We were incredibly lucky to have Bill McKibben visit us last week at the Mountain School to talk about the climate change movement pre- and post- People’s Climate March. He showed us a number of pictures of climate protests from around the globe and shared his views on what type of action is necessary to make a real difference. A few words from his talk that stood out to me:
-2014 was the hottest year on record.
-Each degree that the temperature rises reduces global grain yield by 10%. This century we are predicted to raise the temperature 4 to 5 degrees. That’s a 40-50% reduction in grain yield.
-350.org is currently engaged in a divestment campaign, particularly aimed at colleges and universities, as a way to politically bankrupt fossil fuel companies, similar to the strategy used against South Africa during the apartheid era. Bill McKibben urged all the students in the audience to ask about divestment as they tour and apply to colleges in the next year. College graduates can (should) also write to their alma maters urging divestment.
-Our actions affect the poorest populations, but not the other way around, and they can’t do anything to stop climate change – but we might be able to.
–Be an unbelievably engaged citizen. It’s one of the best things you can do.
Perhaps his most powerful words were those with which he closed: “Money tends to dominate in our political system, and if left unchecked, it almost always wins. But, every now and then, there’s a movement that is powerful enough to stand up to the money.” Climate change needs a movement that will stand up to the money.
Here are some students’ responses to Bill McKibben’s talk:
“The pictures were valuable because they allowed us to visualize the global impact. At the same time, we were presented with a huge issue and isolated incidents where people came together. I’m not sure if there is a hopeful solution. One thing that stood out to me was when he talked about the Keystone Pipeline and how that wasn’t an issue at all until 350.org make it publicized. That made me want to know how I can find out about those things without an organization like 350.org making them famous. And it made me wonder, what else has been passed because no one knows about it?” -A
“It was cool to see pictures of non-white people demonstrating for climate change. For example, there was a picture of these kids standing in a street in Haiti holding signs that said, ‘climate change affects me.’ It was a good reminder that even the people not causing climate change need it to change.” -I
“I loved him. It was so great to see all the pictures, but he was also a little defeatist in the sense that he kept repeating it will be a miracle if we can slow things down. On the one hand, that was pressing the importance of acting now, but it also almost felt like why bother trying? So that was one thing that I wondered about.” -O
“I was surprised that he wasn’t more into individual actions – like driving hybrid cars or eating different food – because I figured he would be, but I love the work he’s done involving non-typical environmentalists.” -M
“I left with such a great feeling of respect. He didn’t promote himself, he didn’t lecture us on climate change, he just explained what he did. It also reflects a lot about Mountain School to get him here, to have him connected to the school. In many ways, I felt like he embodied the Mountain School – he was so poised, well-spoken, sincere, and inspiring.” -B
“I appreciated that the optimistic side of his presentation was about education, valuing us and our ability to make change. He was essentially saying, you are valid citizens even though you are 16.” -E
“He just knew the facts; they were completely internalized. He knows what he’s talking about, so I trusted him a lot. Remember when I asked him for recommendations about how to stay informed, and he suggested this website called Grist? I went and looked at it last night, and it’s really cool: it has a lot of good information and the layout is really engaging. He riled me up in a positive way, especially with his talk about the divestment movement and that focus because it’s so applicable at this point in my life as I’m about to enter the college process. It was inspiring to see someone who cares and is taking action, and the images of all the people who are inspired. It shows that something is potentially being done.” -A
We were very fortunate to have such an opportunity. Thank you, Bill McKibben!
(Photos from 350.org, Huff Post and Green Peace).