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Bill McKibben's Posts

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Climate change too slow for Hollywood, too fast for the rest of us

It's always been hard to get people to take global warming seriously because it happens too slowly. Not slowly in geological terms -- by century's end, according to the consensus scientific prediction, we'll have made the planet warmer than it's been in tens of millions of years. But slowly in NBC Nightly News terms. From day to day, it's hard to discern the catastrophe, so we don't get around to really worrying. Something else -- the battle for Fallujah, the presidential election, the spread of SARS, the Jacksonian mammary -- is always more immediate, and evolution seems to have engineered …

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The U.S. has outsourced environmental leadership

On the money. California unveiled the design on its state quarter last week: a picture of John Muir, an image of Half Dome. It's an apt representation of American environmentalism at the moment -- rich in history, but not worth much at present. Modern environmentalism can fairly be described as an American invention. It got its rhetoric from John Muir, its fighting savvy from David Brower, its sense of the world from Rachel Carson, and its institutional framework from the Congress of the Nixon years, which bowed before the loud will of the American people in the years after Earth …

Read more: Living, Politics

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Does it make sense for environmentalists to want to limit immigration?

The Sierra Club, most venerable of environmental organizations, is awash in charges, countercharges, suits, countersuits, invective, counter-invective, and double counter-invective bounces-off-me-and-sticks-to-you. At issue, depending on whom you talk to, is whether single-issue racists will take over the organization's board or whether club democracy will be squelched by blatant interference from the group's old guard. What's barely discussed in the news accounts I've read is the substantive question behind this fracas: Does it make sense for environmentalists to want to limit immigration? Sierra Club Immigration Debate Que Sierra, Sierra Immigration controversy engulfs Sierra Club board election As it happens, this is …

Read more: Living

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Babbitt, Hawken, and other enviros throw their weight behind Dean

We've spent much of our lives working for environmental change -- for a response to global warming, for the preservation of biodiversity, for wild places, for family farms. But this winter, we're working for Howard Dean for president -- backing him in the confident hope that his victory will mean that the deep environmental principles of the American people will finally prevail over the narrow special interests that for too long have dominated our country. Deaning America. Photo: John Pettitt, DeanForAmerica.com. It's not that we're against the other contenders for the Democratic nomination. Several of them have fine environmental records, …

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The Bush administration lost credibility over Kyoto, and can’t get it back over Iraq

Every European poll shows enormous percentages of people who oppose the pending war on Iraq: 70 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent. That's an extraordinary consensus; it's rare when 70 percent of people agree about anything. Taking their anti-Bush sentiments to the streets in Prague. Photo: Punchdown.org. The consensus is all the more extraordinary because people aren't really making an informed judgment. None of us, here or in France, are really capable of knowing with much accuracy whether the Bush administration's argument -- that Saddam Hussein represents such an immediate threat that he must be taken out -- makes sense or …

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Ministers help kick off new phase of anti-SUV campaign

There are more scenic places for a demonstration -- the Lincoln Memorial, say, or the lawn of the Capitol. But the Lynnway, an endless stretch of dreary light industry and heavy commerce just north of Boston, was perfect for our purposes. Not because of the greyhound racing track, not because of the discount furniture outlets. Because of the auto dealers, crowded with shiny SUVs. Just married ... to the pump. Photo: Alan Wagner. Every city in North America has a few of these automiles, where one lot butts up against the next, all crowded with this year's models. These lots …

Read more: Cities, Living

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Climate talks collapse over carbon sinks, and Americans just don't see the problem

Bill McKibben reports from The Hague: Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Depending on how you spin it, the collapse of the climate negotiations in The Hague, Netherlands, could leave you confident that much progress has been made, despairing that a Bush presidency dooms the future of new talks, or convinced that this is simply a problem too big for human beings to get their heads around. I think, though, that it really leaves us in pretty much the same position we were in two weeks ago, before the conference began: We're waiting on the weather. …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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The U.S. balks at a global solution to global warming

THE HAGUE, Netherlands Bill McKibben reports from The Hague: Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five If you walk straight out the front door of this convention hall and skirt the sandbagged dike that activists built during a weekend demonstration, you find yourself at the front door of a squat building with a U.N. flag flying from a pole. Enter it (past a pair of metal detectors) and you find yourself in the chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, the first international war crimes trials since Nuremberg. Demonstrators build a dike while they wait for …

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Greenpeace student activists stir things up at The Hague

THE HAGUE, Netherlands Bill McKibben reports from The Hague: Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five The Hague, with its constant drizzle, qualifies as one of the gloomiest cities I've ever visited, and the tense, uncertain busyness of the convention center doesn't add much to the atmosphere. But a 20-minute train ride from the hall brings you to the one truly hopping spot in town, a youth hostel that has been taken over by Greenpeace for the duration of the conference. Students ready to rile things up. Photo: Greenpeace USA. In a way, it's almost more accurate …

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Will the rest of the world bend to U.S. pressure to weaken Kyoto?

THE HAGUE, Netherlands Bill McKibben reports from The Hague: Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five An hour's drive from the crowded convention hall where international negotiators are toiling to reach some agreement on fighting climate change, you can visit one of the enormous storm surge barriers the Dutch have built to keep the North Sea at bay. Comprising hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete and steel, they stand guard at the river mouths to prevent another hurricane-driven flood like the one in 1953 that claimed 1,800 lives. They are the ultimate architecture of prevention, erected …

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