McKibben Sees Opening to Press Obama on Climate Change

Bill McKibben, author and co-founder of the global grassroots climate activist movement 350.org, kicked off the “Do The Math” tour Wednesday before over 2,000 people at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. Before taking the stage, McKibben gave this exclusive interview to The UpTake’s Leif Utne.

“We’re about 24 hours after the election, so in certain ways we feel like there’s an opening — an opening if we now build the movement to make some real change happen, and happen fast,” said McKibben. “But in order for that to happen, we’ve got to reduce the power of the fossil fuel industry. They’re simply too strong. They’ve been able to block every piece of significant legislation in Washington for decades. That’s what this is about: going out around the country and trying to spark the movement that will begin to cut the power of this industry before they raise the temperature of the earth too high for any of us to deal with.”

The 21-day, 21-city tour through college campuses, churches and synagogues nationwide will highlight the magnitude of the threat that fossil fuels pose to a livable planet, the opportunity Tuesday’s election results pose, and a bold new strategy to hit the fossil fuel industries where it hurts — including boycotts, blockades, marches on oil companies’ shareholder meetings, and a new Fossil Free Campus divestiture movement modeled after the anti-Apartheid movement of the 1980s. Unity College in Maine became the first college to pull its stock from all fossil fuel companies. “As Maine goes, so goes the nation,” says McKibben.

The tour kicked off just one day after Barack Obama’s re-election to the White House for a reason. “Last night (during his victory speech) President Obama broke his campaign-long climate silence and mentioned it at the end of a sentence, and suddenly everyone was on their feet cheering,” McKibben pointed out.

“There is such pent-up demand for action on climate. The real first test for the President’s gonna come when he decides whether or not to approve the Keystone Pipeline. He put it off for a year, and that year has since the warmest year in American history, it’s seen the catastrophic melt of the Arctic, it’s seen the epic drought across the Midwest, and it saw a storm so powerful that it flooded our greatest city. At the end of that, I can’t imagine how the President’s gonna go ahead and say ‘ok’ to this giant straw stuck into that toxic milkshake up there.”

McKibben will be joined at stops along the tour by celebrities and activists including author Naomi Klein and Gasland director Josh Fox. The tour’s next stops include Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Learn more at http://math.350.org

Jacob Wheeler

In addition to shooting videos for The UpTake, Jacob Wheeler is a contributing editor at the progressive political magazine In These Times, publishes the Glen Arbor Sun in his native Michigan, and authored "Between Light and Shadow," a recent book about the Guatemalan adoption industry. Wheeler's stories have appeared in such magazines as the Utne Reader, Earth Island Journal, Rotarian and Teaching Tolerance magazine, and newspapers including the San Francisco Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor. He speaks fluent Spanish, German and Danish.

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