Bill McKibben, founder of, is the author most recently of The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at his Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont and one of the Sojourners contributing editors. 

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The Power of the Words ‘Fossil Fuels’

by Bill McKibben 02-12-2024
After 27 years of global climate talks, politicians at COP28 finally named the elephant in the atmosphere.
The graphic shows a typewriter with words and letter in the background, on a multi-colored, striped canvas.

VladSt / iStock

RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ARE used to the idea that words matter — it’s why we pay attention to scripture and go over the language carefully in sermons and Bible studies. Lawyers know words matter too — it’s why they pay attention to contracts and argue over “shall” vs. “may.” But in political life, we generally assume words are cheap: You say what you want, and everyone knows it’s “just words.”

The final declaration of December’s global climate talks (COP28) falls somewhere in between. It’s not gospel, and it’s not even binding law — there’s no enforcement mechanism. But it’s argued over, carefully, and when countries sign on, they theoretically mean it. So, it was a great victory for campaigners when the world’s governments caved to pressure and put this sentence into the final agreement: The time has come for “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly, and equitable manner.”

This was, unbelievably, the first time in 28 of these global climate talks that the words “fossil fuels” had slipped into the text (it’s as if it took 28 lung cancer conferences before someone mentioned “cigarettes”). And it’s not as if it calls for an immediate end to the use of fossil fuels — sadly, given our long delays, that’s not possible.

ExxonMobil is Running Genesis in Reverse

by Bill McKibben 11-29-2023
And they may get away with it.
The illustration shows a fracking drill, extracting a giant dollar sign from under the earth.

xochicalco / iStock 

THE POWERS AND principalities of this world don’t rest, as we were reminded this fall when ExxonMobil announced it was spending about $60 billion to buy one of the largest fracking companies on Earth (followed two weeks later by Chevron’s announced $53 billion acquisition of oil driller Hess). ExxonMobil cheerfully said that once the deal closes, its production volume in Texas’ Permian Basin would more than double to 1.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

“The combined capabilities of our two companies will provide long-term value creation well in excess of what either company is capable of doing on a standalone basis,” ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods said in a statement, which is also a reminder that the powers and principalities use language differently than the rest of us. In this case “value creation” is synonymous with “creation destruction” — those millions of barrels a day translate directly into carbon dioxide, which translates directly into fire, flood, and immiseration. They are running Genesis in reverse, but the money’s good.

Louisiana Already Has Climate Refugees

by Bill McKibben 09-26-2023
The “public interest” requires the rapid transition to sun, wind, and batteries — not liquified natural gas terminals.
The illustration shows s transportation vessels on a map of the world.

Golden Sikorka/iStock 

IF YOU THOUGHT Job had it bad, consider for a second the trials of Travis Dardar.

Dardar was born a Houma Indian in Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana — whose residents are the first Americans that the federal government has officially designated as climate refugees, as it bought out their land before the sea could swallow it. So Dardar moved upstream to Cameron, La., and resumed his life as a fisherman — until an out-of-state company built a truly giant liquified natural gas (LNG) export terminal half a mile away and announced plans for another, 350 feet from his house. This time it was the fossil fuel company that bought him out, and so he’s moved yet further upstream — a man chased not once but twice from his home by the scourge of hydrocarbons.

That LNG buildout now underway in the Gulf and elsewhere — there are seven of these terminals operational already, with plans for 20 more — is the most extreme example of fossil fuel expansion in the U.S., even though it’s mostly flown under the radar. The fight against the absurd Willow oil project in Alaska, for instance, became a TikTok viral sensation, and millions of people signed petitions; but bad as it is, Willow will produce 1/20th of the carbon emissions associated with just one of the planned new LNG terminals, the CP2 project in Dardar’s old home of Cameron.

President Joe Biden blew it on Willow, breaking his pledge to block new drilling on federal lands, and it may endanger his hopes with young voters next year. Luckily for him, he gets another chance with these LNG projects, many of which are currently awaiting a certificate that they’re in the “public interest” from Biden’s Department of Energy.

‘Sorry, Climate Change Isn’t Covered in Our Policy’

by Bill McKibben 07-10-2023
As humans face their biggest crisis yet, we badly need the insurance industry to do the right thing.
An illustration of a white house against a crème-colored backdrop. The house's red roof is being blown off and upward by an explosion of fire from within.

