On the Front Line


Picture of Clarke McKibben lecture at Dickinson College

Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and the first recipient of The Sam Rose '58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism, highlighted how grassroots environmental groups are challenging the power of the fossil-fuel industry during his two-day visit to the college this week.

In addition to addressing a packed ATS auditorium crowd Thursday night, McKibben met with Dickinson's Baird Fellowship candidates, ALLARM interns and the Center for Sustainability Education interns; interacted with students in a religion class and an eco-criticism class; and discussed fossil-fuel divestment with student leaders.

“My role in life is to be a professional bummer-outer of people,” McKibben said after he introduced a slew of grim scientific data on the impact of climate change during his public lecture, "Front Line of the Climate Fight."  But he also offered hope, detailing the growth of 350.org, the grassroots effort to reduce global carbon dioxide emission to 350 parts per million. Starting with just seven students, the movement has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009.

“Clearly we’re not going to outspend Exxon. We need currency other than money—the currency of movement,” McKibben said. "It's not OK to invest in companies that kill the future. ... There's nothing radical about what I'm saying. Radicals work at oil companies."

McKibben is currently the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College. He has written a dozen books including, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet and The End of Nature, and is a frequent contributor to various publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, Harper's, Orion magazine, Mother Jones, The New York Review of Books, Granta, Rolling Stone and Outside. He 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.

McKibben's visit was made possible by the Rose-Walters Prize, which Sam Rose '58 and Julie Walters endowed last year with a gift aimed at focusing attention on the need to reduce the impact of human lives on the planet. The prize, which is presented each year at Commencement, awards its recipient $100,000 in recognition of his or her environmental efforts and brings the recipient to campus the following academic year for a short residency. This year the prize will be presented to former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.

Part of the Living in a World of Limits series, McKibben's lecture was also sponsored by The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and the Center for Sustainability Education and co-sponsored by the Department of Environmental Studies.

Audio and video of past Clarke Forum events, such as  First Five Years Fund Executive Director Kris Perry’s lecture, “Same-Sex Marriage & the Supreme Court: A Plaintiff’s Story,” are available through Clarke Forum podcasts. Podcasts of numerous college speakers as well as course podcasts also are available via Dickinson’s iTunes U channel.

Published Apr. 12, 2013