Imagine we live on a planet. Not our cozy, taken-for-granted earth, but a planet, a real one, with darkpoles and belching volcanoes and a heaving, corrosive sea, raked by winds, strafed by storms, scorched by heat. An inhospitable place. It’s a different place. A different planet. It needs a new name: "Eaarth"
"Read it, please. Straight through to the end. Whatever else you were planning to do next, nothing could be more important."
Twenty years ago, with The End of Nature, Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about global warming. Those warnings went mostly unheeded; now, he insists, we need to acknowledge that we've waited too long, and that massive change is not only unavoidable but already under way. Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. We've created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.
That new planet is filled with new binds and traps. A changing world costs large sums to defend—think of the money that went to repair New Orleans, or the trillions it will take to transform our energy systems. But the endless economic growth that could underwrite such largesse depends on the stable planet we've managed to damage and degrade. We can't rely on old habits any longer.
Our hope depends, McKibben argues, on scaling back—on building the kind of societies and economies that can hunker down, concentrate on essentials, and create the type of community (in the neighborhood, but also on the Internet) that will allow us to weather trouble on an unprecedented scale. Change—fundamental change—is our best hope on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance.
ABOUT BILL MCKIBBEN
An American environmentalist and writer, Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org, an international climate campaign. This October 10, 350.org is organizing the second annual 350 International Day of Climate Action, with thousands of events planned at iconic places around the world. Bill frequently writes about global warming, alternative energy, and the risks associated with human genetic engineering. Beginning in the summer of 2006, he led the organization of the largest demonstrations against global warming in American history. McKibben is active in the Methodist Church, and his writing sometimes has a spiritual bent.
Bill grew up in suburban Lexington, Massachusetts. He was president of the Harvard Crimson newspaper in college. Immediately after college he joined the New Yorkermagazine as a staff writer, and wrote much of the "Talk of the Town" column from 1982 to early 1987. He quit the magazine when its longtime editor William Shawn was forced out of his job, and soon moved to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.
His first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 by Random House after being serialized in the New Yorker. It is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and 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: 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.
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; Enough, about what he sees as the existential dangers of genetic engineering; Wandering Home, 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.
In March 2007 McKibben published Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. It addresses what the author sees as shortcomings of the growth economy and envisions a transition to more local-scale enterprise.
In late summer 2006, Bill helped lead a five-day walk across Vermont to demand action on global warming that some newspaper accounts called the largest demonstration to date in America about climate change. Beginning in January 2007 he foundedstepitup07.org to demand that Congress enact curbs on carbon emissions that would cut global warming pollution 80 percent by 2050. With six college students, he organized 1,400 global warming demonstrations across all 50 states of America on April 14, 2007. Step It Up 2007 has been described as the largest day of protest about climate change in the nation's history. A guide to help people initiate environmental activism in their community coming out of the Step It Up 2007 experience entitled Fight Global Warming Now was published in October 2007 and a second day of action on climate change was held the following November 3.
March 2008 saw the publication of The Bill McKibben Reader, a collection of 44 essays written for various publications over the past 25 years.
Bill is a frequent contributor to various magazines including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Orion Magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone, and Outside. He is also a board member and contributor to Grist Magazine.
Bill has been awarded Guggenheim and Lyndhurst Fellowships, and won the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing in 2000. He has honorary degrees from Green Mountain College, Unity College, Lebanon Valley College and Sterling College.
Bill currently resides with his wife, writer Sue Halpern, and his daughter, Sophie, who was born in 1993, in Ripton, Vermont. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College.