Judy Moores: A Lifetime of Dedication to the Environment
Editor’s Note: After a lifetime of dedication to the environment, primarily here in Davis but also in her home town in upstate New York, Judy Moores has moved to the University Retirement Community, where she has begun a new phase in her life. What follows is a third person autobiography that elucidates the details of her work, starting with a love of wild things at an early age, through her commitment and founding role with Cool Davis and the Cool Davis Foundation.
Judith E. Riker Moores was born in Newburgh, New York, on February 5, 1943. Her mother was a homemaker and her father a housepainter. She has two younger sisters and a younger brother, the latter now deceased. When she was 10, her father left the family and her mother went to work as a nurse’s aide and then as a factory worker to support her children. The family lived in various towns in the Newburgh area, eventually settling in Mountainville, part of the Cornwall, New York, School District.
Judy and her siblings loved nature, but had little guidance for their interests until 1958, when Avahlee and Bettison Shapiro offered a Summer (Natural) Science Workshop for junior high students. Although Judy’s siblings were all accepted, she, as a high school student, was not eligible. So, she offered to work as an assistant to the leaders. By the end of the workshop, the workshop participants had assembled a small nature museum, and, in 1959, with the help of the Shapiro couple, they set up the museum on the top floor of the Cornwall town hall. After a garter snake escaped and found its way to a secretary’s typewriter, the city fathers were very happy to support a move to a building of its own.
During high school study hall periods, Judy traveled frequently to local elementary school classrooms to talk about local animals as part of the museum’s outreach program. She usually took along her pet five-foot-long black snake, a frog and a salamander, too. The Cornwall Neighborhood Museum, now known as the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum, was from the beginning dedicated to introducing young people to their local environment with a hands-on approach. Today, the museum is a center for nature with a focus on environmental education and a mission to develop responsible caretakers of the natural world.
The museum uses its living collections of native animals and local natural habitats and trails to present a wide variety of programs and exhibits for people of all ages. The museum YIMBY Program (Yes, In My Backyard) encourages individuals and families to take personal actions to promote a healthy environment. As a founder and one of the two original student trustees (1959-1962), Judy spoke at the museum’s 50th anniversary celebration in June 2009.
With the Shapiros’ mentoring, Judy was accepted as a student at Mt. Holyoke College. In 1965, she graduated from MHC with a degree in Biology with minors in Art and English. She married Eldridge Moores on June 5, 1965, in the MHC Chapel. After college, Judy taught science and math in a private school in Princeton, New Jersey, before moving to Davis in 1966, where her husband, Eldridge Moores, had accepted a position in the Geology Department of UC Davis.
While Eldridge pursued a career in geology at UC Davis, Judy took classes at UC Davis and packed as much volunteer work into her schedule as she could manage. In 1967, she and her husband welcomed their first child, Geneva. Judy joined the International Friendship Committee and started playgroups to bring American and international women together, helped with “Chatter Club” programs, and did public relations for the group.
In 1969, Judy applied for Urban Crisis Funds from the University of California to run a summer science workshop in Sacramento, California, where she and her staff worked with children in the Southside area. By the end of the program, the participants, who lived in public housing, had put together a small nature museum for their parents and friends to visit. Even though the UC funds came in late that year because the legislature was slow to pass the state budget, Judy “went out on a limb” to borrow money and ran the program on a reduced budget. She was eventually repaid. In 1970, UC released the remaining grant funds. As there were not enough funds for the Sacramento program, she set up a nature museum for the summer on the UC Davis campus, and provided activities and programs for local migrant children and the general public. That same year, she and her husband adopted a son, Brian.
In the early 1970s, Judy worked with Ecology Action, a local environmental group to disseminate information on how to live ecologically and in harmony with the natural environment.
When she and her husband, Eldridge, enrolled their children in the Davis Parent Nursery School, Judy took on a series of board roles, year-by-year, including section rep, registrar, and president. In 1973, Judy had her third child, Kathryn, while the family was in Zurich for her husband’s sabbatical.
As her children moved on to West Davis Elementary School, Judy was one of a small group of parents who insisted on working in the classrooms and providing science enrichment classes at the school. She joined the Parent Teacher Association and again served on boards, including a year as president of West Davis Elementary School PTA and a year as vice president of the Davis PTA Council. From 1975 to 1976, in addition to being president of the WDES PTA, Judy wrote and directed a historical pageant for all the classes at the school as part of their 1976 Bicentennial Celebration. The West Davis Elementary PTA Board recognized her work with a PTA Acorn Award.
All in all, Judy worked as a volunteer for Davis schools for over a decade and served on many school committees. As her children grew older, she represented Area 4 on the Master Plan Steering Committee for Los Rios Community College District. From 1984 to 1987, she served on the Yolo County School Board including two years as president. Under her leadership, the County Office of Education completed its first operations manual and obtained funding for pre-school classrooms for children with disabilities.
