Vote Hope 2008 :4: Bill McKibben

Where are the opportunities for real change in the 2008 election? To find out, we spoke to some grassroots organizers, national leaders, and elected officials who are working for change.
Photo by Nancie Battaglia
Vote Hope :: 4 of 6

Taking on the Climate Crisis


Sarah van Gelder: Where are there leverage points in the election process that can help raise up issues like climate change?

Bill McKibben: I think that our greatest possibilities for progress occur in the short window before the primaries are over while there is still a chance to lever these guys; after that, everyone will commence to race towards the middle. This is when we've got to show them that there is a sizeable number of people who actually want to see real progress on this issue.

So with, we're holding rallies in all 50 states and inviting every member of Congress and every presidential candidate to speak at these rallies and explain what they're going to do about climate change.

Sarah van Gelder: How about state and local elections? That's where most of the leadership on climate change has actually been taking place so far.

Bill McKibben: To do what we need to do in the time we have to do it, it's imperative that we take those smart lessons learned in states and city halls, and get them to the national and then the international level.

Sarah van Gelder: What is the argument that politicians should be paying attention to climate change?

Bill McKibben: On the one hand we have the greatest single peril that the human enterprise has yet faced, and on the other hand we have the opportunity for the greatest transformation, economic and social, for this century: the prospect of the transition to a decentralized, renewable, benign form of energy that will put millions of people to work and allow us to live very different and much more sensible lives.

Sarah van Gelder: Are you finding some crossover between Republicans and Democrats on this issue?

Bill McKibben: Some, John McCain being the prime example. So far the rest of the Republicans have done very little on climate change. There was a survey of members of Congress recently that found that 98 percent of Democrats believed global warming was real, but that only 13 percent of Republicans believed it. Which to me was very dismaying. It sounds like they've been drinking their own Kool-Aid, and if so, that makes it that much harder.

Sarah van Gelder: Has the Democratic Party been slow to act because of campaign contributions from energy and mining corporations?

Bill McKibben: That's probably a good part of it. I mean, look, this is heavy lifting for politicians. There are strong, vested interests and there's the great fear that voters will punish them if they do anything that, for instance, changes the price of fossil fuel. So it's asking a lot, and therefore we have to show that there are a lot of people who are making that request. Churches are playing an important role in that, and so is the youth movement, which is growing fast.

Photo of Sarah van Gelder

Read Sarah's full interview with Bill McKibben in original, transcript form.

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