Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben spoke to a captive and energetic audience in Iowa City last night, courtesy of the Office of Sustainability at the University of Iowa. His message was both pessimistic and optimistic, but was most importantly honest.
McKibben started out with the current (and depressing) state of the environment. The earth has risen only about 1 degree in temperature, but already we are seeing the major impacts of that increase in glacier melting, increased floods, increased high temperatures, and increase in disease spread (through warmer climates). We are above the 350 parts per million limit that scientists believe is sustainable for the planet (currently at 390, see image below).
After establishing the current state of affairs, he next showed us his efforts to date with the recent 10/10/10 events, which is a part of the overall 350.org movement. I was amazed at how global this initiative has become, especially since I have not heard that much about his organization. He has made an impact on nearly every country in the world, and it continues to grow each year. He even self-admits that he is not a motivational person and knows very little about how to drive a grass-roots effort like this, but it is clearly working. It reaffirms that anyone can make a difference.
Finally, his message was that people have to make political changes to make dramatic reduction in our emissions. The technology is already here to do that (solar, geothermal, wind), but the policies and investment isn’t there yet. He mentioned that 70% of your time should be spent on local actions and 30% on political action.
Video clips are available on the University of Iowa website
Here is McKibben’s latest book, Eearth: Making of Life on a Tough New Planet…
And here is the first book he wrote, which was widely popular, called “The End of Nature”