Down in Mexico at the COP16 climate conference, Andy Revkin of the New York Times just posted a video interview he did with environmental campaigner and thinker extraordinare Bill McKibben, which is really worth a view. McKibben is perhaps slightly less articulate then he can be, but heck this is unedited footage shot across a table; and besides, it's the conversational interplay between McKibben and Revkin that is as important as anything specific said.At one point Revkin emphasizes the importance of climate change being a problem of clean energy--which it is, but not the sum of it. McKibben challenges:
The basic issue of the planet right now is that it's disintegrating. That's even more basic than the fact that we have to keep developing and people need energy and all that. There's no way anyone is going to develop anything, including energy or anything else, if their whole friggin country is washing away.
Which is to my mind exactly correct. Contrary to the oft-repeated environmental position, climate change is not the problem of our generation and for future generations. Climate change is a symptom of the larger problem of humans using resources (be they energy, food, land, water, nearly everything) at rates that are in excess of the planet's ability to regenerate them perpetually, or absorb the waste and byproducts of that consumption. As a species, as nations and as societies we have have yet to recognize that we our actions are crashing into the hard ecological limits of the carry capacity of the planet. The logic, economic and social, which once held true in previous generations regarding waste, energy and resource usage, simply no longer applies. Until we recognize that internally and externally in our laws, our actions, and our thoughts, we are still on a path to collapse. And even once on that path, the destination is still not pleasant.
As McKibben aptly says,
There's no happy ending where we prevent climate change anymore. Now the question is, is it going to a miserable century or an impossible one, and what comes after that. So we work incredibly hard to build a movement that finally, eventually, is able to take advantage of some opening in, political or natural, in order to drive through real change. And god knows if we can do it. But we will definitely keep trying because there are millions of people around the world who are.
And here's what's interesting: The most interesting thing about the pictures and everything from 360 is everybody in them almost is poor, black, brown, Asian, young. That's what the world is and that's what this movement is.
Right on Bill, and Andy for bringing the video.
Lest that sound depressing, the difference between doing nothing on climate change and the worst-case scenarios coming to pass (which for the most part they all have so far, surpassing them in some cases) and blunting the impact through mitigation and adaptation efforts, which getting a global climate treaty is a key part, is the difference between McKibben's impossible century and a difficult, miserable in places, but survivable one.
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More on Bill McKibben & 350.org:
Thom Yorke Lends His Voice to 350.org's EARTH Art Project
Why Bill McKibben is Willing to Get Arrested to Stop the Burning of Coal
The Global Work Party Begins: Maldives President Finishes Solar Panel Installation