Bill McKibben on “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough Planet” (video)

Bill McKibben on “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough Planet” (video)

by Michael Brownlee


As part of his current book tour, author and climate activist Bill McKibben spoke at the First United Methodist Church in Boulder, CO on April 27, co-sponsored by Boulder Book Store and Transition Colorado. The video of his presentation is below, following the introduction that was given by Michael Brownlee, co-founder of Transition Colorado.

Many of us know Bill McKibben as the inspirational force behind Step It Up and more recently, which has taken the lead globally in raising awareness about the urgency of meeting the challenge of global warming, coordinating last October what CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.”

Others of us have known Bill as the author of The End of Nature in 1989, the very first book for a general audience to sound the alarm about global warming.

Still others of us remember when Bill published Deep Economy three years ago, and he was here in this very room then to tell us about the need to relocalize our economies. That was the same year our organization launched what we envisioned as a ten-year campaign to relocalize Boulder County.

Few here may know that Bill is also a member of a strategically significant think tank called Post Carbon Institute, which in 2003 was the first organization to sound the call for relocalization as a crucial response to climate change and peak oil. At Post Carbon, Bill joins nearly 30 of the most important thinkers and researchers on these issues—including such luminaries as Richard Heinberg, Michael Shuman, Rob Hopkins, Majora Carter, Gloria Flora, Wes Jackson, Stephanie Mills, Chris Martenson, David Orr, and Bill Reese.

With these Fellows, Post Carbon Institute is “leading the transition to a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world,” and is a key strategic partner in the visionary efforts of the Transition Movement, which we’re now a part of. We find it very inspiring that these leaders are joining together to help discover the way forward.

Nearly four years ago, James Hansen said, “We have at most ten years. Not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to fundamentally alter the trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions.” But we still have not yet begun to do this.

Bill helps us realize that the fiasco at Copenhagen last December gave us two clear signals: First, the scientific consensus is that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are already having a devastating impact on the ecosphere that supports all life, and this will get very much worse in the future. The clear implication of this, along with the peaking of global oil production, is that our current way of life cannot and will not continue. We are entering an unavoidable period of energy descent.

Secondly, Copenhagen demonstrated that our governments are simply not going to be able to rise to the occasion in time to mitigate the impacts of global warming. We’re going to have to learn how to adapt to the consequences.

Because of Bill McKibben, the numbers 3-5-0 are indelibly embedded in our collective consciousness as a threshold we should never have crossed and now to which we must work our way back down. Bill has helped build awareness of our predicament around the globe, and he has helped us realize that we now must urgently move from awareness-raising to commitment, followed by rigorous action—beginning locally.

As Bill suggests, it takes a community to respond to global warming. And if we take what he is saying seriously, starting right here in Boulder, we must now unequivocally commit together to quickly transitioning off of fossil fuel dependence, to learning how to feed ourselves locally again, and to learning how to make our communities resilient and self-reliant for our most essential needs.

To put it bluntly, if we follow Bill’s arguments, the inescapable conclusion we will come to is that we must commit as communities to simply ending our contribution to global warming. Could that begin here in Boulder? Could we inspire other communities to do the same?

Well, it’s going to take far more than “two techs and a truck” here in Boulder to do this. It’s probably going to take more like ten thousand neighbors and whole fleets of bicycles! And it’s going to take a real revolution in local food and local farming, something we’re helping to catalyze with our county-wide EAT LOCAL! Campaign and 10% Local Food Shift Challenge and Pledge.

Let’s not leave here tonight without making a commitment to Bill and to ourselves that we will rise to the occasion here in Boulder and Boulder County—that we will quickly end our contribution to global warming. And meanwhile, let’s give Bill McKibben the hero’s welcome that he deserves!


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