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.
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.
Resources and Further Reading
Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math by Bill McKibben
- 350.org will be covering all these issues. Dirty Energy Money tracks energy companies’ political donations.
- Investor Network on Climate Risk: Ask question about where your church’s pension fund resides and what “environmental screens” are placed on investments.
- Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility 2012 Proxy Resolutions
- Divestment Listening Tour Connects Students and Anti-Coal Activists
- Swarthmore College and several other campuses have launched a campaign to divest from fossil fuels
- Australia passed carbon fee and dividend legislation in summer 2012
- What is Fee-and-Dividend?
- Proposed Fee-and-Dividend Legislation
- Carbon Fee and Dividend Act of 2010 – Issues About Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation
3. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY/DIRECT ACTION
Sr. Joan Chittister is one of my heroes in the faith. Rooted in her life modeled after the 1500-years-old disciplines of St. Benedict, she writes and speaks from a position of prophetic wisdom.
The home of whites that has never had a person of color at the supper table is a home that has missed an opportunity to grow. People of color who have never trusted a white have missed a chance to confirm the humanity of the human race. The man that has never worked with a woman as a peer, better yet as an executive, has deprived himself of the revelation of the other half of the world. The comfortable contemplative who has never served soup at a soup kitchen, or eaten lunch in the kitchen with the cook, or clerked in a thrift shop, or spent time in inner-city programs lives in an insulated bubble. The world they know cannot possibly give them the answers they seek. The adult who has never asked a child a question about life and really listened to the answer is doomed to go through life out of touch and essentially unlearned.
“When someone comes to the gate,” the Rule of Benedict instructs, “say ‘Benedicite.’” Say, in other words “Thanks be to God” that someone has come to add to our awareness of the world, to show us another way to think and be and live beyond our own small slice of the universe. –Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB (Illuminated Life)