Bill McKibben stirs up change

The atmosphere currently contains 392 parts per million of carbon dioxide a level. Bill McKibben, a renowned environmental journalist and founder of 350.org, hopes to change that.

McKibben addressed a crowd of about 100 people at the Burlington Book Festival Sept. 22. He read from a draft of a book he said he intends to publish in the fall of next year and discussed the significance of climate change and the fossil fuel industry.

In partnership with 350.org, an environmental action website started by McKibben and his students at Middlebury College, he is launching a new project called Do The Math Tour to take on the fossil fuel industry.

The 25-day, 25-city tour will premiere at UVMs Ira Allen Chapel on Oct. 13. McKibben intends for the tour to be performance-based and involve video and musical elements.

We hope to really get people on college campuses everywhere and communities everywhere to understand the role the irresponsible role that the fossil fuel industry is playing in causing this predicament, he said.

350.org gets its name from the parts per million of carbon dioxide the environment can sustain 350 or fewer. According to McKibben, the fossil fuel industry has the capacity to burn five times the amount of carbon that the planet can handle.

Its the most irresponsible thing that humans have ever done, he said. Its a very small number of humans who are doing it in order to make a very large amount of money.

First-year Jolie Navatka thought McKibben raised important points about the environment.

I think hes right, Navatka said. We really need to act very quickly on the environmental crisis were going through, she said. It affects everyone; its very relevant.

Andy Simon, a staff coordinator for Vermonts chapter of 350.org, emphasized the importance of young peoples involvement in the environmentalist movement.

Its time for students to take up this fight and do what they can to save their future, he said.

McKibben agreed, citing his work with students on 350.org.

Young people have led the fight against climate change right from the beginning and around the world, he said.

Though the book festival was not focused on environmental issues, McKibben recognized the connection between environmentalism and the arts.

Theres a pretty strong overlap between people who read books and people who care about issues like climate change, he said. If were going to take action on climate change, were going to need people in it not just with their heads but with their hearts.