Renowned author, environmentalist and founder of multiple climate control campaigns Bill McKibben presented his lecture, “Brave New Planet: The Fight for a Livable Climate”, at the Fremont theater Sunday, followed by a meet-and-greet on Cal Poly’s campus today.
McKibben, who Time Magazine called “the planet’s best green journalist,” will field questions from students and faculty about the previous night’s lecture, his latest book, “Eaarth,” and anything else regarding his work as an environmentalist.
The purpose for both the lecture and the meet-and-greet is to spread awareness on how the world’s environment has changed and what future generations must do to adapt. One of the issues McKibben said he is eager to discuss during his trip to the Central Coast is the flow of dirty oil into the U.S. from Canada.
“(I’m) hoping to get people fired up to be part of this big burgeoning fight about the Keystone pipeline,” McKibben said. “It’s turned into the hottest environmental flashpoint in many years, and it’s coming to a head in the next few months. President Obama has said he’ll make a decision on it by year’s end.”
Currently, the TransCanada Keystone pipeline, which became operational in June 2010, travels from Alberta, Canada to oil refineries in the U.S. Many environmentalists, including McKibben, are fighting against the creation of the Keystone XL pipeline, according to McKibben. He says his project would expand the pipeline further into the U.S. and increase the amount of dirty oil being brought in.
McKibben said the lecture and the meet-and-greet will further discussion about the pipeline because it is one of the most pressing issue at this time.
“For the next few weeks our focus will be firmly on this Tar Sands pipeline,” McKibben said.
One of the ways McKibben educates people about this topic is through his grassroots climate campaign, 350.org. His foundation has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009, according to billmckibben.com.
“350.org is going strong around the world, and people are welcome to join in,” McKibben said.
He also organized Set it Up in 2007, a campaign which held more than 2,000 rallies in all 50 states, according to 350.org. Set it Up calls for political leaders to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.
By attending the meet-and-greet, students will be able to learn more about McKibben’s foundations, books and ideas. It can also be an opportunity for those considering a career in environmental health to meet someone who has cemented himself in the field.
“Green careers are one of the few parts of the labor market that are really booming, and will be for years to come,” McKibben said. “It’s great to see how many opportunities there are out there, from carbon accounting to engineering to, yes, green journalism.”
When he has time in between writing books, creating foundations and coordinating protests, McKibben speaks at a number of universities around the world.
“I come often to colleges and universities, because young people are the leaders in the climate fight around the world,” McKibben said. “It’s fun to meet them.”
President of the Empower Poly Coalition Victoria Carranza worked with the Central Coast Clergy and Laity for Justice to promote Sunday’s lecture in exchange for the meet-and-greet on Cal Poly’s campus today, which is specifically for students and faculty.
Carranza said McKibben’s visit is something students should take advantage of because he is able to explain things in a way that can make sense to anyone.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” Carranza said. “He is a journalist by trade and an author, so to be able to articulate those thoughts and be an activist as well is just so powerful.”
Carranza said many distinguished environmentalists spend a lot of their time teaching young people because they will have the most lasting impact on the world and are old enough to understand the situation.
“When he speaks about climate change and when he is talking about the inevitable effects that we’re going to have to face as the future generation, even though he is speaking to the global community, the single most important group that he is encouraging to get active is the youth, and that involves all of us on campus,” Carranza said.
The Empower Poly Coalition has approximately 200 active members and works throughout the year with local community members to promote environmental health.
They also have two keystone events throughout the year, Carranza said. “Be the Change,” a leadership conference that will have solar powered music and a live band, takes place during winter quarter; and “Focus SLO,” a three day event during the week of Earth Day, will be in spring quarter. The Empower Poly Coalition has also been working with career services to provide an additional career day made up of green companies during the spring.
“Part of Cal Poly Coalition’s mission is to not only engage in sustainability awareness on campus with faculty, administration, student-led organizations and individual members, but also working with community members and regional partners, including McKibben,” Carranza said.
Sunday night’s lecture at Fremont theater is an example of how Empower Poly Coalition stays active with local businesses, by raising funds for the Central Coast Clergy and Laity for Justice organizations.
Central Coast Clergy treasurer said she worked with Carranza and the Empower Poly Coalition to get McKibben to come to San Luis Obispo, and they look forward to the events because they know the importance of the issues.
“We feel like environmental justice is a moral issue as well,” Whitaker said. “Especially when you think of people in the developing world that are suffering much, much more than we will ever and have not contributed currently anything to the problem. We just feel like this is a really important topic, obviously, global climate change and global warming. We knew that Bill McKibben was an excellent spokesperson for those issues.”
The meet and greet will take place Monday 9 to 11 a.m in Engineering West, room 105A.