Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books about the environment, beginning with The End of Nature in 1989, which is regarded as the first book for a general audience on climate change. He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, which has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009. Time Magazine called him ‘the planet’s best green journalist’ and the Boston Globe said in 2010 that he was ‘probably the country’s most important environmentalist.’ The Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, he holds honorary degrees from a dozen colleges, including the Universities of Massachusetts and Maine, the State University of New York, and Whittier and Colgate Colleges. In 2011, he was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Bill is a frequent contributor to various magazines including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone, and Outside. He is also a board member and contributor to Grist Magazine.
Bill has been awarded Guggenheim and Lyndhurst Fellowships, and won the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing in 2000. He has honorary degrees from Green Mountain College, Unity College, Lebanon Valley College and Sterling College.
One of the world's leading environmentalist talks straight about climate change
Photograph by Ed Kashi from Hurricane Sandy.
Hurricane Sandy bears down on New York Harbor, Jersey City, N.J., Oct. 29, 2012. The super storm ravaged the East Coast, leaving many dead and billions of dollars in damage.
The term "climate change" is very often used by the media in a loose way, to indicate abnormal weather, water and wind patterns, and all the consequences deriving from it. But what are we talking about exactly when we talk about climate change?
From a scientific perspective, climate change can refer to two phenomena: the first is a change due to natural cycles of cooling and warming that happen because of variations in the Earth’s orbit around the sun. The term’s most common meaning, however, refers to the human-driven process taking place when carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants released with our increased greenhouse gas emissions collect in the narrow envelope of the atmosphere, trapping the sun’s energy in it. As heat increases, all sorts of phenomena are triggered.
“The sea level rises because warm water takes up more space than cold and because glaciers and ice sheets melt. Drought happens as evaporations increase. Storms of all kinds are clearly on the increase — just ask the insurance companies — because there's more moisture in the atmosphere,” explained author and environmentalist Bill McKibben.
Described by Time Magazine as "the best green journalist on the planet" and by the Boston Globe as "probably the country’s most influential environmentalist,” McKibben has written a dozen books about the environment, starting with The End of Nature in 1989 — commonly regarded as the first book about climate change aimed at a general audience. Twenty-four years later and after tens of thousands of rallies and protests coordinated by him all over the world, however, McKibben agrees that climate change still isn’t seen as an urgent enough threat by many.
“What is commonly not understood by the general public is that it’s happening now, and on a large scale. The arctic has already melted, for instance,” he continued.
According to McKibben, the only way forward in the fight against global warming is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In order to do that, and to reverse the effects of climate change, we need to put an end to our dependence on coal, oil and gas, and replace them with renewable energies.
While there is hardly disagreement within the scientific community anymore on the concept of climate change or its effects, resistance is unsurprisingly still very strong when the issue collides with economic interests and profits — and not only in developing countries. The most recent rhetoric about climate change being worsened by the rapid and deregulated industrialization of developing ‘giants’ like India and China suggest that the problem is most severe in the developing world, but the facts speak differently.
“The Chinese are putting a price on carbon ahead of the U.S., they have installed more renewable power than we have, and per person they emit far less carbon. So, I’m not sure blaming them really gets you very far,” said McKibben. “There's a lot of work to be done everywhere.”