Time May be Running Out

Writer, environmentalist urges people to protect the earth

Are we running out of time to save the planet?

According to Bill McKibben, award winning author and environmentalist, the answer is yes.

McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, spoke to a sold-out crowd at the University of Missouri-Kansas City last week. His lecture, “The Hottest Fight in the Hottest Decade: Climate Change on the Edge of Hope and Despair,” was organized by the Advisory Committee to the Carolyn Benton Cockefair Chair in Continuing Education, in partnership with The Land Institute, in Salina, Kan.

“Our job is to figure out some way to save the planet,” McKibben said. “If we do not win soon, we do not win. It’s possible we’ve waited too long, when the ice caps start to melt.”

McKibben has written a dozen books about the environment, including his first, The End of Nature, published 25 years ago, which first brought the climate crisis to the public. During the lecture he shared the knowledge he gained about the scientific facts of climate change as a writer, and explained his transition to an activist working to end our reliance on fossil fuel.

McKibben described how he worked with seven of his college students to create 350.org. Together they mobilized tens of thousands of people across the globe in the International Day of Climate Action in 2009. He displayed photos from countless demonstrations across the globe to illustrate that most people protesting the negative impacts of climate change do not look like a picture of the U.S. population – they are overwhelmingly poor, brown, and don’t produce vast amounts of carbon changing the atmosphere.

McKibben’s current campaign is to combat the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels. The Obama Administration promoted the use of alternative energy and slowed fossil fuel development. But McKibben said the fossil fuel industry and current administration vow to build on it. He showed photos of current resistance actions to stop fossil fuel expansion in the 2011 Stop the Pipeline Challenge in Washington, D.C., the kayak blockades of oil and coal ports, and many examples of the People’s Climate March across the nation.

“We’ll see what happens. The good news is that for seven years, we kept the air cleaner. We don’t win every fight. But we make it harder at every turn. We need to keep the carbon in the ground.”

McKibben expressed gratitude to everyone who has engaged, including those attending the lecture. “We’re not in this alone. As we meet tonight, there are others around the world doing the same.”

He urged people do the right thing and to band together. “The planet is way outside its comfort zone. So, we better get outside ours. A window remains open but it’s closing. It’s our job to keep the window open long enough to win.”

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