On May 19, in front of a full crowd at Memorial Stadium at the University of Kansas, Wes Jackson delivered the keynote address to graduates, marking the 141st University of Kansas Commencement. Wes Jackson received a MA in Botany from the University of Kansas in 1960 and went on to build The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. Founded in 1976, The Land Institute seeks “to develop an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops.”
Jackson’s address, entitled “The Serious Challenge of Our Time,” called on graduates to ensure that the high law of morality, to protect our planet, must be protected from the legal authority of harming the ecosphere.
The high law of morality has its roots in the Declaration of Independence’s assertion that all men are created equal. However, like the contradiction of slavery, there is a conflict between what is moral and what is legal. Jackson says, “now nature is being legally and increasingly enslaved, legally locked in an increasingly abusive and wasteful servitude.”
Jackson highlighted some of the achievements of The Land Institute, including wheat hybrid trials in eight countries and the development of Kernza, a relative of wheat.
“The contrast between nature’s way and agriculture was striking,” said Jackson, but he also argued that there is hope. “…The high law of morality this time can be advanced through the democratic processes our ancestors drafted. We can overturn the legality of destruction. This requires organizing.”
Jackson concludes with a final charge: “The moral vs. legal is on the line now. Both political and independent action are required again, this time to protect the ecosphere.”