Bill McKibben

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Bill McKibben
File:Bill McKibben at RIT-3.jpg
Bill McKibben speaking at Rochester Institute of Technology, November 6, 2008
Born William Ernest McKibben
(1960-12-08) December 8, 1960 (age 62)
Palo Alto, California
Occupation Environmental activist
Nationality USA
Alma mater Harvard University (B.A., 1982)
Genre Global warming, alternative energy, risks associated with human genetic engineering
Notable awards Gandhi Peace Award, 2013
Spouse Sue Halpern
Children Sophie McKibben (b. 1993)

William Ernest "Bill" McKibben (born December 8, 1960)[1] is an American environmentalist, author, and journalist who has written extensively on the impact of global warming. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College[2] and leader of the anti-carbon campaign group He has authored a dozen books about the environment, including his first (The End of Nature) in 1989 about climate change.

In 2009, he led's organization of 5,200 simultaneous demonstrations in 181 countries. In 2010, McKibben and conceived the 10/10/10 Global Work Party, which convened more than 7,000 events[3] in 188 countries[4] as he had told a large gathering at Warren Wilson College shortly before the event. In December 2010, coordinated a planet-scale art project, with many of the 20 works visible from satellites.[5] In 2011 and 2012 he led the environmental campaign against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project[6] and spent three days in jail in Washington, D.C. It was one of the largest civil disobedience actions in America for decades.[7] Two weeks later he was inducted into the literature section of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[7]

He was awarded the Gandhi Peace Award in 2013.[8] Foreign Policy magazine named him to its inaugural list[9] of the 100 most important global thinkers in 2009 and MSN named him one of the dozen most influential men of 2009.[10] In 2010, the Boston Globe called him "probably the nation's leading environmentalist"[11] and Time magazine book reviewer Bryan Walsh described him as "the world's best green journalist".[12]

Early life

McKibben grew up in the Boston suburb of Lexington, Massachusetts, where he attended high school. His father, who was arrested in 1971 during a protest in support of Vietnam veterans against the war, had written for Business Week and was business editor at The Boston Globe in 1980. As a high school student McKibben wrote for the local paper and participated in statewide debate competitions. Entering Harvard University in 1978, he became an editor of The Harvard Crimson and was chosen president of the paper for the calendar year 1981.[13] In 1980, following the election of Ronald Reagan, he determined to dedicate his life to the environmental cause.[14]

Graduating in 1982, he worked for five years for The New Yorker as a staff writer writing much of the Talk of the Town column from 1982 to early 1987. He shared an apartment with David Edelstein, the film critic, and found solace in the Gospel of Matthew. He became an advocate of nonviolent resistance. While doing a story on the homeless he lived on the streets; there he met his wife, Sue Halpern, who was working as a homeless advocate. In 1987 he quit The New Yorker when its longtime editor William Shawn was forced out of his job, and soon moved to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York where he worked as a freelance writer.[14]


McKibben began working as a freelance writer at about the same time that climate change appeared on the public agenda in 1988 after the hot summer and fires of 1988 and testimony by James Hansen before the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in June, 1988.[15] His first contribution to the debate was a brief list of literature on the subject and commentary published December, 1988 in The New York Review of Books and a question, "Is the World Getting Hotter?"[16][17]

He is a frequent contributor to various publications including The New York Times; The Atlantic; Harper's; Orion magazine; Mother Jones; The American Prospect; The New York Review of Books; Granta; National Geographic; Rolling Stone, Adbusters[18] and Outside. He is also a board member at and contributor to Grist Magazine.

His first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 by Random House after being serialized in The New Yorker. Described by Ray Murphy of the Boston Globe as a "righteous jeremiad," the book excited much critical comment, pro and con; was for many people their first introduction to the question of climate change;[19] and the inspiration for a great deal of writing and publishing by others.[20] It has been printed in more than 20 languages. Several editions have come out in the United States, including an updated version published in 2006.

His next book, The Age of Missing Information, was published in 1992. It is an account of an experiment in which McKibben collected everything that came across the 100 channels of cable TV on the Fairfax, Virginia, system (at the time among the nation's largest) for a single day. He spent a year watching the 2,400 hours of videotape, and then compared it to a day spent on the mountaintop near his home. This book has been widely used in colleges and high schools and was reissued in a new edition in 2006.[21][22]

File:Bill McKibben (24541793126).jpg
McKibben speaking at a Bernie Sanders campaign rally at Southern New Hampshire University in January 2016

