Posts Tagged ‘Bill McKibben’

Wow…some politicians are actually uttering these words: Climate Change is Real!

Here’s New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his last minute endorsement of President’s Obama’s re-election after Hurricane Sandy laid NYC low (quoting from the New York Times 11/1/12):

Lower Manhattan 10/29/12 photo courtesy of Damon Dahlen, AOL

“Our climate is changing…And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

On November 8, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said after the November 6th election extended the Democratic majority in the Senate: “Climate change is an extremely important issue for me and I hope we can address it reasonably. It’s something, as we’ve seen with these storms that are overwhelming our country and the world, we need to do something about it.”

Even President Obama made a passing reference to it in his re-election acceptance speech on the night of November 6th: “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

I imagine a lot of people who know climate change is happening in real time are thinking they’ll believe that Washington will manage to do anything about it when they see it. For sure one of them, Bill McKibben, isn’t waiting.

Do The Math logo courtesy of 350.org

Climate activist and author, McKibben was arguably the first voice in the wilderness speaking about climate change in terms folks could understand in his groundbreaking book, The End of Nature, published in 1996. With several more books, multiple speaking tours, direct actions, and teaching he’s continued to lead, calling for action on global warming. In 2008, he and others founded 350.org, an international effort to bring climate change front and center on the world political stage through citizen action. His most recent push—a 20 city nationwide biodiesel-fueled bus tour called “Do The Math” (math.350.org/)—started November 7th to a sold-out crowd in Seattle. Described as “TED-talk meets concert tour” there are two goals: to get universities and churches to divest portfolio investments in petroleum companies (following the lead of the South Africa divestments used in the 1980s as an anti-apartheid tool); and to re-ignite grassroots activism for the next stage of the climate battle.

Do the Math—Seattle courtesy of 350.org

Two universities have already pledged to divest. And one attendee at last night’s Los Angeles event told me she’s ready to get arrested if that’s what it takes.

Sounds like McKibben’s message just may be working.

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New Mexico is knee deep in drought. Albuquerque’s drought status is currently classified extreme, and the southeastern plains has the worst ranking—Exceptional—awarded by the US Drought Monitor. http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html

It looks like all sorts of weird weather is happening all over the US. It’s obvious this is the hot/cold/wet/dry/tornado-infested/hurricane-inundated/ “Noah Build Us an Ark” flood-leveled breath of climate change on our necks. Check out these horrible stats: www.grist.org/climate-change/2011-04-29-extreme-weather-costs-lives-health-economy-and-could-be-here

courtesy of iMatterMarch

Still, nobody in DC seems concerned. Even though the Federal Emergency Management Agency spent $6.7 billion in 2010 on 81 separate disasters. I guess the inside the Beltway politicians and pundits haven’t clicked that disaster aid may become the worst case budget buster. Do we need to see the Potomac flood before something happens?

So I’m heartened that the core of 350.org and other climate change organizations are young people. And I’m thrilled to read about a group of teenagers who on Wednesday May 4 filed a lawsuit in San Francisco against the government for failing in their duty to reduce greenhouse gases as a legal issue of abdicating the public trust with future generations. www.nytimes.com/2011/05/05/science/earth/05climate.html This week they’ve scheduled grassroots marches around the world.

courtesy of iMatterMarch

YAY! See it all at http://imattermarch.org/lawsuit/. Got kids? Get them to sign the petition. Maybe go to or organize a local march. For more ideas look at this Oregon-based non-profit, Our Children’s Trust http://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/

After all, it is their future we’re using up. Talk about deficit spending.

courtesy of Our Children's Trust

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Last month I read Bill McKibben’s brand-new (4/10) Eaarth—Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, the latest book in a career which began with his 1989 mindset-changing The End of Nature Earlier this week I heard a lecture by Dennis Meadows, futurist, educator and author of the famous Limits to Growth, first released in 1974 and since updated twice, most recently in 2004’s The 30-Year Update which I also read.

