Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is founder of and Schumann Distinguished Professor at Middlebury College in Vermont. He was recently honored with the Gandhi Peace Award for his work coordinating the civil disobedience actions around the Keystone XL pipeline in June 2011. He serves on Grist's Board of Directors.

End of the world as we know it?

McKibben uninspired by Obama

COPENHAGEN — I watched Barack Obama from the back of a drafty warehouse, which the U.N. has repurposed as the holding tank for all the NGOs they kicked out of the Bella Center. Great idea, except they didn’t manage to hook up Internet. So now I’m at a nearby coffeeshop monitoring the end of the conference — or the world depending on how you view it. It’s been a curious day. Number one question has been: Why is your name scrawled all over those leaked bombshell documents? (Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace today called it the “most important piece of paper …

3 degrees of scandal

‘This entire conference is an elaborate sham’

COPENHAGEN — For two weeks we’ve been listening to the story of the leaked emails from East Anglia — a media tempest in an English teapot. And all the time the biggest scandal has been directly under our noses. This afternoon at Copenhagen a document was mysteriously leaked from the UN Secretariat. It was first reported by the Guardian, and by the time it was posted online it oddly had my name scrawled all across the top. I don’t know why, because I didn’t leak it. My suspicion, though, is that my name was there because it confirms something I’ve …


Only the numbers count — and they add up to hell on earth

Cross-posted from the Guardian. COPENHAGEN — The Bella Center is a swirl of chatter, the streets of Copenhagen are a swirl of protest. Depending on what hour you listen to the news bulletin, the U.N. climate negotiations have “come off the rails” or are “back on track” or have “stalled” or are “moving swiftly.” Which is why the only people who really understand what’s going on may be a small crew of folks from a group of computer jockeys called Climate Interactive. Their software speaks numbers, not spin — and in the end it’s the numbers that count. First number …

Pass the Kleenex

No time for tears in Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN — I’ve spent the last few years working more than fulltime to organize the first big global grassroots climate change campaign. That’s meant shutting off my emotions most of the time—this crisis is so terrifying that when you let yourself feel too deeply it can be paralyzing. Hence, much gallows humor, irony, and sheer work. This afternoon I sobbed for an hour, and I’m still choking a little. I got to Copenhagen’s main Lutheran Cathedral just before the start of a special service designed to mark the conference underway for the next week. It was jammed, but I squeezed …

Something smells rotten in the state of Denmark

Bill McKibben on skunks at Copenhagen’s garden party

Cross-posted from A demonstration in support of the islands of Tuvalu, the 4th smallest country in the world, which is holding out for a legally-binding treaty in Copenhagen.Photo and caption: Oxfam InternationalCOPENHAGEN — From the distance, you could hear a little noise and rhythmic chanting cutting through the train-station drone that is the normal soundtrack here in the Bella Center, the aircraft carrier of a convention hall on the outskirts of Copenhagen where climate talks are now fully underway. The chanting grew louder as I rounded a corner. It wasn’t an unruly demonstration, but it was insistent. A knot …


The physics of Copenhagen: Why politics-as-usual may mean the end of civilization

Cross-posted from TomDispatch. Most political arguments don’t really have a right and a wrong, no matter how passionately they’re argued. They’re about human preferences — for more health care or lower taxes, for a war to secure some particular end or a peace that leaves some danger intact.  On occasion, there are clear-cut moral issues: the rights of minorities or women to a full share in public life, say; but usually even those of us most passionate about human affairs recognize that we’re on one side of a debate, that there are legitimate arguments to the contrary (endless deficits, coat-hanger …

The Show Must Go On

The world needs a dramatic climax in Copenhagen, not a lame dress rehearsal

“Calm before the storm” is how my colleague Jamie Henn described Copenhagen today. “‘Hopenhagen‘ advertising everywhere, people setting up a outdoor concert venue in downtown, a few anarchist posters wheat-pasted on signs, and I even saw a license plate on a bicycle!” I’m still in the United States, but packing for the trip to Denmark. This by all rights should be a charged moment, the culmination of two decades of work by scientists, negotiators, and activists — the moment when we finally decide what we’re going to do about the biggest crisis we’ve ever faced. The curtain about to …

We need more than rhetoric and excuses

Mr. President: Time to quit fibbing and spinning

This essay appeared first on Bill McKibben is chronicling his journey into climate activism with a series of columns leading up to the global climate summit in Copenhagen this December. You can find the others here. And you can put yourself on the cover of MoJo’s special issue on climate change here. Two caveats. First, early in the primary season, when I was asked to join Environmentalists for Obama, I signed on immediately. I knocked doors, made phone calls, gave money, and celebrated his victory–I think he’s the best president of my lifetime. Second, Obama has done much that’s …

What a difference a day makes

Day of Climate Action shows power of web organizing. Join us!

Bill McKibben and Chip Giller want you to get pumped up for the International Day of Climate Action.   When Grist was launched 10 years ago, a key idea behind it was that the web could be used to spread the news about what’s really happening across the planet. Turned out to be true. Now the question is: Can the web spread more than information to the farthest corners of the planet? Can we really use it to effect the outcome of the most important scientific questions we’ve ever faced? And the answer to that looks to be “yes” as …

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