Climate change “activist” Bill McKibben displaying both qualities (if nullities can be “displayed”):
We actually had a charismatic leader in Al Gore, but he was almost the exception that proved the rule. For one thing, a politician makes a problematic leader for a grassroots movement because boldness is hard when you still envision higher office; for another, even as he won the Nobel Prize for his remarkable work in spreading climate science, the other side used every trick and every dollar at their disposal to bring him down. He remains a vital figure in the rest of the world (partly because there he is perceived less as a politician than as a prophet), but at home his power to shape the fight has been diminished.
I’ve spent the last few years in constant motion around the country and the Earth. I’d come to think of myself as a “leader,” and indeed my forthcoming book, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist, reflects on that growing sense of identity.
In the last few weeks, for instance, 350.org helped support a nationwide series of rallies called Summerheat. We didn’t organize them ourselves. We knew great environmental justice groups all over the country, and we knew we could highlight their work, while making links between, say, standing up to a toxic Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, and standing up to the challenge of climate change.
From the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, where a tar-sands pipeline is proposed, to the Columbia River at Vancouver, Washington, where a big oil port is planned, from Utah’s Colorado Plateau, where the first US tar-sands mine has been proposed, to the coal-fired power plant at Brayton Point on the Massachusetts coast and the fracking wells of rural Ohio—Summerheat demonstrated the local depth and global reach of this emerging fossil fuel resistance. I’ve had the pleasure of going to talk at all these places and more besides, but I wasn’t crucial to any of them. I was, at best, a pollinator, not a queen bee.
Sorry about the mental image of Bill McKibben “pollinating”. Can’t quite dislodge that from my mind.
But let’s look at the one smart thing he reports: what better time to harangue people about global warming than the summer? Brilliant! (Except here in New England, where he’s a month late—July was sweltering, August has been lovely.) His hero Al Gore always makes the mistake of opening his yap in winter—see the Gore Effect.
But “charismatic leader”? James K. Polk has more charisma dead than Al Gore does alive (if indeed he is alive). And to tie Al Gore and “climate science” together requires more clove hitches and sheepshanks than I can even imagine.
Then we have the evidence he helpfully supplies that his “leadership” is pointless and ineffective. Tar sands, oil ports, fracking—all indications are that fossil fuels are a booming business. He can protest all he wants, but the public demands of its leaders adequate supplies of energy, and the leaders know what’s good for them.
He boasts of having won the Keystone pipeline battle, which I suppose he has. For now. But he’s lost the greater war. Thank goodness.
Last, how has he traveled around the country, by bicycle? I’m guessing he’s got a carbon footprint of at least a size 14 EE.
I’m not even sure anymore why I chose to write this post. (I’m sure many of you are wondering the same thing.) I’m glad it’s over.