bill mckibben

Keystone Pipeline Will Be Stopped By A Miracle

Sojourners photo.

Sojourners and Young Evangelicals for Climate Action at the Forward on Climate Rally. Sojourners photo.

People of faith are in the 'miracle business.'

An estimated 200 people of faith gathered in Washington, D.C., on Sunday morning in preparation for the Forward on Climate Rally on the National Mall. The brief prayer service preceded the larger rally of an estimated 40,000 people urging President Barack Obama to take action against climate change and to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

Bill McKibben Leads D.C. March to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

Protestors march to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. Photo by Scot Degraf

Protestors march to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline. Photo by Scot Degraf

Midway through his nationwide, one-month Do The Math tour, Bill McKibben — author, environmental activist, and founder of — attracted a crowd that packed the Warner Theater in downtown Washington, D.C., on Sunday. 

Joined both onstage and by video by a diverse group of speakers, including Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, author Naomi Klein, and Archbishop Desmund Tutu, McKibben’s Do The Math tour brings to light the stark numbers of our current climate reality, first brought to the public’s attention in his viral article in Rolling Stone this past summer. 

The three main numbers are as follows: 2 degrees Celsius is the maximum level of warming our planet can endure before real catastrophe occurs. To stay below 2 degrees C, we cannot burn more than 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide. But the problem is that the fossil fuel industry has 2,795 gigatons in their reserves — five times the safe amount to burn. As is their business plan, to reap the profit from these reserves, the fossil fuel companies plan on burning all of it, “unless we rise up to stop them” states the website. 

Cue the Math: McKibben’s Roadshow Takes Aim at Big Oil

Seth Butler /

Bill McKibben Speaking at Waitsfield, VT Connect The Dots Rally. Seth Butler /

It was game time. The Saturday night crowd on the Vermont campus was festive, boisterous, pumped. People cheered and whooped when told that one of their heroes, climate activist Tim DeChristopher — serving a two-year federal sentence for his civil disobedience opposing new oil and gas drilling in Utah — would soon be back on the field.

When the man on the stage,’s Bill McKibben, said it was time to march not just on Washington but on the headquarters of fossil fuel companies — “it’s time to march on Dallas” — and asked those to stand who’d be willing to join in the fight, seemingly every person filling the University of Vermont’s cavernous Ira Allen Chapel, some 800 souls, rose to their feet.

McKibben and 350, the folks who brought us the Keystone XL pipeline protests, are now calling for a nationwide divestment campaign aimed at fossil fuel companies’ bottom line. Beginning with student-led campaigns on college campuses, modeled on the anti-apartheid campaigns of the 1980s, they’ll pressure institutions to withdraw all investments from big oil and coal and gas. Their larger goal is to ignite a morally charged movement to strip the industry of its legitimacy.

“The fossil fuel industry has behaved so recklessly that they should lose their social license — their veneer of respectability,” McKibben tells his audience. “You want to take away our planet and our future? We’re going to take away your money and your good name.”

The Next Great Moral Movement

Climate change illustration, B Calkins /

Climate change illustration, B Calkins /

In my last column, "Three Numbers that Predict the Future of the Planet", I wrote about the state of the climate crisis and focused on three key data points that reveal a bleak, though not altogether hopeless, reality for us and for the rest of the planet.

As promised, this column is forward-looking and moves from describing the problem to prescribing the solution. To this end, I continue to draw heavily from the wisdom of Bill McKibben, Jim Ball, and other climate prophets who understand the times and are faithfully fighting to get us on the right track.

The way forward is not easy, but it will be good in the long run. Essentially, we need to set and enforce a limit on all remaining global warming pollution on the national and international scale, which will, we hope, keep warming to within 2oC. This will include some sort of pricing mechanism so that polluters have to take responsibility for paying for the costs of their own pollution. The problem is that we have not yet been able to muster the socio-political momentum necessary to reach these binding agreements. Turns out the polluters (largely the fossil fuel industry) don’t want to have to clean up after themselves. They’re also willing to fight with billions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying money to keep the status quo.

Three Numbers that Predict the Future of the Planet

Green alarm clock, Alex Staroseltsev /

Green alarm clock, Alex Staroseltsev /

The climate crisis is getting bad and we may be finally starting to notice. With increasingly crazy weather across America—scorching heat waves, massive fires, destructive derechos, devastating droughts—polls are starting to show a growing awareness of and concern for how our massive amounts of pollution are changing the weather and therefore changing our lives (mostly for the worse).

I know this is starting to sound alarmist and extreme. It should. Because reality is starting to get pretty desperate for those whose lives and livelihoods depend on a relatively stable and predictable climate. At the end of the day, that’s all of us. The first to get hit, however—and they are currently getting hit hard—are those who grow and raise our food (farmers, ranchers, fishermen, etc.), those who are economically and physically vulnerable (the elderly, sickly, homeless, etc.), and those who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (the victims of these storms and fires). And while we’re starting to feel the impact of climate change in the United States, our global neighbors in regions such as Africa have been the ones bearing the brunt of the suffering.

After decades of scientific studies and expert warnings, climate change is no longer something being debated; it is something being experienced. Let’s just hope we do what’s right to overcome this crisis before it is too late. Because “too late” may be coming a lot sooner than we realize, and “what’s right” may be a lot harder than we want to accept.

Why Bill McKibben is the New Noah

Earth photo, moomsabuy /

Earth photo, moomsabuy /

Last month, Rolling Stone magazine featured Bill McKibben's 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.

Senate Blocks the Keystone XL Pipeline

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last week, 56 senators voted to include the Keystone XL Pipeline in a highway bill — four short of the required 60.

The vote proved that ordinary people still can make a difference. Months of action, hundreds of thousands of messages and phone calls, and stalwart determination made the difference in those four votes. And I think it shows that people are looking for a different paradigm of environmental stewardship. 

What Next for the Occupiers?

Group meditation in Zuccotti Park, October 2011.  Photo by Cathleen Falsani.

Group meditation in Zuccotti Park, October 2011. Photo by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners.

One of the highlights of the fall for me was undertaking a kind of Occupy Tourism. I was spending most of my time on the move, working to build the broad coalition that eventually won at least a temporary victory against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta. In almost every city I visited, I tried to stop by the local encampment, in part because Occupiers were among our most reliable allies, and in part because it was so much fun.

I’ve gotten to speak through the human microphone in lower Manhattan and tour the D.C. campsite just a few blocks from the White House. But I’ve also gotten to sign the copies of my books in the library tent at Occupy Boston (a quiet tent, staffed by honest-to-God librarians from Boston Public Library, with everything arranged by subject). I even made it to foreign occupations—standing beneath a giant stone lion in the grand Vancouver encampment. Happiest occupation goes to San Luis Obispo, California, where I got a hug from a fellow with a huge “Free Hugs” sign. The most chic, not surprising, was Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they arranged not only a campfire for my talk, but a rising full moon in the desert sky.

The Morning News: Monday Nov. 21, 2011

Obama At Church: The Tricky, Exciting, Distracting Business Of Worshipping With A President. OpEd: Should A President Be Intelligent? Archbishop Rowan Williams Backs Revolt Against Coalition's Welfare Cuts. Taking It To The Streets. Are Christians To Blame For White House Shooter Linking Obama, Antichrist? Voices Of The Near Poor. What Occupy Harvard Should Tell Liberal Elite Parents On Thanksgiving. Democrats To Protest Immigration Crackdowns. And Hispanic Churches Fight Alabama Crackdown On Immigration.