Bill McKibben, noted environmental writer and journalist, stretches his legs and takes a sip from his plastic Nestle water bottle. He just flew in to Charleston to speak and notes the obvious contradiction in his message.
McKibben said, “I wish I wasn’t travelling. I’d rather be saving energy at my own home in Vermont, but I recognize the importance of organizing around this cause.”
He describes himself as a writer who now seems to spend most of his time organizing rather than writing.
Author, Educator and Environmentalist
On Thursday April 5., McKibben spoke to college students and members of the College of Charleston community. The lecture was provided by the Office of Sustainability, the Environmental Studies program, the Master of Science Environmental Studies program, and the Citadel as part of Sustainability Week.
It was also the 10th Annual Conrad D. Festa Community Lecture in Science and Mathematics.
McKibben travelled to various colleges and universities this Spring to speak on global warming and the actions that should be taken for the well being of our planet.
He said, “Because I’ve travelled around the world spewing carbon behind me…I can honestly say it’s not over.”
McKibben mentioned that recent weather patterns and extreme changes are making individuals more aware of global warming and notes that the number of non-believers is shrinking.
However, he also said, “We’re losing, we’re definitely not winning.”
In order to reduce the burning of gas and oil, he stressed the importance of recognizing that fossil fuel is such a big part of our lives. We will never have as much money as the oil industry.
McKibben describes global warming as the “biggest thing that’s ever happened in human history.”
He believes such an important issue requires immediate attention. It is too late to stop global warming and it will only continue, but we must do our part in any way possible.
Notable works, and movement
McKibben is an established author of 14 books and has been writing for the past 20 years. His first book The End of Nature was published in 1989.
One of his most recent books, Eaarth, was written as a guide to live on a planet that has been altered by climate change.
McKibben said, “I changed the title around to stress the shift occurring in the World.”
Some of the most notable changes are weather and environmental extremes. McKibben mentioned that Earth is 4% wetter than it was 30 years ago, and its water sources are 30% more acidic as a result of carbon absorption in the atmosphere.
Aside from his written works, McKibben plays a large role in organizing a movement to combat global warming.
He said, “It’s [organizing] something that’s much more of an art than a science.”
McKibben founded the global grassroots movement 350.org in 2007. It originally consisted of 7 students, representing each of the 7 continents, and their goal was to solve the climate crisis.
One of the successful events held was a day of organizing on Oct. 24, 2009. On this day 5,200 rallies took place simultaneously in 181 countries to promote global warming awareness.
Many of these demonstrations took place in developing countries such as Ethiopia or the Maldives, with the goal of putting a stop to the notion that “environmentalism is for rich white people who have already solved all their other problems.”
McKibben also said, “It’s their future that’s at stake – they’re the majority of the population.”
Another day of organization will be held this May called Connect the Dots. Through this day 350.org hopes to emphasize the importance of understanding the emerging pattern of climate change so action can be taken.
McKibben said, “This isn’t just a great practical dilemma, it’s an enormous moral dilemma too because the people who are being hurt by this the most had no part in causing any of it.”
Hope for the future
McKibben’s message denotes that a call for action is necessary.
He encourages the development of new programs and organizations, mentioning the huge success of the creation of the Office of Sustainability on campus.
McKibben said, “Colleges are places where we should be demonstrating what’s possible.”
Although he acknowledges the importance of local movements, such as the large local food presence in Charleston, McKibben also stresses that these small steps are not enough.
He said, “I wish I could tell you that’s all we had to do…the trouble is we can’t just work at the local level because it’s being overwhelmed by the changes around us.”
McKibben stresses the need to act globally, for the future.
He said, “We don’t think college students should be the common fire…it’s nice to see some of us who have spent all of our lives emitting carbon into the atmosphere stepping up to the challenge.”
In terms of the movement, its goals and the challenges it faces, McKibben looks forward to standing shoulder to shoulder in the fight and believes that successful efforts can only emerge from unity.
He compares solving the climate crisis to the Manhattan Project because collaboration and cooperation are vital to its success.