Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is the founder of and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College. In 2014 he was given the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes called the "alternative Nobel," in the Swedish Parliament. He is also a member of Grist's board of directors.


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 — …

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, …

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 …

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 …

A big day

Pachauri’s call for 350 ppm is breakthrough moment for climate movement

Amazing news just arrived at headquarters. Rajendra Pachauri is the U.N.’s top climate scientist. He leads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which …

Oh, Here It Is!

Four years after my pleading essay, climate art is hot

That pleading little essay I wrote in 2005? It was probably the last moment I could have written it. Clearly there were lots and lots …

Kicking Congress' ash

Snow doesn't dampen turnout for anti-coal rally in D.C.

The day's scorecard: 1) Largest anti-coal action yet in the United States: Thousands and thousands of people flooding the streets around the Capitol Hill power plant. 2) Largest demonstration in many years where everyone was wearing dress clothes: The point was to stress that there's nothing radical about shutting down coal-fired power. In fact, there's everything radical about continuing to pour carbon into the air just to see what happens. 3) Smallest counter-protest in world's history: By my count, the Competitive Enterprise Institute managed to muster four demonstrators for its "celebration of coal" rally, which is about the right size. (But they were kind of sweet; they had signs that said: "Al Gore, Not Evil, Just Wrong.") 4) Number of arrests: None, zip, zilch, nada. The police said so many demonstrators showed up that they had no hope of jailing them all. So we merrily violated the law all afternoon, blocking roads and incommoding sidewalks and other desperate stuff, all without a permit or a say so. We shut down the power plant for the day. And we'd pre-won our main victory anyhow, when Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid preemptively cried uncle last week and announced they were'nt going to burn coal in their plant any more. 5) Quantity of broad smiles afterwards: Almost unlimited. And in the air, there was the strong sense that we can do this. Really. What fun. Bill McKibben, a Grist board member, is co-founder of, and author most recently of Deep Economy.

Power for the people

Anti-coal campaign gets some good news, but battle is far from won

We'll still be protesting on Monday in D.C., but it looks like the protest may be half victory party too! Late Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter off to the Capitol Architect -- the guy in charge of buildings and grounds, as well as the century-old, mainly-coal-fired power plant that Congress owns and which is located just a few blocks from the fancy dome and the National Mall. The two leaders told him to stop shoveling coal into the power plant's boiler and finish the switch to natural gas. Now, it just so happens that this is the same coal plant targeted for the first mass civil disobedience in the history of the American climate movement. When Wendell Berry and I sent out one of many invitations to this gathering last fall, we stressed that it was going to be a Very Serious Event; among other things, everyone was supposed to wear dress clothes. That was mostly, I think, because we wanted the home viewing audience to be reminded of something important: the crazies and loons and nutballs are not the people in the streets demanding an end to the carbon age. We're the sane ones, the conservatives seeking to preserve a planet something like the one we were born on to. The radicals are the guys who want to double the carbon content of the atmosphere and see what happens. But now our sobriety will be sorely tested. It didn't take much of a push to convince Congress that the time for change had come. It's an almost giddy feeling -- sort of like what most of America felt on election night when the voters actually chose to elect the smart guy. It feels like the system is working (sort of) the way it's supposed to. Not, of course, that Reid's and Pelosi's decision accomplishes all that much by itself. This is one small power plant. We need to start shutting down the whole vast coal archipelago that provides half the nation's electricity. That's going to be a tough, grinding job that requires a huge movement. And it's somehow going to have to stretch around the world, to China and India and everywhere else where coal is commonplace. (That's why we've got up and running; we're not going to solve this one city at a time). But hey, starting Opening Day with a no-hitter is pretty darned good. Shutting down a coal-fired power plant before you even have a protest should give us some momentum to build on. Come on down Monday for the party; it's going to be a good one. Bill McKibben is co-founder of, and author most recently of Deep Economy.

Eight years of Bush inaction leave Obama with a near-impossible challenge

Given the sheer number of candidates for “worst legacy of the Bush years,” it may seem perverse to pick the hundreds of coal-fired power plants …