Our 2017 Commencement Speaker: Deborah Moore

Deborah Moore is a award-winning scientist, advocate, changemaker, mother, and nature lover. While she may not be a household name to you, her work has touched millions of lives and thousands of square miles of nature around the world.

She has led winning campaigns across a wide range of issues, from river restoration and Indian water rights agreements in the western U.S. to fighting destructive dams around the world, and from establishing green and healthy school programs that get schools to go solar and kids out in nature to advancing the human rights of indigenous peoples. Throughout her varied career, Deborah has held roles as a research scientist, environmental advocate, non-profit director, educator, foundation consultant, and coalition builder, from small start-ups to large global initiatives.

Deborah worked as a scientist at Environmental Defense Fund, a national advocacy organization, protecting rivers in the western U.S. and internationally through innovative collaborations and advocacy with farmers, indigenous communities, hydropower companies, fishermen, and urban interests. Her work has protected rivers and native communities from the Deschutes River in Oregon to the Truckee River and Pyramid Lake in Nevada, and from the Brazilian Amazon to the Mekong in Asia and the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Her research on low-cost, sustainable water technologies to serve poor communities has helped advance better approaches to grant-making and foreign aid programs. Her water work culminated in serving on the World Commission on Dams, establishing a new framework for human-rights centered approach to water and rivers management, launched by South African President Nelson Mandela in November 2000.

In 2004, Deborah launched a new chapter in her career to co-found and lead the Green Schools Initiative after her daughter started Kindergarten because she was concerned how un-environmental the school was. She has transformed K-12 schools – where 1 in 5 Americans spends their day – into community models of sustainability reaching wide audiences, inspiring the next generation of leaders, and benefiting her own daughter. Green Schools Initiative took off: training and mobilizing thousands of educators and students to take actions to reduce their schools’ environmental footprints and save millions of dollars; launching state and national programs like the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools award program that fosters exemplary sustainable schools and districts in California and across the country and benefits millions of students by “leaving no child inside.”

From being a “concerned mom,” Deborah has returned to being a “concerned scientist” when she joined the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2016 as the Western States Senior Campaign Manager. In her current role, she oversees Union of Concerned Scientists’ work to advance solutions on climate change, renewable energy, sustainable water management, and clean vehicles in California, Oregon, and Washington. She works with a network of thousands of scientists across the country, bringing their expertise into our policy-making process and amplifying their voices to stand up for science in our democracy. In 2016, Deborah helped pass California’s ambitious new climate law, named SB 32 and an update of the Global Warming Solutions Act, setting strong targets to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and achieve our commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.

She serves on the Board of International Rivers, defending rivers and human rights around the world, and served on the Board of Conservation Strategy Fund, using the power of economics to conserve nature. Both organizations have been honored with a Macarthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. She co-founded 1000 Flowers, registering ~20,000 women to vote at hair, nail, and beauty salons, believing that women’s voices are critical in our democracy.

Deborah went to first grade three times (once in English, once in French, and once in Spanish) and has visited 42 countries. She got her start as a scientist studying physics at Reed College and pursued an inter-disciplinary M.S. in Energy and Resources from University of California – Berkeley, where she concentrated on hydrology and economics. She is married to her college sweetheart, and has one daughter.