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Step It Up 2007

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Step It Up 2007

Bill McKibben
Rochester Institute of Technology, November 6, 2008
Born William Ernest McKibben
1960 (age 53–54)
Palo Alto, California
Occupation Environment activist and writer
Nationality USA
Alma mater Harvard University (B.A., 1982)
Genres Global warming, alternative energy, risks associated with human genetic engineering
Notable award(s) Gandhi Peace Award 2013
Spouse(s) Sue Halpern
Children Sophie McKibben (b. 1993)

William Ernest "Bill" McKibben (born 1960)[1] is an American environmentalist, author, and journalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College[2] and leader of the anti-carbon campaign group He has authored a dozen books about the environment, including his first (The End of Nature) in 1989 about climate change.

In 2009, he led's organization of 5,200 simultaneous demonstrations in 181 countries. In 2010, McKibben and conceived the 10/10/10 Global Work Party, which convened more than 7,000 events[3] in 188 countries[4] as he had told a large gathering at Warren Wilson College shortly before the event. In December 2010, coordinated a planet-scale art project, with many of the 20 works visible from satellites.[5] In 2011 and 2012 he led the environmental campaign against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project[6] and spent three days in jail in Washington D.C. It was one of the largest civil disobedience actions in America for decades.[7] Two weeks later he was inducted into the literature section of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[7]

He awarded the in Gandhi Peace award in 2013.[8] Foreign Affairs magazine named him to its inaugural list[9] of the 100 most important global thinkers in 2009 and MSN named him one of the dozen most influential men of 2009.[10] In 2010, the Boston Globe called him "probably the nation's leading environmentalist" [11] and Time magazine described him as "the world's best green journalist."[12]

Early life

McKibben grew up in the suburbs of Boston in Lexington, Massachusetts where he attended high school. His father, who was arrested in 1971 during a protest in support of Vietnam veterans against the war, had written for Business Week and took the position of business editor at The Boston Globe in 1980. As a high school student McKibben wrote for the local paper and participated in statewide debate competitions. Entering Harvard University in 1978, he supported various causes. With a passion for journalism he became editor of The Harvard Crimson. In 1980, following the election of Ronald Reagan, he determined to dedicate his life to the environmental cause.[13]

Graduating in 1982, he worked for five years for The New Yorker as a staff writer writing much of the Talk of the Town column from 1982 to early 1987. He lived simply, sharing an apartment with David Edelstein, the film critic, and found solace in the Gospel of Matthew. He became an advocate of nonviolent resistance, considering Gandhi the greatest movie ever made. While doing a story on the homeless he lived on the streets; there he met his wife, Sue Halpern, who was working as a homeless advocate. She introduced him to the Book of Job. In 1987 he quit The New Yorker when its longtime editor William Shawn was forced out of his job, and soon moved to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York where he worked as a freelance writer and enjoyed nature there.[13]


McKibben began working as a freelance writer at about the same time that climate change appeared on the public agenda in 1988 after the hot summer and fires of 1988 and testimony by James Hansen before the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in June, 1988.[14] His first contribution to the debate was a brief list of literature on the subject and commentary published December, 1988 in The New York Review of Books and a question, "Is the World Getting Hotter?"[15][16]

He is a frequent contributor to various publications including The New York Times; The Atlantic; Harper's; Orion magazine; Mother Jones; The American Prospect; The New York Review of Books;Granta; National Geographic; Rolling Stone, Adbusters[17] and Outside. He is also a board member at and contributor to Grist Magazine.

His first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 by Random House after being serialized in The New Yorker. Described by Ray Murphy of the Boston Globe as a "righteous jeremiad," the book excited much critical comment, pro and con; was for many people their first introduction to the question of climate change; and the inspiration for a great deal of writing and publishing by others.[18] It has been printed in more than 20 languages. Several editions have come out in the United States, including an updated version published in 2006.

His next book, The Age of Missing Information, was published in 1992. It is an account of an experiment in which McKibben collected everything that came across the 100 channels of cable TV on the Fairfax, Virginia, system (at the time among the nation's largest) for a single day. He spent a year watching the 2,400 hours of videotape, and then compared it to a day spent on the mountaintop near his home. This book has been widely used in colleges and high schools and was reissued in a new edition in 2006.

Subsequent books include Hope, Human and Wild, about Curitiba, Brazil and Kerala, India, which he cites as examples of people living more lightly on the earth; The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job, and the Scale of Creation, which is about the Book of Job and the environment; Maybe One, about human population; Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously, about a year spent training for endurance events at an elite level; and Enough, about what he sees as the existential dangers of genetic engineering and nanotechnology. Speaking about Long Distance at the Cambridge Forum, McKibben cited the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Csikszentmihalyi's idea of "flow" relative to feelings he, McKibben, had had — "taking a break from saving the world", he joked — as he immersed in cross-country skiing competitions.[19]

Wandering Home is about a long solo hiking trip from his current home in the mountains east of Lake Champlain in Ripton, Vermont, back to his longtime neighborhood of the Adirondacks. His book, Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, published in March 2007, was a national bestseller. It addresses what the author sees as shortcomings of the growth economy and envisions a transition to more local-scale enterprise.

In the fall of 2007 he published, with the other members of his Step It Up team, Fight Global Warming Now, a handbook for activists trying to organize their local communities. In 2008 came The Bill McKibben Reader: Pieces from an Active Life, a collection of essays spanning his career. Also in 2008, the Library of America published "American Earth," an anthology of American environmental writing since Thoreau edited by McKibben.

