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Environmentalist Bill McKibben Discusses Climate Crisis During Plattsburgh Visit

Author and activist Bill McKibben was in Plattsburgh Monday evening to talk to residents about the status of the environment and the growing urgency to reverse climate change.
Bill McKibben published his first book on climate change, “The End of Nature,” in 1989 and has since become one of the most renowned environmental activists. The Middlebury College scholar-in-residence drove to the Plattsburgh United Methodist Church Monday night to talk about climate activism around the world.  He told the crowd he would not belabor the dangers of climate change, but rather show its impacts through stories and pictures. He criticized fossil fuel companies, which he says knew decades ago the long-term implications of their products on climate.  And he described how activists are working throughout the world to address climate change and its consequences.  “I’ve been working for 30 years now on climate change and in that time things have gone from the abstract and the theoretical to the extraordinarily dangerous. You have to step up. You have to go somewhere outside your comfort zone because the planet is a zillion miles outside its comfort zone. This is the challenge of our time.”

Following his hour-long presentation, McKibben said he senses growing urgency and dread over climate change.  “The question is what to do about it. Everybody knows that they should be making their own lives a little more energy efficient but they also know that that alone isn’t going to solve the problem, that this is a systemic political problem that’ll be solved only if we break the power of the fossil fuel industry.  And  the best thing an individual can do about climate change is to be less of an individual, to join together with other people in making the kind of systemic political change that’s now required.”

Among the more than 300 people who attended were a number of local and regional officials including SUNY Plattsburgh Professor of Economics and city of Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read.  “When he started the organization 350.org that was aspirational: let’s make sure that the carbon level doesn’t rise to 350. Now he’s having to see if we can avoid getting to 450 then 550 come on. Come on people we need to get with the picture here and understand just how fast this is changing around us. That was the most profound take away I had.”

Plattsburgh United Methodist Church Pastor Phil Richards says hearing McKibben talk in a church reflects the growing urgency amid the faith community to address the environmental crisis.  “We’re called to be stewards of creation and so I see it as a huge issue. If we’re going to be caretakers of creation then our responsibility is to care for it, not to lord over it. We’ve got to work together and tonight just completely confirmed to me that there are genuinely interested and passionate people that want to make a difference and want to be able to hand this planet on to future generations in better shape than it is presently.”  

The United Methodist Church posted video of McKibben’s talk on Facebook.

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