Subsequent books include Hope, Human and Wild, about Curitiba, Brazil and Kerala, India, which he cites as examples of people living more lightly on the earth; The Comforting Whirlwind: God, Job, and the Scale of Creation, which is about the Book of Job and the environment; Maybe One, about human population; Long Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously, about a year spent training for endurance events at an elite level; and Enough, about what he sees as the existential dangers of genetic engineering and nanotechnology. Speaking about Long Distance at the Cambridge Forum, McKibben cited the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Csikszentmihalyi's idea of "flow" relative to feelings he, McKibben, had had—"taking a break from saving the world", he joked—as he immersed in cross-country skiing competitions.[23]

Wandering Home is about a long solo hiking trip from his current home in the mountains east of Lake Champlain in Ripton, Vermont, back to his longtime neighborhood of the Adirondacks. His book, Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, published in March 2007, was a national bestseller. It addresses what the author sees as shortcomings of the growth economy and envisions a transition to more local-scale enterprise.

In the fall of 2007 he published, with the other members of his Step It Up team, Fight Global Warming Now, a handbook for activists trying to organize their local communities. In 2008 came The Bill McKibben Reader: Pieces from an Active Life, a collection of essays spanning his career. Also in 2008, the Library of America published "American Earth," an anthology of American environmental writing since Thoreau edited by McKibben. In 2010 he published another national bestseller, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, an account of the rapid onset of climate change. It was excerpted in Scientific American.[24]

Some of his work has been extremely[25][26] popular; an article in Rolling Stone in July 2012 received over 125,000 likes on Facebook, 14,000 tweets, and 5,000 comments.[25][26]

Environmental campaigns

Step It Up

Step It Up 2007 was a nationwide environmental campaign started by McKibben to demand action on global warming by the U.S. Congress.

In late summer 2006 he helped lead a five-day walk across Vermont to call for action on global warming. Beginning in January 2007, he founded Step It Up 2007, which organized rallies in hundreds of American cities and towns on April 14, 2007 to demand that Congress enact curbs on carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The campaign quickly won widespread support from a wide variety of environmental, student, and religious groups.

In August 2007 McKibben announced Step It Up 2, to take place November 3, 2007. In addition to the 80% by 2050 slogan from the first campaign, the second adds "10% [reduction of emissions] in three years ("Hit the Ground Running"), a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, and a Green Jobs Corps to help fix homes and businesses so those targets can be met" (called "Green Jobs Now, and No New Coal").[27]

In the wake of Step It Up's achievements, the same team announced a new campaign in March 2008 called The organizing effort, aimed at the entire globe, drew its name from climate scientist James E. Hansen's contention earlier that winter that any atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) above 350 parts per million was unsafe. "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that." Hansen et al. stated in the Abstract to their paper.[28], which has offices and organizers in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, attempted to spread that 350 number in advance of international climate meetings in December 2009 in Copenhagen. It was widely covered in the media.[29] On Oct. 24, 2009, it coordinated more than 5,200 demonstrations in 181 countries, and was widely lauded for its creative use of internet tools, with the website Critical Mass declaring that it was "one of the strongest examples of social media optimization the world has ever seen."[30] Foreign Policy magazine called it "the largest ever global coordinated rally of any kind."[9]

Subsequently the organization continued its work, with the Global Work Party on 10/10/10 (10 October 2010).

Keystone XL

McKibben is the lead environmentalist against the proposed Canadian-U.S. Keystone XL pipeline project.[31]

People's Climate March

On May 21, 2014, McKibben published an article on the website of Rolling Stone magazine (later appearing in the magazine's print issue of June 5), titled "A Call to Arms",[32] which invited readers to a major climate march (later dubbed the People's Climate March) in New York City on the weekend of September 20–21.[note 1] In the article, McKibben calls climate change "the biggest crisis our civilization has ever faced", and predicts that the march will be "the largest demonstration yet of human resolve in the face of climate change".[32]

On Sunday, July 5, 2015, McKibben led a similar climate march in Toronto, Ontario, with the support of various celebrities.[19]


McKibben has been awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship (1993) and a Lyndhurst Fellowship. He won a Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction writing in 2000. In 2010, Utne Reader magazine listed McKibben as one of the "25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World."[33] He has honorary degrees from Whittier College, Marlboro College, Colgate University, the State University of New York, Sterling College, Green Mountain College, Unity College, and Lebanon Valley College. In 2010 he won the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship for his work with[34] In 2013, he won the international environment and development prize Sophie Prize. In 2014, he and were awarded the Right Livelihood Award "...for mobilising growing popular support in the USA and around the world for strong action to counter the threat of global climate change".[35]

Personal life

McKibben resides in Ripton, Vermont with his wife, writer Sue Halpern. Their only child, a daughter named Sophie, was born in 1993 in Glens Falls, New York. He is a Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, where he also directs the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism.[36] McKibben is also a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute. McKibben is a long-time Methodist.[37]




See also



  1. Both dates were mentioned in the article because the actual date of the march was uncertain at the time of publication. After negotiations with New York City authorities, event planners chose Sunday, September 21 as the date.


