350.org’s Bill McKibben, His Parachute, and His Bubble

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

I know, I know. Criticizing Bill McKibben is like kicking a puppy. I like what I’ve read of him, I like the civil disobedience, the organization he founded, 350.org, isn’t headquartered on K Street, but has offices all over, including Brookyn and Oakland in the United States, and 350.org has succeeded (so far) in preventing the Keystone pipeline from being permitted, thereby leaving a lot of petroleum in the ground where, as a ritual object of hatred and disgust, it should remain. (Canadian energy interests might still be able to export their tar sands oil to Europe via the Energy East pipeline, however, assuming the business case is still there.) And then, of course, there was the People’s Climate March recently, in New York City.

Anyhow, McKibben parachuted in to speak at the local university, and so I went to see him, along with some other local landfill activists. I did take notes, but I don’t think I could add anything to other descriptions of the same road trip, so I won’t try. McKibben is a tall, spare, and impressively fluent and unnervingly understated speaker:


 Most of his presentation was devoted to showing “Family of Man“-style pictures like this, and drawing out their implications:


Or this. (“350” because “350 ppm is the ‘safe’ level of carbon dioxide” in the atmosphere.) “[N]umbers trip lightly over linguistic barriers,” says McKibben, and so they do, given the myriad of photos all featuring “350.”


And here’s the march in New York:


One reaction to the presentation:

A few of us from Unity College[1] went up today to hear Bill McKibben talk. As it happened, we were walking into the auditorium at the same time as Mr. McKibben. We stopped and introduced ourselves as affiliated with Unity. To see his eyes light up with mention of UC and hear him say “I’m always glad to check in with Unity” was a moment of pride for my new place of work. I asked if it was okay to snap a picture and he was more than happy to indulge our group selfie.

One analogy and one positive idea of potential change stick with me. The analogy is this: If I take my garbage to the city dump and have to pay $2 or $3 per bag to dispose of it, that is an expense I would rather not pay. I could just toss my garbage out on the sidewalk for free. But what happens? After a while I have a big stinking pile of garbage affecting my family, neighbors, and the neighborhood. Oil and gas companies could also pay to deal with their garbage (i.e. toxic pollutants in the air and water). But they effectively dump it into the atmosphere like so much garbage on the sidewalk – for free and with relative impunity. If the political will was there, as it is in some places (looking at you with a wink and a nod, British Columbia), governments could enact a system where polluters are held accountable – reversing long-term trend of Big Energy running roughshod over the already deteriorating life-path that future generations hope to tread. Political contributions from oil and gas companies strongly predict politician decision making. The system of big money in politics is a broken one and does not represent the interests of the people.

So, OK, externalities and British Columbia is the takeaway on a carbon tax. (I’m not so sure that the total solution for climate change is carbon taxation, or carbon pricing — because markets, wouldn’t you know, though I’ll freely confess I don’t have a worked out solution. However, I have always liked the “wedge” approach outlined by Elizabeth Kolbert here.) 

Now, I’ve had issues with national environmental figures parachuting in to the Great State of Maine before, I confess it. In McKibben’s case, I want to point out two flaws — and I felt, quite strongly, that they were flaws, and checked my reaction with less volatile members of the anti-landfill posse — in McKibben’s presentation. I’m definitely in “little rift within the lute” mode here, emphasis “little,” and it is up to you, readers, to determine if these rifts render McKibben’s message mute, or not. Perhaps significantly, both rifts, or flaws, occurred after McKibben had finished his prepared remarks.

First, McKibben’s sin of commission. During the Q&A, a young student got up and read the following highlighted passage[2] from Earrth, McKibben’s latest book, and on the reading list for the Honors Program, which was sponsoring the talk:


She was from Haiti, and found the passage offensive; I would have, too. (Imagine you lived in Sandy Hook and went through Hurricane Sandy. How would you feel if somebody said, of your community, “Do you want your town to look like Sandy Hook”?)

McKibben’s response was interesting. First, he didn’t offer even a non-apology apology; no big deal, but I would have thought that de rigeur. Second, he in essence filibustered; he explained what he really meant: That if you were an American, you had insurance, and insurance was infrastructure that Haiti lacked, and hence was unable to rebuild, and from there went off on North-South transfer, that resources should be transferred to Haiti, and that people should put aside nationality. 

