Bill McKibben's first book, The End of Nature, brought the global warming crisis to a general audience in 1989. Since then the book has been published in twenty languages and reached thousands of readers. McKibben continued to write on topics ranging from the modern lack of connection with the environment, our overexposure to television, population growth, local commerce and community focus, genetic engineering, religion and nature, and his own local environment in New England. In one experiment, he watched over 1700 hours of television in a single year and compared it to the ultimately much more fulfilling experience of seeing and listening to nature.
In 2007, he founded Step It Up, a grassroots campaign that organizing rallies across the United States for a National Day of Climate Action on April 14th, 2007. McKibben led the effort to arrange volunteers in every state to host events with speakers, musicians, artists, and community participation all centered on taking action to prevent global warming. Digital photos from hundreds of events around the country were posted online immediately afterward to demonstrate to the wider public and to Congress the strength of the movement. Participants called on Congress to commit to a reduction of 80% in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.
McKibben is currently involved in 350.org, an international campaign focused on limiting the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million in order to avoid globabl climate change.
It is a huge undertaking, but McKibben knows that we can do it; after all, our future environment depends on our actions today.
Questions and Answers
What is your environmental ethic?
It changes--but right now, I think, it's to figure out how to use my time most effectively to help bring about the broadest possible change in the relation between people and the natural world.
What did you eat for dinner last night and where did it come from?
Curried chicken--chicken from a local farm, curry powder from halfway around the world. And a beer from our local brewery.
Who is one of your environmental heroes, and why?
Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer and essayist, who has done more to open my eyes to the need for community than anyone else.
What can high school or college students do to help the environment?
Get politically involved--work in campaigns, or stage demonstrations as part of movements like stepitup07.org or 350.org to force our leaders to make big changes soon that will cut global warming gases.
How does your faith relate to your relationship with the environment?
The rest of creation seems insanely beautiful and full of meaning to me; I feel called somehow to work on its behalf.
Have you read Walden? How did it influence you?
I not only read it, I edited an edition some years ago. That meant spending a year inside Thoreau's brain--a complex, slightly weird, and wildly interesting place. I think Thoreau understood earlier and deeper than anyone else the dangers of an America obsessed with individual wealth and accumulation. And I think he was right that any day without three or four hours in the woods is wasted.
What's your next step?
We're trying to figure out how to play a role in the next presidential elections--check out climatesummer.org for news on what other students are up to.