I mentioned Bill McKibben’s recent blockbuster article at Rolling Stone in passing the other day. If you didn’t know about the reality of the climate crisis before reading the article, you do now. This article may well have the impact that Elizabeth Kolbert’s Field Notes from A Catastrophe had a few years back. If you were only “concerned” or “cautious” – in the parlance of Yale’s ongoing “Six Americas” study – you’re going to be moved into the “alarmed” category.
But in my view, the greater importance of McKibben’s piece is that he is issuing a challenge to those of us who think we need to be more and more active in fighting the interminable lies and corrupt politics of the fossil fuel special interests. You can spell that any number of ways: Koch Brothers, ExxonMobil, or the American politicians who are in the pockets of the special interests.
“A rapid, transformative change would require building a movement, and movements require enemies. As John F. Kennedy put it, ‘The civil rights movement should thank God for Bull Connor. He’s helped it as much as Abraham Lincoln.’ And enemies are what climate change has lacked.” McKibben is doing nothing less than calling on us to take up arms – peacefully, nonviolently, within the rules of democracy, as all the great activist leaders like Dr. King, the Dalai Lama and Gandhi, have done. He remembers how apartheid was broken and calls on us to mount a similar campaign. But you have to recognize and acknowledge that there are people who want us to fail because their bottom lines depend on it. McKibben quotes Naomi Klein: “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”
Enough is enough. We don’t need their coal and oil. We not only don’t need it, we can’t live with it any longer. It’s time to move on. The technology is all on our side. The science is manifest. Now it’s time to change the politics.
My first bit of advice? Put your shoulder to the wheel for Obama’s re-election. He’s done much more than even Bill McKibben is willing to admit. Beyond that, restore Nancy Pelosi to the Speaker’s job and thus Henry Waxman to the chairmanship of Energy and Commerce. Support your local Democratic member of the House. The same for the Senate. There are, of course, troglodytes on the Democratic side of the aisle in the Senate whose support for fossil fuel interests will never wane. Joe Manchin is near the top of the list. Here’s a man who never saw a mountain he wouldn’t blow to hell to get coal. Does Mary Landrieu see the irony in her monolithic support for oil while New Orleans is still reeling from Katrina and the Gulf of Mexico from the BP spill? But a Republican-led Senate would drag us even deeper into the quagmire of support for oil and coal.
By all means, let’s follow Bill McKibben and further build a movement. Let’s be smart and effective. Let’s make our work count. Follow the lead of the thousands of great-hearted folks who’ve been blazing a path for us – the folks at Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ceres, and scores of others. Put down that hamburger, turn off the AC and the plasma TV, and get on your bikes and get moving.