And it was at this point that McKibben lost me. I’m an American, and insurance just isn’t something I think of as a given. We all know the issues with ObamaCare and its crapified policies, and I personally really had to struggle to afford property insurance, and yes, I worry about losing the roof in a hurricane and never being able to fix it. So, what do you mean, “we,” Mr. McKibben? I felt — and again checked my feeling with less volatile friends — that McKibben was very much operating from within a bubble of class privilege, a bubble so transparent that he couldn’t see it, and yet so strong, he could not break it. Good NPR-listening, farmers’ market-going members of America’s professional and technical 10% have their blind spots just as much as anyone else, I think, and the Haitian student had zeroed right in on McKibben’s. Of course, I don’t want to commit the genetic fallacy here; McKibben’s ideas could be excellent, blinders or not. But politics is about both values and interests; and although McKibben’s values may in many ways align with mine, I felt strongly that I could not rely on him to defend my interests; he didn’t understand them! And no, “saving the planet” isn’t enough. You also have to ask what kind of planet is to be saved, and who pays for the saving of it.

Second, McKibben’s sin of omission. Our landfill non-organization was having a potluck and victory dinner later that same evening, and one of our number was in line at the microphone, hoping to make a short announcement about it, inviting people to come. (Globally, landfills emit between 30 to 70 million tons of methane into the atmosphere annually, so it wasn’t like we weren’t doing McKibben’s work.) Well, the show was to end at 5:00, and at 4:58 when our guy finally got his chance — being diffident, he’d been last in line — McKibben called a halt to the questions, and some administrator came up to hand him an award, and that was that. And so a golden opportunity to connect 350.org students to an on-point, local, and above all successful organization was lost. It’s not so much that I’m miffed that our guy wasn’t allowed to speak; it’s what kind of organizer shuts down Q&A with one person left in line, in order to collect an award? Again, it’s in my interest not to have more landfills in my watershed, and as it turned out McKibben lost a chance to defend me; but I’m not so sure what values were operating here, either.

* * *

Although I’d very much like to be mistaken, I think it’s possible that the enbubbled McKibben and his movement are making a ginormous strategic error. In his 2012 Rolling Stone article McKibben writes:

A rapid, transformative change would require building a movement, and movements require enemies. As John F. Kennedy put it, “The civil rights movement should thank God for Bull Connor. He’s helped it as much as Abraham Lincoln.” And enemies are what climate change has lacked.

But what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry[4], reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization.

That’s as may be. What I find remarkable is that while McKibben understands the need for some enemy[3], he offers no justification for any claim that the “fossil-fuel industry” is the right enemy. What about squillionaire Warren Buffet, whose BNSF transports coal from the Powder River Basin? How about squillionaire John Paulson, who owns a big chunk of Bakken? What about private equity firms like KKR, who fund the fracking bubble? And how about investment bankers like Goldman Sachs, who take a cut — even when there’s an obvious conflict of interest, as with El Paso and Kinder Morgan — when energy firms restructure themselves? 

What I would propose is that the “enemy” is not an “industry,” but a class of people who own that industry — among other things that they own. (For example, the squillionaire Walmart clan — and last I checked, retail wasn’t part of “the fossil-fuel industry” — is fighting rooftop solar, despite successfully using solar themselves. “It’s not that their vision of the future doesn’t include some solar power. It’s just solar power they own and control,” says Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.)[5]

Simplifying, if you don’t follow the money, and you don’t track who owns what, you’re going to pick your real enemy only by chance. That’s not a winning strategy if you want to prevent the planet from cooking itself. And, if I am right, failure like this is exactly the sort of failure I would expect from a person who lives in the bubble I think McKibben lives in.[6]


[1] We in the great state of Maine are proud of Unity College, too. When Reagan took over and removed Jimmy Carter’s solar panels from the White House roof, they somehow ended up at Unity College. So after Obama got elected, some students from Unity took them down to the White House in 2010, and, just to ram home what Obama was, and what his administration would become, they couldn’t even get a meeting, let alone install the panels. They were, however, given a brochure before being sent on their way.

[2] Because I was tapping notes into my iPad, I’m relying on memory and paraphrase throughout.

[3] And how convenient that McKibben’s enemy, “the fossil fuel industry,” overlaps so neatly with the bêtes noires of good Democrats everywhere, the Koch Brothers.

[4] To be fair, the fossil fuel isn’t the only “rogue industry.” It’s the FIRE sector, for example, that practiced enormous accounting control frauds in the run-up to the 2008 crisis, crashed the world economy, and then orchestrated the largest upward transfer of wealth in world history, with the bailouts.

[5] And speaking of values and interests, these guys are running the world, but they don’t care about things I care about — accumulating boat loads of capital strikes me as on a par, morally, with hoarding old newspapers or Kleenex boxes — and they aren’t working in my interests (see, for the umpteenth time, Tcherneva’s chart). In other words, I’ve got no confidence that the McKibbens of this world will take account of the values and interests of people who work at Walmart, as opposed to the people in his movement.

