Climate leader and author Bill McKibben visited us and had events Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, as well as generously taking the time to meet with activists such the leaders of the divestment movement at Western Washington University.
People turned out in force for the major events, at Chuckanut Radio Hour and then Western Reads, as well as a divestment rally immediately after the Western event.
It was easy to get swept up the narrative at the several events, but I reminded myself to take notes, recording as quickly as I could the sentences that spoke to me the most.
Bill is, first and foremost, a writer. He originally had no plans to become an activist, facing down the most powerful corporations on the planet Eaarth, until he saw the absolute necessity. He told us:
It’s nice to be here with you all, but I’d rather be at home typing.He had very kind and encouraging words for those of us who have working hard to stop plans for North America's largest coal export terminal. There's just no way to express how motivating it is to hear this from him.
Bill described coming to Bellingham in 2011, for one of the first events to raise the alarm about the coal terminal plans. The mood was down. Many people believed that the fix was in. Then a thousand people showed up at the Fairhaven village green to hear Bill, and show their intent to stand up the fossil fuel companies. Bill recalled,
I could tell there was enough spirit here to make it come out all right.He spoke about movement building.
In stopping the coal trains so far, you all have accomplished something of just as epic a scale as the KXL resistance.
The Powder River Basin coal needs to stay in the ground, if we are going to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change. You are keeping vast quantities of the most dangerous stuff on earth bottled up.
This is the first movement with a time limit that there has ever been.It's the kind of currency that we've been working hard to create in our corner of the Pacific Northwest.
We’re not going to out-spend the fossil fuel industry, so we’re going to have find a different currency.
We don’t need to have leaders in the same way that we needed before.Bill spoke of his deep admiration for the First Nations throughout North America, standing up for their homes - and all of our homes at the same time. The image below by Paul Anderson shows the Lummi nation symbolically burning the check, declining the payoffs they could receive in exchange for sanctioning the likely destruction what remains of their fishing grounds.
If your doctor says you have high cholesterol and you have a high risk of a heart attack, only idiots go home and search the internet until they find a web site that says cholesterol doesn’t exist.The fundamental challenge of climate change communication.
My main role in the world is to bum people out. I unload my angst to you, and I feel better.The reality of what can still be accomplished, and what sadly cannot.
Climate forces on you a mental triage – you’ve got to figure out the most effective thing you can do.And ultimately, the arena in which the matter will be decided.
We’re not talking at all about stopping global warming, we’re talking about not making it worse. We have exited the Holocene. That’s over. We have raised the temperature by 1 degree C and we’re almost certain to raise it 2C. On current trajectory we’ll raise it 6C.
These questions don’t hinge on reason. They hinge on power.
It's not just the bumming facts that we all need to hear (because he doesn't hold back). It's his approach and manner, of someone who cares very deeply about the natural world and especially the fate of those people who don't hold the power. A deeply genuine personal narrative, of someone who is devoting much of his life away from the places he loves in order to motivate one last great attempt to save our climate.
If you have been involved in any kind of climate activism, and you question whether it's worth one more campaign, it's powerfully motivating to hear from Bill how much your efforts matter. When someone who has worked so hard thanks you for your efforts in your little corner of the world, it helps you decide that yes, we'll be there for as long as it takes.
My prior diary with an Interview with Bill McKibben
All quotes are from handwritten notes taken live during events this weekend. Any errors or omissions are my fault. I am confident that I captured the intent of each one.
Kossack sightings: In a mini-meet up, John Crapper and wife wife came up and spent the weekend with us. I also saw Lefty Coaster and aliasalias at one event each.
Photos copyright Paul K Anderson and Katelyn Nagel