After Prop 13 passed, Judy co-founded and served for a number of years on the boards of Friends of the Gifted and Talented and the Davis Science Center (now Explorit), which was created under the auspices of Friends of the Gifted and Talented. She helped create some of the original exhibits, taught classes, led workshops, and wrote grants to fund a building.
During the 1990s, Judy served on the board of STEAC (Short Term Emergency Aid Committee) and worked nearly full-time as a volunteer helping to revamp the entire organization. In 1999, she was named a JC Penny Golden Rule award finalist for her work with STEAC and awarded the C.A. Covell Citizen of the Year Award for decades of outstanding service to the people of the City of Davis. In 2001, she took over writing and editing the UC Davis International House Newsletter for a period of six years.
After she and her husband joined the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis in the mid-1970s, Judy served in several capacities at the church including chairing the Sunday Services and Caring Network committees. During the early 2000s, she coordinated the renovation of the sanctuary, established a young adult group, wrote grants to establish a campus ministry, and chaired the initial Campus and Parish Intern Ministry committee.
In 2005, with her growing concern for the state of the environment and the information that was coming out about global warming, Judy brought together a group of concerned church members, and, with permission of the congregation, began the work of making the church a Green Sanctuary. She led the group through 12 major projects in 4 different areas including worship, religious education, sustainability, and eco-justice. Judy wrote the original application for candidacy and the final application for accreditation. In recognition of the exemplary completion of the work that the UU Church of Davis had accomplished in order to meet the requirements for accreditation as a Green Sanctuary, Judy was invited to speak at the UU Ministry for Earth national meeting at the UUA General Assembly of Congregations in May of 2007. Also, in May of 2007, the City of Davis recognized the UU Church with an Environmental Recognition award, which recognized Judy and her UU Church committee for their environmental work.
As part of her Green Sanctuary work, Judy researched appropriate classes to help adults learn about environmental issues and found curricula developed by the Northwest Earth Institute. Over the first years of the new millennium, she organized and mentored 15 discussion classes on such topics as Voluntary Simplicity, Global Warming, Sustainability, and others. For the class on “A Sense of Place,” she organized a group of experts to customize the curriculum for the Sacramento Valley. She coordinated NWEI classes both at church and at International House.
In 2008, the UU Church of Davis gave her the “Guardian of the Future” award for her “endless environmental service to the UU congregation, the Davis community, and beyond.” Recognizing the spiritual and educational role that a Green Sanctuary committee would provide, Judy recruited concerned members and led the extensive work of designing the actions to meet the Green Sanctuary criteria. These expectations stretched the church community to become both “educated about the plight of our planet and action driven to protect and restore the health of the environment.” Also, she began to organize Low Carbon Diet teams at the UU church.
In April 2009, both Yolo County and the California State Assembly honored her during Women’s History month as a Yolo County woman “Taking the Lead to Save Our Planet.”
Over the years, Judy and her husband organized and led numerous local fieldtrips for the lay public to introduce them to the wonders of geology in general, and, of Northern California in particular. They worked as volunteers, and proceeds from the fieldtrips went to support Tuleyome, the Yolo Basin Foundation, and the Green Sanctuary work of the UU Church of Davis. The couple believed that the more the public understood the wonders of our “Tuleyome,” our deep-home place, the more likely they were to understand the need to live more lightly on our planet.
Judy and Eldridge worked hard to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions by doing everything from changing light bulbs to shorter showers to biking everywhere to putting solar panels on their roof. Judy grew much of their food for their mostly vegetarian diet. As Judy noted, “When it comes to saving our planet, I cannot ask anyone do anything that I am not willing to do myself.”
In 2006, Trinity Press published Bedrock: Writings on the Wonders of Geology, which Judy and Eldridge co-edited with its first editor, Lauret E. Savoy. In 2007, Judy and John Mott-Smith researched the use of bottled water and submitted a resolution concerning bottled water to the City of Davis. On November 15, the Davis City Council signed Resolution No. 07-177, Series 2007, encouraging all citizens to consider alternatives to using bottled water and to prohibit using city funds to buy bottled water except for emergency situations. The City received national recognition for this resolution.
In 2006, 2007, and 2008, Judy spearheaded efforts to get a number of places of faith in Davis to join the UU Church of Davis and encourage their members to walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation to services. Each of the three years, the City Council passed proclamations recognizing the efforts of places of faith and other groups to reduce their transportation carbon footprints. A 2008 proclamation declared May as “Bike Everywhere Month: For Our Health, Our Air, and Our Earth.” Judy worked with city staff to compose the proclamations.
In 2008, the UU Church of Davis Green Sanctuary Committee awarded Judy their first “Guardian of the Future” award and nominated her for national recognition. The national UU Ministry listed her as a nominee-runner-up for the award. As part of her Green Sanctuary work, she joined Care for God’s Creation (CFGC), an interfaith group, which organized biennial interfaith conferences and other training programs. The conferences promoted an appreciation of the deep religious foundation for environmentalism and an understanding of the science underpinning ecological concern. Judy had a major role in organizing the CFGC 2006 conference titled, “The Tree of Life,” and a lesser role in the CFGC 2008 conference, titled “The Breath of Life.”