CSA-Printstock / iStock

THERE IS A reasonable argument, I suppose, that Christians should eschew insurance — after all, the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and letting tomorrow be anxious for itself. But almost all of us have it, and it is one of the most interesting parts of our economy: In essence, we’ve asked insurers to be the people who understand the concept of risk for us.

So, we should probably pay some attention when — as happened this spring — State Farm and Allstate both announced they would no longer be writing new homeowners policies in California. Why? In a word, fire — or, as that good neighbor State Farm put it, “rapidly growing catastrophe exposure.” There’s simply too much chance that any given home in the Golden State will burn to the ground in any given year, and when it does it costs too much to replace. Something of the same is happening along the Gulf Coast, where increasingly state governments are becoming insurers of last resort — and where, when a hurricane approaches, economists now have models to show if the destruction is likely to bankrupt any companies.

You would think that this experience would be enough to convince insurers to become activists in the climate fight. After all, their basic tool — the actuarial table, which lets them predict and thus hedge risk — depends on the world working in the future as it has in the past, something that’s increasingly a sucker’s bet. But truth be told, insurers go on investing vast sums in the fossil fuel industry, and even underwriting new pipelines or coal mines. (One is reminded of the Leninist dictum that capitalists will sell you the rope with which to hang them.)

The Alarming Data on Christian Nationalists

by Bill McKibben 04-24-2023
A recent survey examines the driving forces underpinning this belief system.
A front-view illustration of a church with an open door and steeple with a cross on top. The church is made out of a collage of red and blue American symbols like dollar bills, a cowboy's hat and boots, sports balls, the American flag, stars, etc.

bubaone / iStock

A LOT HAS BEEN written in recent months about how Christian nationalism is a threat to America — and of course that’s right. But it’s also worth noting that it’s a threat to Christianity.

This round of concern really took off when a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that alarming numbers of people believed things such as “the U.S. government should declare America a Christian nation” and “God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.” Nearly 30 percent of Americans mostly agreed (sympathizers) or completely agreed (adherents) with such statements, which is scary enough — but among Republicans that number rose to 54 percent, which means it is the dominant belief system among one of the two parties that frequently swap control of the U.S. government.

PRRI President Robert P. Jones defines Christian nationalism as “the idea that America is destined to be a promised land for European Christians.” Nearly two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants, according to PRRI, qualify as adhering or sympathizing with this belief. Astonishingly, these beliefs cross racial lines. “White (29%), Hispanic (25%), and Black (20%) Christians who identify as born-again or evangelical are each about five times as likely to be Christian nationalism adherents as members of the same racial or ethnic groups who identify as Christian but not evangelical,” the institute reports.

Turning Off the Gas of the ‘Blue-Flame Gospel’

by Bill McKibben 02-21-2023
The fossil fuel industry doesn't want you to know about alternatives to gas stoves.
A close-up of the ignited blue flame of a gas cooktop.


TUESDAY, MARCH 21, is the day for our big national action against the giant banks that are backing the fossil fuel industry.

Why March 21? Because it’s — if you think about it — 32123, simply too good a palindrome to pass up. It’s a countdown to the end of something (our economy’s blithe support for energy sources that scientists tell us we must now forego) and a count up to the real start of a possible transition.

We’ll be out in force across the country, picketing Citibank, Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo branches: Those four giants lead the world in lending to Big Oil. Their offices look like benign tenants of strip malls across America, but in truth each should have a giant smokestack coming out the top, to remind us just how much carbon they produce. (If you have $125,000 in one of these institutions, which lends it out to build pipelines and frack wells, then that money is producing more carbon in a year than all the heating, flying, driving, cooling, and cooking of an average American.)

On Spending Three Days with a Couple of Thousand Jesuit Students

by Bill McKibben 11-16-2022
“I came away heartened, even amid the political chaos of the moment.”
An overhead view of people walking in a single line and branching off into smaller ones with illustrated leaves, evoking the design of a tree.

