Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is an American environmentalist and writer who frequently writes about global warming, alternative energy, and the need for more localized economies. Beginning in the summer of 2006, he led the organization of the largest demonstrations against global warming in American history. [citeweb|title=Growing Local, Eating Local|url=|publisher="PBS"|accessdate=2008-09-28] McKibben is active in the Methodist Church, and his writing sometimes has a spiritual bent. Al Gore wrote in 2007 that "when I was serving in the Senate, Bill McKibben’s descriptions of the planetary impacts... made such an impression on me that it led, among other things, to my receiving the honorific title ‘Ozone Man’ from the first president Bush.”

McKibben grew up in suburban Lexington, Massachusetts. He was president of the Harvard Crimson newspaper in college. Immediately after college he joined the "The New Yorker" as a staff writer, and wrote much of the Talk of the Town column from 1982 to early 1987. He quit the magazine when its longtime editor William Shawn was forced out of his job, and soon moved to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.

He currently resides with his wife, writer Sue Halpern and his daughter, Sophie, who was born in 1993, in Ripton, Vermont. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College, where he also directs the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism.


McKibben is a frequent contributor to various magazines including "The New York Times", "The Atlantic Monthly", "Harper's", "Orion Magazine", "Mother Jones", "The New York Review of Books", "The Middlebury Campus""Granta", "The National Geographic," "Rolling Stone", and "Outside". He is also a board member 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. It is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and 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: 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.

"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 March 2008 Times Books will publish "The Bill McKibben Reader: Pieces from an Active Life", a collection of essays spanning his career. "Publishers Weekly", in its review, said "Collected here are 44 trenchant essays written for various publications over the past 25 years by an astute observer of contemporary life and the environment. ... “There are all sorts of sweet things in this world,” McKibben writes, “many of which are us, and many of which are not.” Thankfully, McKibben has borne witness to them with grace and style."

In the spring of 2008, the Library of America will also publish "American Earth," an anthology of American environmental writing since Thoreau edited by McKibben.


McKibben has been awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship (1993) and a Lyndhurst Fellowship. He won a Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction writing in 2000. He has honorary degrees from Sterling College, Green Mountain College, Unity College, the State University of New York, Colgate University, and Lebanon Valley College.

tep It Up

In late summer 2006 he helped lead a [ five-day walk] across Vermont to call for action 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 call 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."

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's James Hansen's claim earlier that winter that any atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide 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," Hansen's paper stated., which has offices and organizers in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, attempts to spread that 350 number in advance of international climate meetings set for December 2009 in Copenhagen. It has been [widely covered] in the media.


The End of Nature

:...Our comforting sense of the permanence of our natural world, our confidence that it will change gradually and imperceptibly if at all, is the result of a subtly warped perspective. Changes that can affect us can happen in our lifetime in our world--not just changes like wars but bigger and more sweeping events. I believe that without recognizing it we have already stepped over the threshold of such a change; that we are at the end of nature. By the end of nature I do not mean the end of the world. The rain will still fall and the sun shine, though differently than before. When I say 'nature,' I mean a certain set of human ideas about the world and our place in it." The End of Nature, p. 7

:...An idea, a relationship, can go extinct, just like an animal or a plant. The idea in this case is 'nature,' the separate and wild province, the world apart from man to which he adapted, under whose rules he was born and died. In the past, we spoiled and polluted parts of that nature, inflicted environmental 'damage.' But that was like stabbing a man with toothpicks: though it hurt, annoyed, degraded, it did not touch vital organs, block the path of lymph or blood. We never thought that we had wrecked nature. Deep down, we never really thought we could: it was too big and too old; its forces--the wind, the rain, the sun--were too strong, too elemental. But, quite by accident, it turned out that the carbon dioxide and other gases we were producing in our pursuit of a better life... could alter the power of the sun, could increase its heat. And that increase could change the patterns of moisture and dryness, breed storms in new places, breed deserts...We have produced the carbon dioxide--we are ending nature. The End of Nature, p. 41

:...The greenhouse effect is a more apt name than those who coined it imagined. The carbon dioxide and trace gases act like the panes of glass on a greenhouse--the analogy is accurate. But it's more than that. We have built a greenhouse, "a human creation" where once there bloomed a sweet and wild garden." The End of Nature, p. 78

The Age of Missing Information

:...Human beings--any one of us, and our species as a whole--are not all-important, not at the center of the world. That is the one essential piece of information, the one great secret, offered by any encounter with the woods or the mountains or the ocean or any wilderness or chunk of nature or patch of night sky. --The Age of Missing Information, p. 228

