The group Step it Up is spearheading the National Day of Climate of Action on Saturday. Tens of thousands of Americans are gathering across the country in the largest-ever demonstration against global warming. Over thirteen hundred rallies, demonstrations and actions are being held in all fifty states to call on Congress to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. We speak with Step it Up organizer Bill McKibben. [rush transcript included]
This weekend, tens of thousands of Americans are gathering across the country in the largest-ever demonstration against global warming. Over thirteen hundred rallies, demonstrations and actions are being held in all fifty states to call on Congress to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050.
The actions range from a rally of thousands in New York City, to a handful of scuba divers off the coast of Key West, to several hundred pounds of ice being left melting on the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. April 14th is being billed as the National Day of Climate Action. It is being spearheaded by a group called Step It Up. Bill McKibben is one of the organizers of Step It Up. In 1989, he wrote the book "The End of Nature" one of the first books to describe global warming as an emerging environmental crisis. He writes frequently about global warming and alternative energy and is author of eight books. His latest is called, "Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future." Bill McKibben joins us today in our firehouse studio. Welcome to Democracy Now.
- Bill McKibben. Environmentalist and writer who frequently writes about global warming and alternative energy. He is author of eight books his latest is, "Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future."
More information at Stepitup2007.org
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman with Juan Gonzalez. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: This weekend tens of thousands of Americans are gathering across the country in the largest ever demonstration against global warming. Over 1,300 rallies, demonstrations and actions are being held in all 50 states to call on Congress to cut carbon emissions by 80% by the year by 2050. The actions range from a rally of thousands in New York City, to a handful of scuba divers of the coast of Key West, to several hundred pounds of ice being left melting on the sidewalks in Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. April 14th is being billed as a National Day of Climate Action. It is being spearheaded by a group called Step It Up.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben is one of the organizers of Step it up. In 1989 he wrote the book, The End of Nature one of the first books to describe global warming as an emerging environmental crisis. He writes frequently about global warming and alternative energy. He is author of eight book books, his latest is Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. Bill McKibben joins us in the firehouse studio, welcome to Democracy Now!. Tell us about the span of actions that’s taking place tomorrow and what sparked April 14th?
BILL MCKIBBEN: What sparked it was after sort of 20 years of writing about this, my sense of growing despair that we were doing nothing. I mean Hurricane Katrina and Al Gore had educated us about the problem, the polling showed that most Americans understood it and still the 20-year bipartisan effort to accomplish nothing in Washington was succeeding all too well. In January, we — and by that I mean me and six students, recent graduates at Middlebury College where I work, launched a website, www.stepitup07.org and we started encouraging people around the country to hold rallies tomorrow, on April 14th. We had no money and no organization, so we figured we’d be doing well if we could organize 100 of these things by April 14th. And that would have been about 100 more global warming rallies than there had been.
Instead, because people were really eager to finally be able to take action about this, the thing has just kinda exploded. We have 1,350 rallies that’ll be taking place tomorrow in every corner of the country. And the creativity that people have brought to bear is as amazing as the numbers.
In Jacksonville, Florida, people are going to descend on the parking lot of the Jacksonville Jaguars football stadium and they have hired a crane to lift a yatch 20 feet in the air so they can show people where the sea level is going to be some day and they are going to have a big gathering underneath. Down in the battery, midday, in Manhattan, there are going to be thousands of people in blue shirts crowding into Lower Manhattan to show where the new tide line will be, a kind of sea of people to demonstrate where the ocean will come not too far from now. Out in the Rockies there will be people descending, skiers descending in formation down those dwindling glaciers. You know, every corner of the country and every kind of person, evangelical churches, environmental groups, you name it, all joining this stepitup07.org thing.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Bill, given the enormous crisis that continues to mount over the environment and climate change, why do you think the environmental movement became so quiet for so long, so unable to go in the streets and be able to put the kind of pressure necessary on government? Obviously Earth Day was co-opted long ago by the corporations. But what has happened to the activists?
BILL MCKIBBEN: You know, the environmental movement that we have was built to fight a different problem. The sets of problems it was built to fight: air pollution in the cities, or toxic pollution and things, has done a pretty good darned job of fighting. Our air is cleaner, we have more cleaner lakes and rivers, and that kind of thing. It’s too much to ask that environmental community alone to take on something as central as global warming, which means dealing with the most fundamental parts of our economy. We need a much larger movement than that. In fact, there is no question, we need a movement as morally urgent, as committed, as passionate as the Civil Rights Movement if we’re gonna have any chance of turning this around. That’s what we are trying to build and that’s what we’re seeing the first real glimpses of this weekend.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, you’ve written the book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities in the Durable Future, you talk about happiness through history.
BILL MCKIBBEN: You know, one of the questions — the only question we ask about the economy in our society is how can we make it bigger? That question is running out of steam for two reasons, one, the environmental damage that we’re now seeing on a global scale. Two, as economists and others are beginning to realize with new research, endless expansion isn’t making us as happy as it’s supposed to. In fact, if anything, just the opposite.
If you poll Americans as people have done since the end of World War II, asking them are they happy with their lives, the number who say that they are very happy peaks in 1956 and goes downhill ever since. Now, that was before I was born so I missed what was ever going on in 1956. But the tragedy of it is that that downward curve coincides with an upward curve of about — we’re about three times as rich as we were in the late 50s. We have three times as much stuff. If what we think we know about economy was true, those two curves, satisfaction and prosperity should move in somewhat the same direction. That they are moving in opposite directions, really should lead us to ask some pretty stiff questions, and should lead us also not to fear the kind of world that we are going to need to create to deal with the environmental problems that are at hand, a world with much more localized economies, and much stronger communities, and much more emphasis on belonging and much less on belongings.
JUAN GONZALEZ: You talk about the need for an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050. George Monbiot, in his new book talks about a 90% cut. How will that be possible, given the current political climate and domination of government policy by major corporations?
BILL MCKIBBEN: The first thing to be said is there’s no study that says 81% reductions would be too much and 79% too little. What we need is very quickly, a strong, sharp signal from Washington about what future policy about energy is going to be. And it has to be strong enough and sharp enough to send a real message into the financial markets, to send a real price signal to anyone planning any kind of investment.
Twelve weeks ago when we launched stepitup07.org, people said 80% by 2050, that’s unrealistic, that’s too big, whatever. Even in those twelve weeks, partly thanks to us, but partly thanks to all kinds of other things that have been going on like the Supreme Court decision and new scientific data from the U.N., the ground is shifting. A week ago John Edwards, the first of the Democratic Candidates to issue his big energy and environmental plan, people called us up the day before it came out and said take a look at it, I think you will like it and indeed the first thing on it said cut carbon by 80%, by 2050.
We are beginning to get some momentum finally. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, we are up against the biggest adversaries on earth. Exxon Mobil made $40 billion last year, that’s more profit than anybody has ever made in the history of profits. We could take probably, almost everyone listening to Democracy Now! today and pool all our spare change and we would still come up slightly shy of 40 billion bucks. We’re not going to beat them that way, but if we can get into the streets, if we can be creative. If we can build a broad coalition across all kinds of people who understand that this is increasingly not a partisan issue, it’s a survival issue, then we have some chance of getting that going.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, I want to thank you for being with us. And on that issue of oil companies and auto companies, we are going to be talking about who killed the electric car next. Bill McKibben is one of the founders or organizers of Step It Up. Around the country on Saturday, we’ll report on it on Monday, and his new book is, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities in the Durable Future.