Fossils Against Fossil Fuels: Bill McKibben on Climate Change

Faith Chang, Staff Writer

On Sept. 26, award-winning author and  climate activist Bill McKibben stressed the importance of people of all ages participating in climate activism. 

“Your legacy is the world which you leave behind to the people you love the most,” said McKibben, addressing adults in the   audience. “And we’re about to leave behind a world that’s worse than the world we were born into.”

McKibben has a long history in the fight against climate change. His book, “The End of Nature,” was cited as one of the first books about climate change. Since then he has written additional books on the subject and founded the organization Third Act, whose mission is to encourage those over the age of 60 to engage in activism. 

The temperature of the Earth has increased by one degree Celsius, McKibben explained in his lecture. While McKibben acknowledged how one degree sounds trivial, he highlighted the damage that one degree has caused from record high heat in Texas to the disastrous flooding in Pakistan. 

If one degree is able to cause this much harm, it poses the question of what might happen if the temperature were to surpass that. 

McKibben does not shy away from the realities of climate change, knowing that it is already too late to prevent. The goal now is to stop climate change from making the Earth uninhabitable for future generations. 

But McKibben does not dwell on the    negatives. He recognized that there are great strides in the fight against climate change. Renewable energy has not only become a climate-friendly alternative to fossil fuels, but also a more cost effective alternative.

“The cheapest way to generate power on our planet now is to point a sheet of glass at the sun,” said McKibben. 

 Despite its affordability, there is still a significant pushback in trying to implement renewable energy. The issue is, McKibben said, big businesses that rely on the fossil fuel industry have the money and the lobbyists necessary to slow government action in addressing climate change. 

McKibben spoke about how he admired the young generation of climate activists like Greta Thunberg for organizing against these fossil fuel conglomerates and pushing for a greater change around the world.            However, he also criticized the notion of leaving climate activism solely to the younger generation. 

“For all the intelligence, earnestness,       activism and energy of young people, they lack the structural power to force the change they need,” McKibben said. “There are seventy million people over the age of 60. Seventy percent of the country’s financial assets are in the hands of the silent generation compared to the five percent for millennials.”

McKibben described a current movement going on, spearheaded by the older generation of Americans, that serves to pressure big banks to stop voting in favor of fossil fuels. While many young Americans cannot risk the financial burden of cutting ties against these banks, many of the older generation can. 

“I can’t promise you it will be successful,” McKibben said. “I can promise you it will be, and has always been, a real fight.”