Bill McKibben: Fight to save the earth

At the FWW, I had the honour of meeting keynote speaker Bill McKibben, a Methodist Sunday school teacher, journalist and co-founder of 350.org. My evidence? A signed copy of Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist.

He started his career working for a well-funded magazine tracing the source of everything in his New York apartment: hydro, sewage, garbage, water. It took him a year, from the Arctic to the Amazon and beyond. He realized how living in suburbs presents people with a sanitized view of the world, a way of “hiding where things come from [and] how things work.”

Our comfortable suburban lifestyles blind us to the ecological destruction associated with the extraction and transportation of resources, not to mention the social and political disruptions that become part of the mix. “Most of the coral around the world is dead,” he said, in a list of examples. “The Great Barrier Reef is shrinking every 18 months by half.” 

Despite top-notch journalism he confessed, “I made one mistake for a very long time – I thought we needed to win the argument, and action will follow. I was wrong. It wasn’t an argument – the science was utterly clear. It was a fight about money and power. On the one side is the fossil fuel industry.” He commented that the fossil fuel industry has more money than God. Exxon knew about climate change’s impact since the 1970s and realized it would impact their bottom line. They created a false debate that prevented action for decades.

He now realizes that, “If we don’t win this fight soon, we won’t win it. It’s possible we already waited too long.” He left us with this challenge: “People of faith might want to ask a new question: What are we called to do?”

  • Jasper enjoys putting some of Bill McKibben’s ideas into practice: compost heating, and photovoltaic and thermal solar.

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