  1. David, Michael, and Caroline. "Bill McKibben". Retrieved 2011-05-09.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Author and environmentalist Bill McKibben appointed Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College | Middlebury". 2010-11-09. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-09. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Revkin, Andrew C. (2010-10-10). "A Global Warming 'Work Party'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Revkin, Andrew C. (2010-11-23). "Art on the Scale of the Climate Challenge". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 12, 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-09. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "The man who crushed the Keystone XL pipeline". The Boston Globe.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1
  8. Gandhi Peace award 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Foreign Policy's First Annual List of the 100 Top Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-09. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "MSN Lifestyle's Most Influential Men of 2009". MSN. Retrieved 2011-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Shivani, Anis (2010-05-30). "Facing cold, hard truths about global warming". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2011-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Walsh, Bryan (2010-04-26). "he Skimmer". Time. Retrieved 2011-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Christian B. Flow (June 4, 2007). "William E. McKibben". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved April 28, 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 Matthew C. Nisbet (March 2013). "Nature's Prophet: Bill McKibben as Journalist, Public Intellectual and Activist" (PDF). Discussion Paper Series #D-78. Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, School of Communication and the Center for Social Media American University. p. 26. Retrieved March 8, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Philip Shabecoff, Special to the New York Times (June 24, 1988). "Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate". New York Times. Retrieved August 1, 2012. ...Dr. James E. Hansen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration told a Congressional committee that it was 99 percent certain that the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and other artificial gases in the atmosphere. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |newspaper= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Bill McKibben (December 8, 1988). "Is The World Getting Hotter?". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved March 9, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Matthew C. Nisbet (March 2013). "Nature's Prophet: Bill McKibben as Journalist, Public Intellectual and Activist" (PDF). Discussion Paper Series #D-78. Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, School of Communication and the Center for Social Media American University. pp. 27–28. Retrieved March 8, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. The Branding of the Occupy Movement November 27, 2011 NYT
  19. 19.0 19.1 Aulakh, Raveena. "Gentle climate warrior turns up the heat", Toronto Star, 5 July 2015
  20. Matthew C. Nisbet (March 2013). "Nature's Prophet: Bill McKibben as Journalist, Public Intellectual and Activist" (PDF). Discussion Paper Series #D-78. Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, School of Communication and the Center for Social Media American University. pp. 30–33. Retrieved March 8, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "The Age of Missing Information". Retrieved 27 April 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Huth, Tom. "Being There : THE AGE OF MISSING INFORMATION, By Bill McKibben". Retrieved 27 April 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Cambridge Forum", via Maine Public Broadcasting Network (radio), September 14, 2011 12:30 pm. No transcript, audio archive or original recording date; non-responsive. Information off the air 2011-09-14.
  24. "Living On a New Earth". Scientific American. 2010-04-21. Retrieved 2011-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. 25.0 25.1 Bill McKibben (July 19, 2012). "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math: Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe - and that make clear who the real enemy is". Rolling Stone. Retrieved March 8, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. 26.0 26.1 Matthew C. Nisbet (March 2013). "Nature's Prophet: Bill McKibben as Journalist, Public Intellectual and Activist" (PDF). Discussion Paper Series #D-78. Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, School of Communication and the Center for Social Media American University. p. 17. Retrieved March 8, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Hansen, J., Mki. Sato, P. Kharecha, D. Beerling, R. Berner, V. Masson-Delmotte, M. Pagani, M. Raymo, D.L. Royer, and J.C. Zachos, 2008: Target atmospheric CO2: Where should humanity aim? Open Atmospheric Science Journal, 2, 217-231, doi:10.2174/1874282300802010217. [1]
  29. Rosenthal, Elisabeth (1 March 2009). "Obama's Backing Raises Hopes for Climate Pact". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. " | experience matters". 2009-10-30. Retrieved 2011-05-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Más presión de Keystone a Vía Verde. (English: Greater pressure from Keystone on Vía Verde.) La Perla del Sur. Ponce, Puerto Rico. Published 19 January 2012. Retrieved 20 January 2012.
  32. 32.0 32.1 McKibben, Bill (2014-05-21). "A Call to Arms: An Invitation to Demand Action on Climate Change". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-08-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. "Bill McKibben: Voice of Reason, Man of Action". Utne Reader. Retrieved 19 October 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Cecile Richards and Bill McKibben Announced as Recipients of the 2010 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, Common Dreams NewsCenter November 9, 2010.
  37. "Q&A:Bill McKibben, UM writer/activist". United Methodist Portal. Archived from the original on 14 Mar 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links and further reading