Bill McKibben, author, educator and environmental activist, faced a jam-packed Ragan Theatre Feb. 8 at 2:30 p.m. McKibben said that if an alien race was observing the things humanity is doing to the planet’s atmosphere, they would conclude that we must be conducting a grand-scale mosquito-ranching experiment.
McKibben is the author of more than a dozen books about nature and our relationship to it, as well as other books on unrelated topics. His most recent book: “Earth [sic]: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet” is a multiple award-winner, as is McKibben himself. He is a Harvard graduate and former writer for “The New Yorker.” McKibben is well known for organizing environmental movements on a global political level, as well as sparking awareness in students and getting them involved. He frequently contributes to respected publications worldwide, and has been said to be one of the country’s greatest environmental activists.
“Bill McKibben is a deep friend of the earth and to humanity, because to be a deep friend of one, you have to be a deep friend of the other,” said Michael Minch, director of the Peace and Justice Studies Program and chair of the Philosophy and Humanities Department at UVU.
McKibben began his remarks by apologizing to the audience for enticing them indoors on such a beautiful day, for a lecture that some might find discouraging. He explained that over the last 10,000 years, the planet saw a great degree of constancy, with very little fluctuation of temperature in the oceans and atmosphere. Over the last several decades, that has ceased to be the case.
“So far human beings have raised the temperature of the earth about 1 degree,” said McKibben. He asked the audience to keep in mind a basic principal of physics: that warm air holds more water vapor than cold. The carbon emissions released by humans are making the earth’s atmosphere unnaturally hot and wet, and such conditions are loading the dice for large scale droughts and floods, which are being seen all over the earth. According to McKibben, the oceans are about 30 percent more acidic than they were forty years ago.
“I wish I could promise you that it was all going to work. I cannot do that,” McKibben said. He claims that environmentalists are losing this battle miserably due to lack of political will to do the things that will save this planet. Many political scientists believe that there is too much money on the other side of the fight. Exxon Mobil, for example, made more money last year than any time in the history of moneymaking, according to McKibben.
“The only thing that morally-awake people can do when something this bad is happening during their lives is figure out what they can do every day to help change those odds some.”
Luckily, this seems to be McKibben’s specialty. Global warming is a problem that will have to be addressed on a global level, and some of McKibben’s work has addressed it well. On Oct. 24, 2009 there were 5100 demonstrations all over the world speaking out against carbon emissions. He also spearheaded a movement that inspired one million letters to Congress speaking out against a bill that President Obama ultimately ended up vetoing.
McKibben’s next global demonstration will take place on May 5, 2012. To get involved, log onto 350.org.
While there are things each individual can do to help reduce personal carbon consumption: change your light bulbs, don’t drive an SUV everywhere, buy local food, turn down your heater and put on a sweater, etc. The global warming fight cannot be won individually. McKibben suggests activism, organization and cooperation to fight this battle politically.
McKibben’s lecture marked the opening of the conference which will be held by The Peace and Justice Studies Program after Spring Break, entitled, “How to Have Hope: Remedies for Calamities Across the Global Landscape.” McKibben’s lecture occurred 19 days before the conference is scheduled, due to availability conflicts.
“His voice is too important to not hear,” Minch said. According to Minch, this year’s conference will attempt to focus on solutions to problems, rather than the dissection of the problems alone. The conference will be held March 20-22.
For a schedule, visit http://www.uvu.edu/peaceandjustice/events.