DigtialStorm / iStock

I GOT TO spend a couple of days this autumn at the 25th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice — it was the first time I’d been there, and it cheered me immensely. Formed in the 1990s in response to the murder of Jesuit priests and lay leaders in El Salvador, it was originally held outside the School of the Americas at Fort Benning in Georgia, where the officer corps of often-repressive armies trained (including the Salvadoran military who murdered the Jesuits). Civil disobedience was often a feature of the Teach-In.

Now, it’s held in D.C., and mainly young people attend: a couple of thousand students at Jesuit high schools and colleges across the nation. This year’s participants were a diverse bunch, and extraordinary in the quality of their attention and engagement. I came away heartened, even amid the political chaos of the moment.

Welcoming Climate Refugees as Angels

by Bill McKibben 09-27-2022
If you want a chance to show that Christianity means something real to you, you're going to have an unprecedented opportunity in the years to come.
Aerial view of a group of people holdings hands and spiraling out; the cluster is to the center left of the image. Background is light tan with blobs of darker tan, salmon, and pink overlaid.

melitas / iStock

I’VE WRITTEN ABOUT immigration in these pages before, so forgive me if I seem to be repeating myself. However, any of us who spend time with the Bible know that repetition is among its most important characteristics. We get the same message over and over, until it sinks in. Here’s Leviticus 19:34: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” And here’s Leviticus five chapters later: “You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native.” Everyone knows Matthew 25:35: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” But sometimes we forget the wonderfully hopeful verse from the letter to the Hebrews: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Bottom line: This is clearly important work for Christians, or at least it was 2,000 years ago.

Want to Address Climate Change? Change Your Bank

by Bill McKibben 06-29-2022
Otherwise you might as well be spending your savings to drill oil wells in your backyard.
Illustration of a oil spraying from the top of a piggy bank

Illustration by Matt Chase

SOMETIMES, WHEN YOU'RE reading a murder mystery, a new clue appears as if out of thin air—the coroner phones the detective to report that the corpse was drugged with some rare toxin, or an image conveniently appears on old CCTV footage. There was a similar moment in the climate fight this spring, when investigators came up with something remarkable: a number definitively linking the biggest banks in the world to the biggest crisis in the world.

We’ve known for quite a while, of course, that Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America have been lending vast sums to the fossil fuel industry—more than a trillion dollars since the Paris climate accords were signed. But it took investigative research by a climate consultancy called South Pole to make clear exactly how massive that money was. They found, in essence, that if you kept $125,000 in the banking system (your retirement account, or your college savings fund), then that money emitted more carbon than all the other actions of a normal American life combined. That cash is recycled into pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals—you might as well be spending it to drill oil wells in your backyard.

The main focus of the South Pole report was not individuals; it was the biggest companies on Earth, and it showed that while Google and Microsoft and Apple were busily trying to reduce their carbon footprints, their cash hoards were producing vast clouds of greenhouse gases simply by sitting in the bank. Google’s emissions were up 111 percent accounting for the new data—that is, their cash produces more carbon than everything else they do.

Climate Inaction is Fueling the Modern War Machine

by Bill McKibben 05-09-2022
What is the tragic and hideous war in Ukraine but the result of changes left too long?
Post-it note that says "To-Do: Laundry, Groceries, Save Planet"

Illustration by Matt Chase

IN PERHAPS THE most honest prayer in the history of Christendom, a young Augustine (at this point far from a saint) asked the Lord to “make me chaste—but not yet.”

Timing is always the trouble—we put off till tomorrow what we know we should do today, and trouble results. In our lives, and also in our lives as nations and as a world. What is the tragic and hideous war in Ukraine but the result of changes left too long? For instance, we’ve known for many years that Putin’s regime was brutish and careening toward something truly ugly. There’s little doubt that his henchmen assassinated Russian dissidents in the streets outside the Kremlin and Russian exiles in the streets of Britain; they tried (and very nearly succeeded) to kill his main political opponent by poisoning his underwear. But there were luxury apartments to be sold to his apparatchiks (the British capital has been nicknamed Londongrad; Trump’s son boasted that “we have all the funding we need out of Russia”).

And, of course, we’d long known that we needed to do something about climate change—after all, the Arctic is melting, which seems like the kind of sign that doesn’t require much interpretation. But we’re used to the world we live in; doing the work to change our lives was rarely a priority.

