A movement to fight climate change: environmental activist Bill McKibben to speak on campus

For anyone losing trust in the current economic environment, Bill McKibben might be the right guy to listen to.

McKibben will visit Goshen College on Mar. 11 to present his Yoder Public Affairs Lecture “The Most Important Number in the World: Building a Worldwide Movement to Fight Climate Change,” at 7 p.m. in Sauder Concert Hall.

Author of the bestselling book “Deep Economy” (Times Books, 2007), McKibben challenges the unlimited growth mentality of our economy.

According to McKibben, we should focus on local economies and ecological economics, or basically paying for the impact our purchases have on the environment. For example, a gallon of gas would cost $7-$8 per gallon if it took into consideration the damage that production and use have on the environment.

In 2007, McKibben founded the “Step it Up” organization to demand Congress to pass laws on carbon emissions, which would cut global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050. Altogether, the group has led about 2,000 demonstrations in all 50 states.

McKibben’s most recent effort is with the “350” organization, which works to informs people that more than 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can cause irreversible damage to the earth.

On Monday, McKibben and the “350” group, along with more than 90 other groups and organizations, went to Washington, D.C. to lead a mass civil disobedience protest of the coal-fired Capitol Power Plant as part of the Power Shift 2009 conference. More than 3,000 people from across the country (including Goshen) stood in front of the gates of the plant to shut down operations for the day. (To read more about the conference, read Jennifer Speight’s article.)

In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post on Sunday, McKibben wrote: “The power plant is only a symbol, of course – a lunch counter or a bus station in the fight for environmental justice. We’ll sit down at its gates for a single afternoon, but the message is much larger. It’s time to start figuring out how to shut down every coal-fired plant on the planet. Success won’t come right away because we’re up against some of the world’s richest corporations, but we have to start turning this tanker around someday.”

McKibben is no beginner when it comes to speaking up about the environment and global climate change. His first book “The End of Nature” (Random House, 1989) is regarded as the first book written for a general audience about climate change.

McKibben is a scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, which is regarded as a higher education leader in sustainability.

Written by Tyler Falk

is a senior English major from Champaign, Ill.

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