In 2010 he published another national bestseller, Eaarth:Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, an account of the rapid onset of climate change. It was excerpted in Scientific American.[20]

Some of his work has been extremely[21][22] popular, an article in Rolling Stone in August, 2012 received over 125,000 likes on Facebook, 14,000 tweets, and 5,000 comments.[21][22]

Environmental campaigns

Step It Up

Step It Up 2007 was a nationwide environmental campaign started by McKibben to demand action on global warming by the U.S. Congress.

In late summer 2006 he helped lead a five-day walk across Vermont to call for action on global warming that some newspaper accounts called the largest demonstration to date in America about climate change. Beginning in January 2007, he founded Step It Up 2007, which organized rallies in hundreds of American cities and towns on April 14, 2007 to demand that Congress enact curbs on carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The campaign quickly won widespread support from a wide variety of environmental, student, and religious groups.

In August 2007 McKibben announced Step It Up 2, to take place November 3, 2007. In addition to the 80% by 2050 slogan from the first campaign, the second adds "10% [reduction of emissions] in three years ("Hit the Ground Running"), a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, and a Green Jobs Corps to help fix homes and businesses so those targets can be met" (called "Green Jobs Now, and No New Coal").[23]

Main article:

In the wake of Step It Up's achievements, the same team announced a new campaign in March 2008 called The organizing effort, aimed at the entire globe, drew its name from climate scientist James E. Hansen's contention earlier that winter that any atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) above 350 parts per million was unsafe. "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that." Hansen et al. stated in the Abstract to their paper.[24], which has offices and organizers in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, attempted to spread that 350 number in advance of international climate meetings in December 2009 in Copenhagen. It was widely covered in the media.[25] On Oct. 24, 2009, it coordinated more than 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries, and was widely lauded for its creative use of internet tools, with the website Critical Mass declaring that it was "one of the strongest examples of social media optimization the world has ever seen."[26] Foreign Policy magazine called it "the largest ever global coordinated rally of any kind."[9]

Subsequently the organization continued its work, with the Global Work Party on 10/10/10 (10 October 2010).

Keystone XL

McKibben is the lead environmentalist against the proposed Canadian-U.S. Keystone XL pipeline project.[27] He is active on projects having environmentally negative impacts around the world. In comparing the proposed Via Verde gas pipeline project to the Keystone XL oil pipeline project, McKibben said, "Around the world, the fossil-fuel industry is carrying out its last desperate attempt to avoid the arrival of renewable energy and to ensure the existence of its dirty fuels. They seem to be using their standard strategy in Puerto Rico as well: to act quickly and with a minimum amount of review before the opposition has time to organize and bring out the truth."[27]


McKibben has been awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship (1993) and a Lyndhurst Fellowship. He won a Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction writing in 2000. In 2010, Utne Reader magazine listed McKibben as one of the "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World."[28] He has honorary degrees from Marlboro College, Colgate University, the State University of New York, Sterling College, Green Mountain College, Unity College, and Lebanon Valley College. In 2010 he won the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship for his work with[29]

Personal life

McKibben resides in Ripton, Vermont with his wife, writer Sue Halpern. Their only child, a daughter named Sophie, was born in 1993 in Glens Falls, New York. He is a Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, where he also directs the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism.[30] McKibben is also a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute. McKibben is a long-time Methodist and while his writing can sometimes be spiritual in nature, he asserts that he bases his environmental views on science.[31][32]


New York Times journalist, Paul Greenberg, reviewing McKibben's book Eaarth recognized McKibben's ability to excite readers into ecological consciousness, but weak in a credible vision how individual action can lead us without unreachable authortarian political power.

But many of these proposed solutions inadvertently resemble the list of things Christian Lander lampooned in his 2008 best seller “Stuff White People Like”: “farmer’s markets,” “awareness,” “making you feel bad about not going outside,” “vegan/vegetarianism.” It’s not that these things aren’t important. But in the absence of some overarching authority, a kind of ecologically minded Lenin, they will remain hipster lifestyle choices rather than global game changers. Which I suppose in the end is part of McKibben’s point. Eaarth itself will be that ecological Lenin, a harsh environmental dictator that will force us to bend to new rules. The question is whether we will be smart enough to bend ourselves first.




  • Orion
  • Rolling Stone
  • May 12, 2011 to John J. Simpson
  • Scientific American April 2010
  • Chapter by McKibben within Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril by Michael P. Nelson and Kathleen Dean Moore (eds.). Trinity University Press, 2010 ISBN 9781595340665
  • The New York Review of Books
  • Renaming of Sixth Avenue in Manhattan as 'Avenue of the Americas'.
  • Friend whose prior military rank was inadvertently promoted by Geraldine Ferraro.
  • Textile designers Leslie Tillett and Brian Goodin.
  • Rolls Royce grille designer Tony Kent.


See also


External links and further reading

  • Bill McKibben's Official Website
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Democracy Now!
  • Mother Nature Network
  • Late Show with David Letterman
  • Democracy Now!
  • National Geographic
  • Keystone: How Bill McKibben Turned a Pipeline into an Environmental Rallying Point March 5, 2012
  • Duke University. Argues that "fossil fuels are a risk to the planet."
  • BusinessWeek

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