Saying Goodbye to Spotify

by Bill McKibben 02-28-2022
Sometimes you just have to stand up for reality.
Illustration of a large speech bubble with the word, "fact," covering a smaller speech bubble with the word, "fiction."

Illustration by Matt Chase

ON A SUNDAY afternoon this winter, I sat listening to some classic bossa nova playing over a streaming service called Tidal. That last detail is important only because I spent the previous morning switching from Spotify, the dominant music streaming service, in what may be the single least effective moral statement of my life (though there are other contenders to that crown). But sometimes you just have to stand up for reality.

The Spotify kerfuffle began, as you’ve probably heard, when it reportedly made a $200 million deal with Joe Rogan for the right to broadcast his podcast, a remarkably long and tendentious series of rants that included his advice that 20-somethings should not be vaccinated against the coronavirus (as well as repeated use of racist language). Rogan also had as a guest on his show the remarkably underwhelming Canadian philosophe Jordan Peterson who explained, incoherently, why the models that physicists have built to model the earth’s climate couldn’t possibly work. In response to Rogan’s anti-vax rant, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell—generational icons if ever there were—pulled their music from the streaming service and others have done the same. They were met with criticism from Roganers who called this an attempt at censorship and accused them of betraying their ’60s-era anti-establishment credentials.

Every Major Faith Tradition Has the Resources to Tackle Climate Change

by Bill McKibben 01-31-2022
Buried in scriptures and commentaries, the growing climate crisis demands that they be found.
Illustration of a dark hand holding in its palm a haloed planet Earth

Illustration by Matt Chase

THERE WAS A TIME—and I remember it well—when very few faith traditions took the environmental crisis seriously. Since I’m a Christian, I knew the reaction within my community firsthand: Liberal churches thought that ecology was something we would get to once we dealt with war and poverty; conservative churches thought anything environmental was a way station on the road to paganism.

This has changed—more decisively in mainline churches than evangelical ones, perhaps, but across the board there is now robust scholarship on the biblical roots of creation care. And this same revolution has taken place across other traditions too—in no small part thanks to Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim. Working at Harvard in the 1990s, they assembled a series of landmark conferences for theologians of different backgrounds. One weekend would be devoted to Jains finding the green roots of their religion; a few weeks later, Hindus or Sikhs or Confucians or Muslims would assemble. By the time this Harvard series finished, it was clear that every major faith had resources buried in their scriptures and commentaries—treasures that perhaps no one had noticed till the growing climate crisis demanded that they be found.

Boomers, This is Your Moment

by Bill McKibben 10-19-2021
Our generation has fallen short on climate action, but there's still time to change our legacy. 
An illustration of open theater curtains with a globe pattern on them

Illustration by Matt Chase. 

WHO SHOULD CARE about the future? Young people, obviously, because they have to live in it. And they have done their job. I spent the ’80s and the ’90s and much of the ’00s listening to my peers complain about “kids today” and how they were apathetic and how it wasn’t like the ’60s and on and on. I don’t know if it was ever true, but it clearly hasn’t been in recent years: On issues from civil rights to prison reform to the one I know best—climate change—young people have been firmly in the forefront.

When I founded, the first iteration of a global climate movement, it was alongside seven college students—and it was their generation that built that movement out, from the divestment campaigners on college campuses to the Sunrise Movement that spurred the Green New Deal to Greta Thunberg and the many like her who built the powerhouse Fridays for Future coalition.

But they cannot do it alone. They need, in particular, their grandparents and great-grandparents—the boomers and the silent generation above them. Those of us in those categories are the fastest-growing demographic in the country—we add 10,000 to our ranks each day (though, of course, we subtract some too). We vote in huge numbers, and we have ended up with most of the assets, fairly or not.

Prayers Against a Pipeline

by Bill McKibben 07-20-2021
Learning from the wisdom of Anishinaabe elders in the fight against Line 3.
Outlines of multiple faces with their mouths open as if singing or shouting. The faces overlap and are different colors.

Illustration by Matt Chase

IT'S ALWAYS AN honor to be invited to help with someone’s good work—to be a guest in their house, especially when that house is as big as all outdoors.