:...We believe that we live in the 'age of information,' that there has been an information 'explosion,' an information 'revolution.' While in a certain narrow sense that is the case, in many more important ways just the opposite is true. We also live at a moment of deep ignorance, when vital knowledge that humans have always possessed about who we are and where we live seems beyond our reach. An unenlightenment. An age of missing information. --The Age of Missing Information, p. 9

:...It worries me because it alters perception. TV, and the culture it anchors, and drowns out the subtle and vital information contact with the real world once provided. --The Age of Missing Information, p. 22


:...They'll lead us bit by bit toward the revolutionary idea that we've grown about as powerful as it's wise to grow; that the rush of technological innovation that's marked the last five hundred years can finally slow, and spread out to water the whole delta of human possibility. But those decisions will only emerge if people understand the time for what it is: the moment when we stand precariously on the sharp ridge between the human past and the posthuman future, the moment when meaning might evaporate in a tangle of genes or chips.
—"Enough", p.198

:These new technologies are not yet inevitable. But if they blossom fully into being, freedom may irrevocably perish. This is a fight not only for the meaning of our individual lives, but for the meaning of our life together.
—"Enough", p.199

:Right now, plenty of people feel the peacefulness of their lives degraded by sprawl, or worry about the way consumerism has eroded the quality of our communities. For them, the idea of enough is not completely alien or distasteful, though it remains difficult to embrace. We've been told that it's impossible – that some force like evolution drives us on to More and Faster and Bigger. 'You can't stop progress.' But that's not true. We could choose to mature. That could be the new trick we share with each other, a trick as revolutionary as fire. Or even the computer.
—"Enough", p.220


* "American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau" (edited) (2008)
* "The Bill McKibben Reader: Pieces from an Active Life" (2008)
* "Fight Global Warming Now: the Handbook for Taking Action in Your Community"(2007)
* "Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future" (2007) ISBN 0-8050-7626-3
* "The Comforting Whirlwind : God, Job, and the Scale of Creation" (2005) ISBN 1-56101-234-3
*"Wandering Home" (2005) ISBN 0-609-61073-2
*"Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age" (2003) ISBN 0-8050-7096-6
* "Long Distance: Testing the Limits of Body and Spirit in a Year of Living Strenuously" (2001) ISBN 0-452-28270-5
*"Hundred Dollar Holiday" (1998) ISBN 0-684-85595-X
*"Maybe One: A Personal and Environmental Argument for Single Child Families" (1998) ISBN 0-684-85281-0
* "Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly on the Earth" (1995) ISBN 0-316-56064-2
*"The Age of Missing Information" (1992) ISBN 0-394-58933-5, challenges Marshall McLuhan's "global village" ideal and claims the standardization of life in electronic media is that of image and not substance, resulting in a loss of meaningful content in society
*"The End of Nature" (1990) ISBN 0-385-41604-0

ee also

*"Enough" argument - the argument based on McKibben's writings which insists that if advanced technology allows us to change the context of our human lives, that those lives may thereby become meaningless because there will be no objective values by which to measure worth.


External links

* [ Bill] - official web site
* [ "Too Little Too Late?"] Video Interview with Bill McKibben
* [ Inner Compass] - Is More Better? Rethinking Consumption TV Interview
* [ Inner Compass] - Is More Better? Rethinking Consumption audio mp3
* [ Video Interview with Bill McKibben:] On the Importance of Local Economies
* [ Author papers at Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, Texas Tech University]
* [ Bill McKibben] at AlterNet
* [ "We Are Plenty Good Enough"] - Bill McKibben on brash plans to tinker with our genes. Interview by Jennifer Hattam
* [ Bill McKibben article collection]
* [ Lecture at DePauw University, October 4, 2007]
* [ "Enough Already: A leading environmentalist makes a foolish case against technological innovation"] by Ronald Bailey, "Reason"
* [ Bill McKibben's thoughts] on Earth Day 2006
* [ Hear Bill McKibben's presentation] during [ The Singularity Summit at Stanford] in May, 2006, which relates his "Enough" argument. The [ MP3 version] (43 MB) is also available.
* [ Link to film documenting Bill McKibben's Labor Day, 2006, Vermont climate change march]
* [ Interview on Writer's Voice] with radio host Francesca Rheannon.
* [ Review of DEEP ECONOMY] by Francesca Rheannon on [] .
* [ Draft Bill McKibben for Governor of Vermont]
* [ Step It Up 2007]
* [ Bill McKibben's papers]
* [ Author McKibben assesses current state of environmentalism, urges local consumerism, E&E TV, 05/01/2008]
* [ McKibben on Make Something Happen]

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