This week I had the privilege of being able to see the man I consider to be one of our greatest leaders in climate activism, Bill McKibben. Bill spoke to a packed crowd at Seattle Town Hall about his fears and hopes for our planet. Here’s the gist of his talk, in one sentence:
The World is In Big Trouble and we had better Get Serious.
Of course there was a bit more depth and breadth to it than that. First of all, McKibben keeps so much depressing information in his head it’s truly a wonder he gets out of bed every morning. There were several incredible factoids he shared with us about the ways in which climate change is reshaping our planet, from new, startling temperature records, worrying findings about how rising CO2 is causing decline in agricultural crops’ nutritional value, early snowmelt and dangerous fire conditions in Canada, to new predictions of rising sea levels that are twice previous estimates.
McKibben is worried and yes, somewhat depressed and frankly, rightfully so. He gave a lot of examples of how big our troubles are, but he also talked about some of the really bright shining points about advances in renewable energy we have made in the last few decades and particularly more recently as renewables technology costs have fallen to a fraction of their former levels. Recent trends like this: Wind and Solar Are Crushing Fossil Fuels provide a lot of hope that we are, at least, moving very much in the right direction.
McKibben’s other primary beacon of hope is the emergence of a grassroots movement that is holding our leaders accountable and taking on the fossil fuel industry directly. He feels that it is truly grassroots organizing that was behind the level of success we saw at the Paris climate talks, because large numbers of people are now starting to hold their leadership responsible, demand change, and show their willingness to fight for a better future. That last point is his key takeaway: this is no longer an argument about climate change, because we have won the argument. There is no further time to waste on debating the reality of climate change with those few folks so out of touch with reality or deep in the pockets of fossil fuel companies that they refuse to accept the facts. McKibben is vehemently positive that we can and will fight, because we have no choice. What we need now, what we must engage in, is an all-out fight with those who seek to enforce the status quo, in order to move us in a direction that doesn’t seriously compromise life as we know it.
McKibben closed with an exhortation to join him and activists across the country in Break Free From Fossil Fuels events, grassroots events that will continue the push towards a clean energy future. Check out opportunities all over the nation to get involved here: Break Free.