Eaarth © Photo Courtesy of Author

Limits to Growth The 30 Year Update © Chelsea Green Publishing Co.

These books are not for those seeking a rosy view of our global future. Nor could Meadows’ lecture be characterized as an optimistic, uplifting experience. All have a profoundly fatalistic view about what lies ahead.

McKibben is, obviously, weary. In an heroic effort at Copenhagen to speak truth to power, he, the 350.org organization he spearheads, the millions of individuals and 112 countries who coalesced around the 350 ppm atmospheric CO2 goal, were summarily turned away. Even from entering the meeting hall.

After rejection like that, who wouldn’t be exhausted? It shows in Eaarth, which is permeated with a deep elegiac sense of soul sadness.  In Eaarth, optimism seems replaced by resignation. McKibben recommends hunkering down, trying to live “lightly, carefully, gracefully” and on a much reduced scale on this tough new planet.

Dennis Meadows might make the argument he came to the same conclusion from an economic viewpoint in his 1984 Club of Rome commissioned Limits to Growth. Now, 36 years on, he says that while appearing capable of absorbing more people and more economic growth, we’re really only driving deeper into a planetary ditch, incurring not just unsustainable economic but environmental debt too.  To him, collapse is imminent, whether financially or ecologically.

His solutions? Much like McKibben’s. Forget technofixes. Think local. Adapt. Educate. Look to extra-political institutions.

Although neither comes right out and says it, I sense both, like most of us, are mad as hell. But neither they, nor the rest of us, can figure out much we can do about it.

The message? I guess we’re all—except perhaps the uber-rich who may at least be able to postpone it—surely headed for hard times ahead.

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I’m appalled by all the folks who are never challenged when they talk about global climate change as though it were some scientific conspiracy cooked up by a bunch of rich climatologists to keep their jobs. We hear this rant from sources as diverse as the TV weatherman (If Global Warming Kills Us, Blame the Weatherman http://industry.bnet.com) to my own local postman.

Meanwhile Greenpeace reported yesterday that Koch Industries, a little known but enormous, privately held company with interests in everything from mining to oil and gas, has invested $25 million in a highly organized climate denial machine. (http://motherjones.com.)

So to see this month’s (April 2010) Scientific American cover touting a “Special Report: Managing Earth’s Future. Solutions for a Finite World. ”  and its accompanying articles on Bill McKibben was a breath of fresh air.

The Special Report is particularly and graphically chilling. It sets out what experts consider our eight biggest problems and posits threshold points beyond which we head at Earth’s peril. Three—biodiversity loss, a disrupted nitrogen cycle, and climate change—have passed those tipping points already.

But what to do? Sadly, not one expert mentions that we’re all going to need to change dramatically and but quick. They all present the standard worn-out nostrums: policy shifts, dietary modifications, land use planning.

So it was with relief that I continued on to the next article, “Breaking the Growth Habit” by Bill McKibben, a visionary whose first book, The End of Nature, proved a seminal jeremiad about our self-destructive path.

This article begins: “New planets require new habits….We simply can’t live on the new earth as if it were the old earth—we’ve foreclosed that option.”

In more excerpts from McKibben’s new book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet due out this month just in time for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, he argues it’s time to move beyond our adolescent belief in unlimited growth. We need to grow up and start jettisoning. Not just our consumer lifestyle that equates more stuff with more success, he’s talking about rethinking 21st century complexity, now a tightly wound interlocking societal system, whose every bump and ripple is, quite literally, felt around the world. Remember 2008’s financial meltdown?

It’s going to be painful, this change. As he puts it, “Painless is just delay. You know, pay me now or pay me later.”

What does he recommend to get us moving in the right direction immediately? “Pricing carbon to reflect the damage it does to the environment.”

In plain terms that means more expensive gas, higher home heating bills, more expensive grocery items. In fact higher costs, period. Is it worth it? I know what I think. How about you?

For more go to: www.ScientificAmerican.com/mckibbenQA

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