Early in the summer, the Indigenous groups that had been leading the fight against the proposed Line 3 tar sands pipeline in northern Minnesota asked everyone to join them. Freed by the vaccine to travel, many of us took up the offer; it was my first journey since lockdown. And so we gathered on the banks of the Mississippi—so far up the great river that you could, in fact, hop from one bank to the other. There were two big protests on the same June morning; one, at a pumping station, ended in hundreds of arrests of brave activists and real aggression from the police, who buzzed demonstrators repeatedly in a helicopter that kicked up choking clouds of dirt. I was about 20 miles away, and our protest was much more peaceful—indeed, it was mostly spiritual.

Its leaders were a series of Native elders. Along a usually deserted county road, several thousand of us mustered to listen to a water and pipe ceremony led by a pair of Anishinaabe women; it was a hot day, and the drone of their voices against the beat of drums both lulled and emboldened. Soon, a few of us struck out across a marsh, past signs declaring that we were trespassing, aiming for a wooden road that the pipeline company had built across the swamp to carry its equipment. We gained it, and soon there was an occupation underway—tents going up, people making plans for sanitation and food supply and security. But mostly there was prayer and ceremony: Within hours a sacred fire had been lit, and five days of ceremony were underway.

Dismantling Creation and Spreading Disease

by Bill McKibben 05-25-2021
Attacks on science are dangerous.
A science beaker is engulfed in a flame.

Illustration by Matt Chase

TOO MUCH OF evangelicalism has, for too long, been hostile to too much of science—that’s a given, since opposition to evolution was in some ways the 20th-century coming-out party for a certain kind of fundamentalist Christianity. But that kind of militant ignorance didn’t do much practical damage; it was mostly an attack on the sheer beauty of the actual world God has created, one with its infinite, changing variety of life.

The 21st-century attacks on science are more dangerous, highlighted at the moment by the widespread refusal of white evangelicals to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Despite valiant efforts by some evangelicals to fight back—Francis Collins at the National Institutes of Health being so often a good example—45 percent of white evangelicals said this spring that they didn’t plan to get the shot, compared with a quarter of the population at large.

One Irritating Thing About the Bible

by Bill McKibben 03-22-2021
It keeps instructing us to do things we don't want to.
A graphic of the Earth. The bottom half dissipates into a bunch of little stick figures of green and blue, the same colors as the globe.

Illustration by Matt Chase

THE IRRITATING THING about the Bible—well, one irritating thing about it—is that it keeps instructing us, in unambiguous terms, to do things we don’t want to.

On the first page it tells us to take care of the earth, which is quite embarrassing now that we’re fiddling with the thermostat and killing off large numbers of the creatures that we are supposed to look after.

Of course, it gets much worse once we reach the gospels and we’re told to take care of the poor and—well, I mean, come on, stop the steal. Nastiest of all is the quite specific demand to welcome the stranger. Clearly, we’re not into that—nearly three-quarters of white Christians voted for the candidate whose senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, once said, “I would be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched American soil.”

These various unreasonable demands become even more unreasonable as time goes on, because they start to converge. Because we failed to take care of the earth, instead burning massive amounts of coal and gas and oil, we raised the temperature, and because hurricanes draw their power from the heat in the ocean, we now have more of them—this past season we set a record in the Atlantic, with a nonstop procession of storms that exhausted the regular alphabet and drove us deep into the Greek one. Hence, it was storms Eta and Iota that crashed into Central America in November, causing incredible wreckage: By some early estimates, Honduras saw damage equivalent to 40 percent of its GDP. (Katrina, one of America’s worst storms, cost us 1 percent of our GDP.) Not surprisingly, Honduras is now an even more difficult place to live—indeed, for many people an impossible one, given that food and shelter, which are actually necessary for survival, can’t be found.

We Have 9 Years Left—450 Sunday Sermons—to Save the Planet

by Bill McKibben 01-26-2021
Climate math turns to moral issues.
Graphic of the planet with numbers going across it.

Illustration by Matt Chase

TRUMP IS BEHIND us now—four years of constant provocation and useless cruelty are over, which means ... we have about nine years left for the most important task any civilization has ever taken on. I want to lay out the basic math of our situation, because if we are at all serious about taking care of the earth God gave us (and we should be, since that was literally our first instruction), that math rules the day.

