Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is founder of 350.org 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.

A big day

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

Amazing news just arrived at 350.org headquarters. Rajendra Pachauri is the U.N.’s top climate scientist. He leads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which every five years produces the authoritative assessment of climate science. Its last report, in 2007, helped set the target of 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a target that many environmental groups and national governments have adopted as their goal for Copenhagen. As many of you know, that number is out of date. When Jim Hansen and other scientists looked at phenomena like the Arctic ice melt of the last …

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 of people already thinking the same way, because ever since it’s seemed to me as if deep and moving images and sounds and words have been flooding out into the world. Bill, built from Flickr pix.Kalman Gacs, 350.org/galleryThat torrent of art has been, often, deeply disturbing — it should be deeply disturbing, given what we’re doing to the earth. (And none of it has quite matched the performance work that nature itself is providing. Check …

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 350.org, 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 350.org 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 350.org, 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 that have opened across China during his administration. But given their cumulative effect — quite possibly the concrete block that broke the climate-camel’s already straining back — I think they may be what history someday seizes on. And they are emblematic of George W. Bush’s utter failure to help the world rein in carbon emissions at what may have been the last possible moment. When Bush first took office, China (and really India as well) …

It's time to aim low

After Poland talks, a new reality starts to set in, says McKibben; 350 ppm must be the goal

I spent the last few nights of the recent Poznan climate conference sleeping in the By the Way youth hostel, an excellent accommodation filled with excellent young people who had done excellent work at the negotiations. After the final day of deliberations, many of these young people visited the doubtless excellent discotheques of Poznan, returning home beginning about 4 a.m. in various states of excited giddiness. This allowed those of us (well, the one of us) of a more elderly persuasion an excellent opportunity to lie awake, thinking over the events of the days just past. And what I kept …

Changing climate targets in Poland

Poznan: Least-developed countries present CO2 targets of 350 ppm

The big international climate conferences, at least the ones I’ve been to in Kyoto, the Hague, and elsewhere, are pretty much the same: caffeinated, adrenalized, endless, chaotic, and incredibly hard to read. Much goes on behind closed doors, and small signals from the big players at the last minute generally make the most difference. I’m not going to Poznan until next week, for the last few days of this conference. And in an odd way, it’s been easier to figure out the proceedings from a distance to make out the forest for the trees. The biggest news so far, I …

Above average

Savvy citizen asks the right question about climate change at debate

Thank heavens for the “average citizen.” After approximately 4 million debates over the past year, someone finally asked the right and real question about climate change. Ingrid Jackson, over in Section C of the audience in Tuesday night’s debate, didn’t ask if the candidates thought global warming was real, and she didn’t even ask what they would do to fight it. “[W]e saw that Congress moved pretty fast in the face of an economic crisis,” she said. “I want to know what you would do within the first two years to make sure that Congress moves fast as far as …

The world at 350

A last chance for civilization

This essay was originally published at TomDispatch, and is reprinted here with Tom’s kind permission. —– Even for Americans, constitutionally convinced that there will always be a second act, and a third, and a do-over after that, and, if necessary, a little public repentance and forgiveness and a Brand New Start — even for us, the world looks a little Terminal right now. It’s not just the economy. We’ve gone through swoons before. It’s that gas at $4 a gallon means we’re running out, at least of the cheap stuff that built our sprawling society. It’s that when we try …

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.

×