Over 2007 and 2008, as an outgrowth of her Green Sanctuary work, Judy had been part of a committee of the UU Legislative Ministry, to encourage congregations throughout California to offer the Low Carbon Diet curriculum as a church program. The Low Carbon Diet, based on a book by David Gershon, provides a program for people to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5000 pounds per household. Judy took this program to the City of Davis in the summer of 2008. After the City completed a successful pilot of the program in the fall of 2008, a small group of citizens, including Judy, joined city staff in 2009 to reach out to faith groups, present a breakfast on the Low Carbon Diet effort, and encourage citizens to reduce their carbon footprints.
In March of 2010, by unanimous vote, the Davis City Council voted to work on global warming and other sustainability issues in order to achieve total carbon neutrality by mid-century. On June 1, 2010, the City of Davis approved the Davis Climate Action and Adaptation Plan designed to place the community on a path to achieve its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, conserve natural resources, protect the environment, address global warming, and reduce the carbon footprint of Davis.
In order to help implement the Davis Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, the City of Davis supported the formation of the Cool Davis Initiative, incorporating those who had worked on the faith group effort. The mission of the Cool Davis Initiative, created by a network of residents, businesses, the City of Davis, and local groups, was to inspire our community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to a changing climate, and improve the quality of life for all. The group decided that “having fun” was also important to their work.
As part of the initiative leadership from the beginning, Judy co-directed the highly successful and free Cool Davis Green Living Festival held October 10 (10/10/10) in Davis in conjunction with 350.org’s international efforts to bring awareness to federal governments of the need for greenhouse gas emission reduction. Over 1700 people participated in the festival, and, a day later, 150 of them participated in related service projects designed to take care of our local environment. Judy subsequently became president of the Cool Davis Foundation, a non-profit organization formed in 2010 to support the work of the initiative. In the spring of 2011, she was honored for her work with a City of Davis Environmental Recognition award.
The Cool Davis Initiative core group brought together about 50 partner organizations in support of the mission, began a number of project groups, started Low Carbon Diet teams, and hosted screenings of the films “No Impact Man” and “YERT.” The core group organized a second Day of Service Saturday, October 15, and presented the second Cool Davis Festival in 2011 on Sunday October 16. Again in 2011, Judy, serving a major role in the organization, coordinated a partner outreach effort, organized a 2011 “Day of Service”, and coordinated theater events for the 2011 Cool Davis Festival. She worked as part of the core group to gear up for the Cool California Challenge in 2013, with the goal of signing up and helping 10 percent of Davis households to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and start on the road toward a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.
Judy continued to co-chair the UU Church of Davis Green Sanctuary committee, formed in 2005, and spearheaded the church’s Green Sanctuary re-accreditation process. With the church’s major renovation and building project, Judy helped with the composting, bicycling, furniture, and building use committees, always striving to institutionalize “green policies and processes into our church life.” She was able to get choice lightning rod bike racks at a reduced rate and found compost bins that are easy to use and maintain. As part of the building use committee, she helped set church policies for members and facility rentals to hold nearly waste-free events.
Judy and her husband, Eldridge, traveled to many countries for his work, living during summer field seasons in Greece and Cyprus and during sabbaticals in Zurich, Switzerland; Kailua, Hawaii; Paris, France; Norwich, England; and Perth, Australia. Additional travels took them to China, Japan, Morocco, Mozambique, South Africa, Chile, Turkey, Scotland, and other European countries. Their daughter, Geneva, works as an out-source consultant for Ford Motor Company, and her husband plays French horn with the Kennedy Center Opera Orchestra. The couple lives in Arlington, Virginia, with their three children. Judy and Eldridge’s son, Brian, based in Cookham, England, is a consultant for Netsuite. Their youngest daughter, Kathryn, is the chief scenic artist at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. In April of 2016, Eldridge and Judy spent 10 days in northern Greece, showing son Brian and daughter Kat around the area where they had camped in 1973 when Eldridge and colleagues did geological work. That summer, Brian was three years old and Kat only three months old.
In June, 2016, the UC Davis Department of Earth and Planetary Science hosted a weekend of lectures and a fieldtrip to honor Eldridge’s 50 years of contributions to UC Davis and the field of geology. Over the passing decades, news concerning global warming, pollution, the extinction of species, as well as many other environmental problems, strengthened Judy and Eldridge’s love of Earth and determination to do whatever they could to make a difference, slow global warming, educate others to live lightly, and inspire all to care for our sacred planet.
On October 28, 2018, Eldridge died in a motel fire in Quincy, California, while leading a geology fieldtrip up the Feather River Canyon and beyond. After 18 months of grieving, Judy decided to move to the University Retirement Community. She has been warmly welcomed at the URC and has begun a new phase in her life.
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