Saturday, August 16, 2014

Oil and Honey and Bill McKibben

I stayed up late last night to finish Bill McKibben's latest book on how he became a Climate Change Activist. Then I got an e-mail from Bill this morning. Bill wrote to invite me and about 400,000 other people to go to New York City on September 21 for a rally demanding that our politicians start doing something to address climate change.

Joni got the same e-mail too and we both sort of had the same reaction: why spend that much time, money, effort and carbon to travel across the US to go to a rally in New York? Bill McKibben is all about local economies---his call for rallies should also be local.

Yet, big movement rallies do work. Remember the Nuclear Freeze movement? Remember when a million people showed up in New York in order to demand that Reagan take a different tack? Well, Reagan did change his tune after that rally and a guy named Gorbachev came along and Reagan was, suddenly, all about reducing the number of Nukes.

At least Bill McKibben is doing something. There are some on the Left who disparage the guy every chance they get. I'm talking about the cynics over at CounterPunch who regularly make fun of Al Gore and Bill McKibben. They seek purity where there is none. I wonder if they would find such ideological purity if they looked at themselves in the mirror?

We may be much too late to save the planet and civilization. I spent this afternoon looking at temperature records for the town that is across the canyon from me: Paradise, California. Turns out that since 2000, Paradise has broken 81 high temperature records. Compare that to only 12 low temperature records set since the year 2000. The months of March, May and November had the most records broken for heat. So, from looking at those records (and by writing down the date that my apricot tree blooms every year) Spring time is coming earlier and Summer is lasting well into the Fall. Then I read an article from The Nation that suggested we need to adjust the projected temperature increases to be as much as 3.5 degrees centigrade by 2035! And the arctic ice cap? Gone by 2020. That would be within my projected lifespan.

Of course, a temperature increase that fast would be incompatible with the agriculture we currently have that has been slowly developed over the last 10,000 years. Yes, we've heard all the alarmist projections in the past. Chicken Little has ridden into this town before.

But then I look at the data for Paradise and I realize, we really haven't had a winter in years.

The title of Bill McKibben's book comes from his fight against the oil companies and about a small farm he bought where he has a local friend, and bee expert, live on the farm in order to raise honey bees. Bill bought the farm to keep himself sane.

McKibben is a bit like me: he thinks big but when it comes right down to it, he isn't very handy. You either like to putter with a hammer or you like to putter with lap tops. The renaissance person who can putter with both is rare. That's why McKibben bought the farm and provided it free of charge to a friend. He could vicariously learn to be a farmer. And just owning the place gave McKibben the place to depressurize from his travels.

Oil and Honey is a journal of the whirlwind life McKibben has created for himself. And sometimes he gets a bit too enamored with his celebrity. Bill wrote of giving a talk in Nevada City and staying at Gary Snyder's ranch prior to the talk. Well, Snyder is buds with Governor Jerry Brown and arranged to have Jerry and his wife attend the talk. Jerry Brown sat right up front and was seen taking copious notes. Of course, Governor Brown didn't learn anything if you look at his wholesale sell out to the Fracking Industry. Bill McKibben was duly impressed with both Snyder and Brown. I'm wondering if either one really is worthy of such hero worship.

It is hard not to be impressed with yourself when you have been foisted into the limelight. We are social creatures who like to be popular. We like to name drop. I can't fault McKibben for being human. Doesn't every memoir drop names?

This is a very approachable book that, essentially, is a journal. McKibben has a gee whiz, "look at me Ma! style---yet he also remains accessible and humble. And all criticism aside, he has almost single handedly created a movement that just might be our last best chance to save civilization. That's heady work. And nobody else is doing it.

Good for Bill.

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