1) We are currently on a path to raise the temperature of the planet 3 degrees Celsius or more by century’s end. If we do that, we can’t have civilizations like the ones we’re used to—already, at barely more than 1 degree, wildfires and hurricanes have begun to strain our ability to respond.

2) In 2015, the world’s governments pledged in Paris to try and hold the rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The United States, shamefully, exited that agreement for a time, but now we’re back in.

3) To meet that target, scientists say we need to cut emissions in half by 2030 and then go on cutting until, by 2050, we’ve stopped burning fossil fuel altogether. But the crucial year is not 2050. It’s 2030—if we haven’t made huge cuts by then, we’ll miss the chance to stop short of utter catastrophe.

The Rich Shall Destroy the Earth

by Bill McKibben 11-30-2020
The rich don't just control the flow of carbon; they control the flow of power.
Three large cold coins are lined up, each shaped like Pac Man. They are facing a small globe that looks like Earth, as if they are going to consume it.

Illustration by Matt Chase

WHEN WE SAY that “humans are heating up the planet,” we are technically correct, and yet misleading. Humans are indubitably driving climate change—but only some of us.

An Oxfam study released this fall showed that between 1990 and 2015—a period when we poured more carbon into the atmosphere than in all of history before that time—the richest 1 percent of humanity accounted for more of that damage than the entire bottom 50 percent of the species. In case you think that the top 1 percent is Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates, remind yourself that in fact it’s anyone whose income tops $109,000 a year—that includes plenty of readers of this magazine. The richest 10 percent of humanity accounts for half of total emissions—that’s everyone whose income is above $38,000. That’s quite likely you; it’s certainly me.

These people are scattered around the world, though the biggest concentrations are in the U.S., the EU, China, and the Middle East; India is appearing in the league tables too, a reminder that inequality is as much a problem within nations as between them. But what’s really sad, of course, is that anyone with a decent income is able to insulate themselves from most of the problems they’re causing. It’s people in poverty—whether in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans or along the delta of the Brahmaputra in Bangladesh—who get hit first and hardest.

Plagues of Our Lives

by Bill McKibben 09-24-2020
God's people are failing to meet the first instruction laid down in Genesis.

Illustration from photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

RIGHT THERE ON page one, it explains that our job is to exercise careful dominion over the planet, which God has just made and found good. It’s literally job one.

So let’s just list a few of the things that have happened over the last four years in this country to see how we’re doing. The administration has, according to The New York Times:

Dramatically weakened the fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks; canceled a requirement that oil and gas companies even report their methane emissions, at precisely the moment that methane emissions (a key greenhouse gas) are soaring; weakened federal rules to prevent air pollution in national parks; withdrawn from the Paris climate accords, the only global effort to slow climate change; shrunk national monuments to allow for more oil drilling; pushed through plans for pipelines despite massive resistance from farmers, ranchers, and Native Americans in their path; permitted the use of seismic air guns for oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic, despite the danger to marine life that had led to a ban; opened the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (the largest wildlife refuge in the country) to oil and gas drilling; revoked Obama-era flood standards for new federal projects requiring that sea level rise be considered; reversed Obama-era rules on sport hunting so that it’s now legal to bait grizzly bears with grease-soaked doughnuts; revoked a rule preventing coal companies from dumping mining debris in streams; blocked plans to mandate more efficient light bulbs; stopped payments we’d promised to the Green Climate Fund, which is designed to help poor countries reduce carbon emissions; and restarted the sale of plastic bottles in national parks. Believe me, I could go on.

Pandemic Survival Is a Group Project

by Bill McKibben 06-24-2020
We can’t just return to some old normal. 

Illustration by Matt Chase

ALMOST FROM THE first day of the COVID-19 crisis, the question in the back of many minds has been: How soon will this be over? When can we get back to normal?

For irresponsible people, the answer has been: Now. Schooled by a lifetime in a consumer society, deprivation of any kind seems impossible, hence the pictures of people demanding, sometimes at gunpoint, that the barber shop or sports bar be opened back up.

For more responsible souls, the answer has been: Once we have enough tests. Or once we have good treatments for the coronavirus. Or once we have a vaccine.

But the real answer, in some sense, may be never.

Because, of course, this pandemic is just one crisis buried within a much larger one: the reaction of the natural world to the demands placed on it by a species making unprecedented demands.