The Great Societal U-turn to Responsibility

Posted in Blog, News & Publications on 05/24/18

Randy Hayes’ SFSU Honorary Doctorate Speech
May 24, 2018 — AT&T Park — San Francisco, California
Nature Needs Half incoming chair, Randy Hayes, of the Rainforest Action Network, was honored by San Francisco State University as an honorary doctorate. The time for change has come, now it’s our duty to lean in to it and embrace the “Great Societal U-Turn.”


A wise professor taught that when our careers are attached to a greater cause — a more meaningful life emerges for each of us, for you. So after my masters at this very University I set out to support the rights of Indigenous peoples by starting Rainforest Action Network. We took on big power and still do. Though clearly I had a few things wrong as that work got me arrested about 19 times fighting the likes of the World Bank and world trade organizations. But hey Graduates, know we are still working that cause…
In fact I’ve just recently returned from the rainforest visiting tribes with bold plans to protect the headwaters of the mighty Amazon. This ongoing work helped earned me an Honorary Doctorate today. I thank the University for this Recognition.
Canoeing up to the Jaguar Shaman’s village in Ecuador I thought of this day and all of us here. The tribal elders spoke. They know their forests house vast biodiversity of future foods and medicines. Rainforests drive massive hydrologic cycles helping to run this planet’s weather systems. They know if we lose the rainforests we could lose our mother ship.
History and science tells us the planet’s natural systems are heavily damaged. Two hundred years of industrial deforestation, pollution, & toxicity. You know the story! These are volatile, but historic times!
Yet as San Francisco merges with Silicon Valley and molds the rest of the world, most captains of industry envision their energy guzzling business-as-usual future. But no better day will ever come unless there is major change — a Great Societal U-turn where we shoulder our responsibilities and focus our economies to protect and restore this life-giving planet.
I’m here to tell you that no Silicon Valley executives, no major political parties, no elected officials, & not even the big social change groups are telling you how little time we have to radically reform this destructive business-as-usual worldview. Remember that there is no social justice and certainly no vibrant economy on a nearly dead planet. That point alone should call out to all of us. Rise to this historic occasion. Seek fundamentally better directions and create a Great Societal U-Turn to Deep Responsibility.
FORTUNATELY THERE IS A LOT OF GOOD NEWS. Many bright, caring people have worked out solutions. Should you need a starting point I’ve synthesized them into a Seven Point Plan, which I’ll gladly send to you. I believe we can ecologize the economy. Think of a True Cost Economy that internalizes dangerous externalities. I believe we can halt extinction protecting half of the oceans and half the lands. We need healthy oceans & pollinator bees to grow food to feed humanity. Nature Needs Half: a campaign for all of us!
History and science also tells us we must now address nature’s needs or we humans will not survive. When I was deep in the Amazon we celebrated. We drank their manioc wine. We sang and danced. They live meaningful lives in forest beauty as their ancestors did – meaningful lives in beauty you and your family also deserve.
So I ask you on their behalf, throw your shoulders to this task. Embrace a Great Societal U-turn. Let that be your clarion call – a vital part of your life. Transform business-as-usual to deep ecological common sense and human dignity. Live earth-centered ways of life.
To Conclude: Tonight go forth with family and friends. Celebrate the degree you worked hard for. But toast also the beauty of the planet that provides for all life. You graduate in volatile, but historic times. Employ your tools. Have long & meaningful of lives. Together we can get to Deep Responsibility. Thank You.


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