Quantcast

Stepping Down But Continuing Fight for Climate Justice

Climate

Dear friends,

My wife Sue and I are in Sweden this week—the Swedish Parliament is honoring me (which really means all of you) with the Right Livelihood Award, the so-called “alternative Nobel Prize.” We’re all in good company—the other honorees are veteran human rights activists from Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and some guy named Snowden.

Bill McKibben with his wife Sue just moments before the People's Climate March started, which brought more than 400,000 people to New York City on Sept. 21. Photo credit: Stefanie Spear

The trip comes at the end of a remarkable autumn, which has given me much to think about. The great People’s Climate March in New York happened 25 years to the day after the publication of The End of Nature, the book I wrote when I was 28 years old, and the first book for a general audience about climate change. That sea of people—and the pictures flooding in from other marches around the world—made me feel as hopeful about our prospects as any time in that quarter-century.

We’ve built a movement, that’s the key thing. And it’s beginning to make a dent—by the time that day was over (and remember that it ended with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announcing their divestment from fossil fuels) I was letting myself think that we’d seen the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel industry.

Which doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed a victory, of course. Unless that end to coal and oil and gas comesswiftly, the damage from global warming will overwhelm us. Winning too slowly is the same as losing, so we have a crucial series of fights ahead: divestment, fracking, Keystone, and many others that we don’t yet know about.

That means we need to be at our fighting best, which in turn explains why I’m stepping down as chair of the board at 350.org to become what we’re calling a “Senior Advisor.” If this sounds dramatic, it’s not. I will stay on as an active member of the board, and 90 percent of my daily work will stay the same, since it’s always involved the external work of campaigning, not the internal work of budgets and flow charts. I’m not standing down from that work, or stepping back, or walking away. Just the opposite.

But no one should run a board forever, and so I think it’s time someone else should be engaged in that particular task, leaving me more energy and opportunity for figuring out strategies and organizing campaigns. And also more time and energy for writing, which is how I got into all of this in the first place.

Anyway, that writing and strategizing will probably go better if I’m home once in a while. The constant travel of the last seven years has helped a little, I hope, to build this movement, but I’m ready for a bit more order in my life. Don’t worry—I’ll still be there when the time comes to go to jail, or to march in the streets, or to celebrate the next big win on divestment. But I’d like to see more of my wife.

I’m proud of the way we’ve grown as an organization, big enough to be running successful campaigns all over the world, big enough to be helping spearhead the People’s Climate March or playing our part in battling pipelines, mines, wells from Alberta to Australia—and big enough to be building the climate solutions and political will necessary to take on the power and money of the fossil fuel industry.

That size and complexity means we need a board chair who is as good at dealing with organizational budgets as carbon budgets. KC Golden will be taking over on an interim basis—he’s a remarkable organizer from Seattle, and his big-picture thinking on what we really need to do to win this fight has been a guiding light for the climate movement for years.

And 350.org is blessed with an amazing staff, including the crew of then-young people with whom I launched the group back in 2007. They are less young now, and they’ve turned into some of the most talented organizers on the planet. Over the years, they’ve expanded our team to include some of the wisest and most passionate climate activists in the world. Our goal, always, has been to build campaigns that volunteers around the planet can make their own, and that’s what we’ll keep doing.

In truth, it’s been the great joy of my working life to be a volunteer here at 350.org, just like all of you. I’m looking forward to the next 25 years—the quarter century that will decide whether we make progress enough to preserve our civilizations. Together we’ve built a movement; now, together, we’ll deploy it to confront the greatest crisis we’ve ever faced. 2014 will be the hottest year in the planet’s history; that means we have to make 2015 the politically hottest season the fossil fuel industry has ever come up against, and 2016 after that, and …

We have found our will to fight, and that gives us a fighting chance to win. I’m happy to be here in Stockholm accepting this prize on our behalf, but for me it will be the biggest honor of all simply to be shoulder to shoulder with you as we go into battle.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Scientists Warn Leaders at Lima Climate Talks: Ocean Warming Drives Record Temperatures

Barbra Streisand: ‘God Help Us!’ Sen. Inhofe to Head Committee on Environment

Hillary Clinton Open to Fracking, Ignores Keystone XL

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

Read More
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

By Dana Nuccitelli

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.

Read More
Sponsored
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More