The Common Good

Why Bill McKibben is the New Noah

Earth photo, moomsabuy / Shutterstock.com
Earth photo, moomsabuy / Shutterstock.com

Bill McKibben is a good guy.

He's a Sunday school teacher. He's funny and a little shy. But he's got a big problem.

He just got a job from God — and it's not an easy one. It seems to me that Bill's been tapped to be the new Noah to our faithless generation.  It's his job to warn us that we have "grieved the Lord in his heart" and that the flood waters will rise again if we don't get back to working within our "original contract" and reverse climate change.

Remember the Bill Cosby skit about Noah and the Ark? Noah's neighbors didn't think much of him, and Noah himself didn't know what he was doing half the time. But he had a job to do, and cubit by cubit, two by two, he did it.

Bill's like that.

Last month, Rolling Stone magazine featured his latest plea for climate sanity on its cover. And despite every pundit's whining proclamation that climate change is such a buzz-kill, Bill's article got forwarded, commented, tweeted, and otherwise pushed around the Internet more than anything else RS has put out lately.

So somebody out there is paying attention to climate change — even if the elites can't seem to grow a spine about it.

What I liked about Bill's article was that he lays out a clear, 3-pronged strategy for really doing something about climate change while there's still time.

If we do these three things, there's a possibility that we can reverse climate change, restore health to our skies, earth, and oceans, and move forward into a future where our grandkids can not just survive, but thrive.

Here's the plan:

1. Divest or get active regarding all stockholdings in these six corporations: ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Peabody, Arch, and BP. These are the primary oil, natural gas, and coal companies operating in or through the United States that top the charts as carbon polluters. If Americans focus on U.S. companies, then we can be the tipping point for a transnational shift. If you — or the portfolio you influence — own stock, then get rid of it and tell the company why. If you don't want to divest, then you need to decide now to become a shareholder activist. If you're not a stockholder, then pressure your faith institutions, universities, and local governments to get out of "planet-killing" profits. This is the economic part of the plan.

2. Push for carbon "fee-and-dividend" laws on corporate carbon emitters at the local, state, and federal level. No more free rides for oil, gas, and coal companies. You pay taxes to have your garbage hauled away. Why shouldn't they? The fee is charged at the point of origin or point of import on greenhouse gas emitting energy (oil, gas, and coal). The fee is progressive (increases gradually) over time. The fee is returned directly to the public in monthly dividends to individual taxpayers, with limited-to-no government involvement. Australia initiated this legislation in June. We can learn from them. This is the legislative part of the plan.

3. Take personal responsibility. Everyone can continue to limit energy consumption, use renewable energy sources, and build out a sustainable footprint for our homes and churches. But we also need people to step up and put their bodies on the line to stop the mining of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and prevent the construction of the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines that are being built to transport Alberta's unconventional "tar sands" oil. Scientists around the world say that opening the Alberta tar sands and pumping this non-traditional oil through these pipelines will put the planet on a one-way road to climate disaster. That's why fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline in the U.S. and the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Canada is critical. This is the direct action and personal responsibility part of the plan.

The threat of climate change is overwhelming. It's been hard to sort out what to do. But Bill McKibben has given us a plan — one that everyone can join in, one where everyone can take part.

And even though he presents it in a folksy manner, this stuff has been vetted from the farmers on the ground to the economists in the think tanks to the scientists running the algorithms. When governments fail, people stand up.

This plan may not work to completely reverse climate change. But if anything is going to succeed, we've got to listen to Noah this time. Or rather, Bill.

Welcome to the fight of your lifetime.

Rose Marie Berger, author of Who Killed Donte Manning? is a Catholic peace activist and a Sojourners associate editor. She blogs at rosemarieberger.com.

Earth photo, moomsabuy / Shutterstock.com

Resources and Further Reading

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibben

1. ECONOMIC

2. LEGISLATIVE

  3. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY/DIRECT ACTION

For more from Sojourners, visit our Climate Campaign page.

 

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