February 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Bill McKibben: Ahead of Keystone XL Rally, Fossil Fuel
Divestment Expands Across U.S. Campuses
AARON MATÉ: In recent months, college students at over 200 campuses have begun pushing administrators to divest from fossil fuel companies. On Tuesday, Sterling College in Vermont announced it will soon become the third college in the U.S. to divest its endowment from 200 fossil fuel companies identified by the environmental group 350.org . Unity College in Maine and Hampshire College in Massachusetts were the first two schools to divest.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by 350.org’s founder, Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. Last June, he wrote an influential article for Rolling Stone called “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” It went viral.
Welcome back to Democracy Now! You’re just coming from Cooper Union last night, where the place was packed, this historic building where President Lincoln spoke—talking about what?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, talking about this burgeoning divestment movement. It’s been kind of amazing to watch in the last six weeks as the number of campuses has mushroomed to the point—at 234 campuses now. The Nation said last week that this may be the largest student movement in several decades. In one sense, it came very quickly out of nowhere. In another sense, you know, last year was the hottest year we’ve ever seen in America. We watched the drought, we watched Sandy. I think it’s no surprise, really, that young people are starting to say, “We’ve got to spend another 60, 70 years on this planet. We better do something fast.” And that something means standing up to the fossil fuel industry that’s been in the way of rational change for a quarter-century now.
AMY GOODMAN: What do mean by divest from fossil fuel companies? Which companies are you targeting?
BILL McKIBBEN: We have a list of 200 companies with the largest carbon reserves in the world. The argument that was in that Rolling Stone piece, and in a sort of tour that we did around the country all fall about it, was that these companies now have—this industry has five times as much carbon in its reserves as the most conservative scientists on earth says would be safe to burn. Once you know the numbers, there’s no longer any sort of doubt about how this story comes out: Unless we rewrite the script, if we follow their business plan, the planet tanks.
That’s why there is this upsurge, not only around divestment, but around things like the fight against the Keystone pipeline. You know, we’re going back to Washington for the biggest climate rally probably ever in this country a week from Sunday on the Mall in D.C. It’s—it’s coming up fast, and it’s got to come up fast, this movement, because unlike other problems we face, there’s a time limit on this one. If we don’t get it right soon, then we don’t get it right at all.
AMY GOODMAN: What’s Obama going to do around Keystone XL? He put off the decision, said he would put it off ’til after the election. That’s come. He said now spring. What do you believe will happen?
BILL McKIBBEN: I believe what will happen will depend entirely on what kind of movement we build. My sense of Washington is that when you push, sometimes things happen. It took 1,253 people going to jail, the largest civil disobedience action in 30 years, to slow down this northern portion of the Keystone pipeline. It’s going to take a real effort to stop it. But that real effort is being made by people in all 50 states and by our brothers and sisters in Canada. It’s been exciting to watch over these last 15 months. Something’s building. I’m not certain that it’s building fast enough to catch up with the physics of climate change. But watching those campuses, watching those kids, it’s awfully exciting.
AARON MATÉ: So, Obama has now delayed his decision twice. Do you think that’s linked to these protests that you’ve been involved in?
BILL McKIBBEN: I think everyone—as Van Jones said the other day, this was a done deal 18 months ago. We’ve managed to make it come undone for a while and, in the process, kept 400 million barrels of oil in the ground that would otherwise have gone out. So, that’s, you know, worth going to jail for, but it’s not going to stop global warming. We’ve actually got to start leaving carbon permanently in the ground.
AMY GOODMAN: We only have 10 seconds. What’s the plan for February 17th, this rally in Washington?
BILL McKIBBEN: It’s going to be exciting. And if you go to “forward on climate ,” you’ll find out all the logistical details.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, I want to thank you for being with us, co-founder and director of 350.org , author of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.
Published on Alternet (
May 6, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Exposing deniers as the dying corp deperados they are
for the rest of us it’s abundantly clear: together’s found our strength & hope
thank you bill & co!
April 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Here reviewed by scot thill of alternet 4/19/12 . . .
Co-executive produced by Martin Scorsese and co-directed by Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks, this meditative documentary examines humanity’s currently crucial crossroads between self-wrought runaway consumption, rapacious economics and natural resource exhaustion through the prism of so-called technological progress. Anchored in author Ronald Wright’s 2004 Massey Lectures series A Short History of Progress and fleshed out by theoretical physicist cyborg Stephen Hawking, dystopian sci-fi author Margaret Atwood, famed primatologist Jane Goodall and others, the visually impressive Surviving Progress analyzes what it will take to dodge a global collapse that is priced into the future thanks to short-sighted past and present mistakes.
