There are few people who’ve understood the perils of climate change longer than Bill McKibben. And few who are better at inspiring people to take action against it. His 1989 book The End of Nature was the first to spell out to a general audience what greenhouse gases were doing to the Earth’s atmosphere. He’s written more than a dozen books since, including the just-released Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? [Find the Book Here]
But his advocacy has extended far beyond writing. In 2006, he organized his first climate protest, a five-day march to Burlington. “The story in the paper the next day said that 1,000 people, in 2006, was probably the biggest demonstration against climate that had ever taken place in the United States,” he tells Rolling Stone. “That’s when I really knew that we had to go to work building movements big enough to matter.”
In 2007, he founded the grassroots advocacy organization 350.org with a group of college students from his home state of Vermont. Its goal is to reduce the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million. While that target has been inching further out of reach (it’s ticked up past 411 ppm), McKibben sure has brought a whole lot more people aboard the climate fight: most recently, members of the Sunrise Movement — the activist group responsible for putting the Green New Deal in the national conversation.
It was an article McKibben wrote for Rolling Stone in 2012 that activated many of the Sunrise Movement members. “That was actually a huge moment for a lot of us,” Sunrise co-founder Varshini Prakash told RS.
“The Green New Deal was their brainchild, and the minute I heard it I smiled, because that’s the kind of scale of action we badly need,” McKibben says. “That’s what gives me hope, people organizing.”
Rolling Stone recently caught up with McKibben while he was at the Strand bookstore in New York City for a book release event to to talk about key moments in his decades-long fight.