William Ernest "Bill" McKibben is an American environmentalist, author, educator, and journalist.
Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert join David Remnick to talk about the twin crises of our time: the coronavirus pandemic and the climate emergency. During the COVID-19 national emergency, the Trump Administration has loosened auto-emissions standards, and has proposed easing the controls on mercury released by power plants, among other actions. With protesters no longer able to gather, construction on the controversial Keystone Pipeline has resumed. Still, McKibben and Kolbert believe that the pandemic could remind the public to take scientific fact seriously, and possibly might change our values for the better. Plus: Carolyn Kormann speaks with a disease ecologist who hunts for coronaviruses and other deadly pathogens in the bat caves where they originate.
Nonviolent Social Movement Through non-violent social movements, we can demand meaningful change in the political and economic calculus for polluters. Climate strikes, extinction rebellions, and concerted efforts to stop devastating environmental policies have inspired a new generation of activists. The successful opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline showed that people could stand up to oil companies, and win. By stopping or delaying new fossil fuel projects, renewables have a better chance to take hold and in the meantime the technology has time to get cheaper and better. The divestment movement is another key piece of non-violent activism. Divestments from fossil fuels now total more than $12 trillion, and has become a material risk for those businesses. Reducing Our Carbon Footprint We must all address our individual carbon footprint in order to solve climate change. One Vermont family reduced their carbon footprint by 88% overnight. With the help of Green Mountain Utility, they fully insulated their house and installed high-efficiency air source heat pumps and solar panels. Even after including the costs of new appliances and insulation, their energy bills were still lower than before. We can all do similar makeovers because this technology is widely available at places like Home Depot. The technology and science to move toward carbon-neutrality already exist, we just need to use them. What if? Oil giant Exxon knew as early as the mid-1980s that climate change was real and man-made. Exxon was so aware of the impending crisis that they started building their offshore drilling rigs to compensate for the rise in sea levels that they knew was coming. Instead of telling the public, they hid their findings and denied climate change. McKibben wonders what the world would be like if they had been honest and had been part of the solution. His hypothesis is that the price of renewables, such as solar panels and wind turbines, would have fallen much earlier; new oil and gas exploration would have stopped; homes would be better insulated; and that a modest price on carbon would have been enacted. The result? A dramatically less polluted planet and a much different economy. Had we started earlier to combat warming, course correction would have been both easier and less costly. Find out more: Bill McKibben is a legendary environmentalist, author, and educator whose 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change. He has written dozens of books, is a staff writer at The New Yorker, and founded 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement. The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize, and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. Foreign Policy named him to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe said he was “probably America’s most important environmentalist.” In 2014, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel.’  A former staff writer for the New Yorker, he writes frequently for a wide variety of publications around the world, including the New York Review of Books, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone. He lives in the mountains above Lake Champlain with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, where he spends as much time as possible outdoors. In 2014, biologists honored him by naming a new species of woodland gnat — Megophthalmidia mckibbeni — in his honor. You can follow Bill on Twitter @billmckibben and 350.org @350.
An exodus is under way in the House of Representatives: not even halfway into the congressional term, fifteen Republicans have announced that they will not run in 2020. One of the exiting members is Will Hurd, a former C.I.A. officer who was elected in 2014. His district in Texas includes nearly a third of the state’s border with Mexico. Although he is reluctant to criticize the G.O.P. directly, Hurd tells the Washington correspondent Susan B. Glasser that he thinks the President’s border policy is ineffective: a wall isn’t the answer, Border Patrol is underfunded relative to the area it covers, and the technology in use for border security is both out of date and overly complicated, “requiring a Ph.D. in computer science to operate,” he says. “I wish I could pass a piece of legislation,” Hurd tells Glasser, “that says you can’t talk about the border unless you’ve been down to the border a few times.” Hurd’s departure is particularly significant because he is—for the sixteen months he has left to serve—the only African-American in the House Republican caucus, and he worries that the President’s negative rhetoric toward people of color is contributing to a demographic shift that’s turning Texas from deep red to purple. “When you have statements the equivalent of, ‘go back to Africa,’ ” Hurd notes, “that is not helpful.” Plus, two leading environmental writers, Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert, wonder if the new sense of urgency around climate change is coming too late.    
After years of languishing far down the list of voters’ priorities, climate change has moved to the top of many voters’ concerns, according to a new CNN poll. Now Presidential candidates are competing to establish themselves as leaders on the issue, and children are making headlines for striking from school over the issue. Bill McKibben, whose book “The End of Nature” brought the idea of global warming to public consciousness thirty years ago, tells David Remnick that the accumulation of weather catastrophes—droughts, wildfires, floods—may have finally made an impact. “You watch as a California city literally called Paradise literally turns into hell inside half an hour,” McKibben reflects. “Once people have seen pictures like that, it’s no wonder we begin to see a real uptick in the response.” McKibben joined the New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert in a conversation about the U.N.’s new report on biodiversity. It finds that a million species could become extinct within a few decades and that human life itself may be imperilled. Although the political tide could be turning, both worry that it is too late. “The problem with climate change is that it’s a timed test,” McKibben notes. “If you don’t solve it fast, then you don’t solve it. No one’s got a plan for refreezing the Arctic once it’s melted. . . . We’re not playing for stopping climate change. We’re playing—maybe—for being able to slow it down to the point where it doesn’t make civilizations impossible.”
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Creator Details

Birthdate
Dec 8th, 1960
Location
Vermont, USA
Episode Count
7
Podcast Count
6
Total Airtime
3 hours, 25 minutes