It’s a poetic analysis, with a spare score that cedes ground to its visionary subjects, and their destabilizing subject matter. But it’s also an optimistic exploration, holding out hope that humanity’s exponential technological development can discover solutions to stave off what Hawking calls the next two centuries of natural and social disasters we’ll have to negotiate to survive as a species. Some answers come from Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics, which is scouring the planet’s oceans for microbes whose genes can help us “write software for life.” Others can be found in the internet, which Surviving Progress posits as our interconnected planetary brain. If you’re looking for a fiery polemic, Surviving Progress, opening in April, is not the film for you. But if you’re looking for a sweeping think piece, welcome to the machine.
the island president
Earlier this February, Mohammed Nasheed — the Mandela of the Maldives, who like his forebear has spent much of his life being tortured in prison — was allegedly forced from his presidency by gunpoint. A month later, The Island President, a documentary exploring Nasheed’s campaign to reverse climate change in order to save the low-lying Maldives from being swallowed by inevitable sea rise, finally debuted in a United States that probably couldn’t even locate his country on a Google map. Even so, The Island President’s award-winning political and environmental intrigue still managed to capture the consciences of its viewers, critics and even his own country.
Although director Jon Shenk’s documentary takes place in a remote corner of climate change’s evolving dystopia, it remains a cautionary tale for any nation that thinks its elections are clean and its political and economic priorities are being properly addressed and administered. And the show goes on with Nasheed’s one-time ally, vice-president and Stanford graduate Mohammed Hassan — whose own brother fingered him for helping oust Nasheed in a coup — now sweating uncomfortably in global warming’s hot seat. He’ll soon be joined by politicians at the center of power webs in places Americans do know, like Miami, New York and others subject to the ravages of sea rise.
After bidding on 14 parcels of pristine Utah public land near national parks and landmarks during a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction, Tim DeChristopher was taken into custody by federal agents and sentenced to two years in prison by judge Dee Benson, a controversial George H.W. Bush appointee.
Award-wininng director team Beth and George Gage’s Bidder 70 tells the compelling, infuriating tale of DeChristopher’s conscientious civil disobedience, and the ludicrous legal ruling that has kept him behind bars for longer than anyone involved in the Deepwater Horizon spill or the global economic recession, tragedies much more deserving of judicial overreach. Despite the fact that his brilliant stunt allowed the incoming Obama administration to invalidate the auction altogether in lieu of adequate environmental review, the uncompromising DeChristopher is still unfairly incarcerated, awaiting his moment of triumphant redemption. One fervently hopes that Bidder 70 brings that moment much closer than his scheduled release date of April 21, 2013, which is perhaps not accidentally a day shy of Earth Day.
( no trailer; linked movie site viewed separately )
You’ll have a hard time finding the sobering Chasing Ice in the malls, as it’s still on the competitive documentary circuit. But one thing is for sure: There’ll be even less ice to find when director Jeff Orlowski’s documentary about climate change and vanishing glaciers finds foreign and domestic theatrical distribution later this year. Chasing Ice is produced by the team that brought you the dolphin horror documentary The Cove, and it’s just as arresting, as it follows acclaimed National Geographic photographer James Balog to the Arctic in search of something that won’t melt away before our eyes.
Balog’s project to photograph the region’s warming climate is not called the Extreme Ice Survey for nothing. For the last five years, it has mounted 30 time-lapse cameras across three continents to chronicle the jaw-dropping loss of Arctic sea ice, drawing a sharp, immediate focus on the ramifications of that nearly unprecedented warming. The EIS has published these results in National Geographic, but the still photographs are nothing compared to the existential terror and environmental beauty of Chasing Ice, one of 2012′s most important documentaries. Watch it by any means necessary.
( linked trailer viewed separately )
Chasing Ice may be a more wide-ranging documentary analysis of the entire Arctic region, but it is To the Arctic’s tale of a mother polar bear and her twin cubs that is getting the 70mm IMAX treatment this April. It’s also boasting narration from Meryl Streep, as well as songs from Paul McCartney, in case you were looking for further pop crossovers. But this is not to say that To the Arctic is a lightweight crowd-pleaser.
Directed by outdoor IMAX filmmaker Greg MacGillivray, To the Arctic is an eye-popping exploration that hangs its environmental message on three live animal leads, hoping their modest story of solitary survival can teach us all a lesson about living in an interdependent system at the mercy of the natural world’s disruptively real-time changes. That it does so in stunning visual fashion doesn’t derail that message, so much as couch it in an empathy perhaps more suitable to a much less cynical era. But if every parent in the world took their kids to see To the Arctic instead of The Lorax, the world might be in a lot less of a mess.
( linked trailer viewed separately )
Being extraordinarily large nomads who like to graze on open land, bison stick out of our light-speed 21st-century technopolis like sore reminders of times long past. For this reason and others, we haven’t been able to stop killing them. Or worse, privileging the unsustainable factory-farming of cattle, consumption of which drastically raises our chances of illness and death, all while hypocritically crying about the tragic loss of the West in the process. This April, Public Broadcasting System’s Independent Lens series airs High Plains Films’ Facing the Storm: Story of the American Bison as a timely remainder of this historically problematic human-animal relationship.
It’s an intricate analysis, brought to life by archival imagery, original animation and wildlife photography that will hopefully compel its viewers to get out of their cubicles into open spaces where existence takes on more dimensional meaning. Facing the Storm also examines not just the ages-old battle between cattle ranchers and Native Americans and like-minded conservationists, but also suspicious domestication strategies designed to strip bison of their nomadic instincts altogether, so that we may better contain and eat them.