As much as I've been writing about McKibben's work here at TreeHugger in recent weeks - from the civil disobedience at the White House to the math of climate change to the case for opposing the Keystone XL pipeline to pressuring universities to divest from fossil fuels to the next steps for the movement - it was nice to get a better look at the man behind the movement.
In addition to his personal history, the profile makes a point of explaining how climate change is different from all other environmental issues:
McKibben sees himself as part of a tradition of environmental writer-activists, from John Muir to Henry David Thoreau to Rachel Carson. Yet the stakes this time are different: Issues like air pollution, pesticides, and the depletion of the ozone could be resolved by regulatory changes such as banning lead in gasoline or fluorocarbons in aerosols. To ward off the worst effects of climate change, according to McKibben, we have to change virtually everything.
It is this understanding of the need for massive, large-scale systemic change that led Michael Grunwald at TIME to write that McKibben and the Keystone XL activists are "radical and right":
The pipeline isn’t the worst threat to the climate, but it’s a threat. Keystone isn’t the best fight to have over fossil fuels, but it’s the fight we’re having. Now is the time to choose sides.
Later in the Bloomberg profile, Greenwald notes the views of those that see the Keystone fight as misguided, since it doesn't directly address consumer demand for fossil fuels, but as I've noted previously and McKibben explains, there is an important symbolic significance to this fight:
“If the president says no to Keystone,” McKibben says, “it will be the first time that any world leader has stopped a big project on the grounds that it was bad for the climate. That would be a big deal, not just incremental but philosophical, which would lead to other possibilities. Suddenly, we could say to the Chinese, to the Australians, with full moral authority, ‘You shouldn’t do that.’ ”
You'll no doubt be hearing and seeing more of Bill McKibben and the Keystone activists in the near future, so read the rest of the profile to learn more about one of the key figures of the climate movement.