McKibben’s Brave New World

Bill McKibben, climate activist and author

By Becky W. Evans CAMBRIDGE, Mass.– Climate activist and author Bill McKibben believes the world is headed toward a future where cheap oil will no longer fuel boundless economic growth. The outcome, he says, will be greater human flourishing, the subject of a recent lecture series at Harvard Divinity School’s Center for the Study of World Religions. A diminished supply of cheap fossil fuel combined with the atmosphere’s inability to soak up carbon dioxide emissions will lead to a “new logic” of human flourishing, said McKibben, who spoke at the center this week.

“All the glory associated with the concept of growth will begin to tarnish and instead, words like stability and concepts like hunkering down will become more and more the new lingo that we adopt,” he said. “Maturity will become our credo instead of growth.”

McKibben envisions tighter-knit communities connected by local food supply chains with community gardens and farmers’ markets. He blames fossil fuel-dependent economies for eroding communities. According to McKibben, the average American in 1950 ate twice as many meals with friends, family and neighbors and had twice as many friends as an average American does today.

“The biggest impact on our lives from fossil fuels, I think, has been in a way to make us lonelier people than we were before…simply isolating ourselves in ever larger buildings, ever further apart has played an enormous role in deep, deep changes in human satisfaction,” he said.

Even as communities localize, they will face “acute global problems,” with climate change topping the list, McKibben said. “The ground for human flourishing of any kind is a relatively stable climate.”

To that end, McKibben and his advocacy group are organizing a global work party for October 10, 2010. Their goal is to continue pushing leaders of developed countries to commit to a global climate treaty that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In July, the U.S. House passed legislation that would limit emissions through a cap-and-trade system, but the bill has languished in the Senate. In December, negotiators failed to reach a binding international climate agreement at the United Nation’s climate summit in Copenhagen.

McKibben’s 10-10-10 work party aims to get communities around the world participating in greening projects from planting gardens to laying out bike paths to installing solar panels.

“If we can get up on the roofs of schools and put up solar panels, then people in the Senate can do the work that they are paid to do, writing legislation and passing it,” McKibben said. “We need to begin shaming some of those leaders and pushing them much harder than they’ve been pushed.”

The ThreeBeats Challenge: Reader Annette Zaale Champney sent the following YouTube video link about deadly mudslides in her native Uganda. The March 1 mudslides were caused by unseasonably heavy rains and flooding. Hundreds of residents in the eastern district of Bududa were buried alive in the mud. Champney regrets the weak U.S. media coverage of this tragedy, which was overshadowed by the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. She and other members of the Ugandan diaspora in North America are raising funds for relief efforts in Bududa.

View the YouTube video:

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2 thoughts on “McKibben’s Brave New World

  1. Thanks for the good synopsis of Bill’s talk, Becky. I always learn so much from your articles.
    Take care,

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