combined scholarship with community involvement and concrete projects in sustainable living.

Steven Knapp (host), President, George Washington University

Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of Sustainability, George Washington University; former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture

Frances Seymour, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development; Senior Advisor, David and Lucile Packard Foundation; Former Director General, Center for International Forestry Research

Lisa Renstrom is Chair of the Board of Confluence Philanthropy; former President, Sierra Club

John Cavanagh, Director, Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.

Patrick Doherty Founder and Co-directed, Strategic Innovation Lab at Case Western Reserve University

Dan Vermeer, Founder and Director, Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE) at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

Bob Perkowitz, founder and President,

Meghan Chapple, Director, George Washington University’s Office of Sustainability

James Peacock, Kenan Professor of Anthropology and Professor of Comparative Literature emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Logan Malik, Student Leader, Fossil Free GW

Philip Clayton (organizer), President, Toward Ecological Civilization; Ingraham Professor at Claremont School of Theology

Herman Greene (organizer), President, Center for Ecozoic Societies

Beth Singleton (coordinator), Project Manager, Toward Ecological Civilization

Marilyn Greenberg, Project Manager, Toward Ecological Civilization

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