[6] As a prophylactic against any outraged 350.org public relations people, I haven’t read all of McKibben’s books. However, I can testify — and the material from the Unity attendees supports this — that if McKibben has followed the money and tracked the ownership elsewhere, he did not share his results in the version of his road show I saw. Hence, he does not view such analysis as central to his message or mission. It is true that a divestment campaign, to an extent, “follows the money” and addresses ownership, but consider: Suppose the Waltons, and the Buffetts, and the Kochs, and the Paulsons, and the KKRs, and the Golden Sachs of this world divested from fossil fuel tomorrow, and then turned right around and invested in nuclear power instead? What then? Although, again, I’d love to be mistaken…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Energy markets, Environment, Global warming, Guest Post, Politics on by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Bob Swern

    Yup. You’re kicking a puppy, alright!

    I’ve never left a comment that was significantly critical of any post here at Naked Capitalism. I think NC is, without question, one of the most important URLs on the planet, in fact. But, as you implied it at the top of your piece, you’re stooping to a wee bit of pettiness that’s out of character with your own NC posts, and those of Yves and others that crosspost here.

    1.) The fact that McKibben didn’t want to do a deeper dive on the economics of homeowner’s insurance is, at least to some extent, trivial, since it is fair to state that one (such as McKibben) might assume people that own a home have taken the cost of paying for insuring their property into account before purchasing same. (Theoretically, the mortgage companies are supposed to do that–take the cost of insurance into account before approving a mortgage–too. Again, theoretically.)

    2.) The fact that a speaker/audience member wasn’t called upon is pretty trivial, in and of itself. Maybe you should have taken this up with the event moderator (or something)? Or, at least prepared in advance to make sure it was announced? Get over it!

    3.) I’m from New Jersey, originally (have been living in NY and CT for the past three-plus decades), and I’m used to hearing others criticize the place where I was born and raised–and where much of my immediate family still resides–because I know their words of condescension about the Garden State are voiced out of ignorance.

    4.) The fact that McKibben may not be philosophically pure enough for you is, basically speaking, something you appear to be contriving in your own, predisposed mindset. You present no real proof/evidence in your post to support that aspect of your puppy-kicking. Your over-arching position in your post is purely speculative, at best.

    5.) Frankly, as a result of your petty tone, you come across (to me, anyhow) as being somewhat jealous of the guy’s success as an activist (and author, etc).

    I’m disappointed in this post (in which I’m commenting now), but I’m over it. I look forward to your next piece.

    Speaking of which: Peace!


    1. Yves Smith


      With all due respect, you clearly didn’t read the post carefully. This is the guts of Lambert’s criticism:

      McKibben was very much operating from within a bubble of class privilege, a bubble so transparent that he couldn’t see it, and yet so strong, he could not break it.

      That was revealed, for instance, in how he dealt with the question about Haiti.

      You’ve just revealed you have the same blinders.

      And you also choose to completely ignore another core critique of Lambert’s:

      Simplifying, if you don’t follow the money, and you don’t track who owns what, you’re going to pick your real enemy only by chance. That’s not a winning strategy if you want to prevent the planet from cooking itself. And, if I am right, failure like this is exactly the sort of failure I would expect from a person who lives in the bubble I think McKibben lives in.

      And please provide evidence of your charge of Lambert’s jealously. This is pure ad hominem and I see no basis for that claim in anything he wrote. To the extent Lambert has an emotional color, it’s not one of jealousy, it’s horror at what white upper income/educational strata class privilege looks like. Lambert, as an Ivy-League educated white man who comes from a long line of college educated people (hence privileged) reacts strongly the same way former alcoholics are bothered by drunks (and Lambert is probably also aware enough that he might still act like a privileged white man despite his best efforts not to).

      It may not be conceivable to you, but there are some of us who view a life that includes running around giving a largely canned lecture again and again with distaste. If that’s what success looks like, I want no part of it.

      Your comment looks like long-form tribalism.

      1. Banger

        Actually, Swern made it clear that he was speculating on “jealousy” based on the tone of the article. No evidence is needed for an obviously stated bit of speculation.

        I think Swern was over-critical and I think Lambert was over-critical of McKibben and I think you are over-critical of Swern. I think, on all fronts, criticism was warranted–each of you made good points about the other and left out some solid areas of agreement which, in successful dialogue, is a prerequisite of going forward and coming to agreement–and shouldn’t that be what we are working for since the left is almost hopelessly fragmented? In forums like this one that lacks long-term dialogues and systemic ways of thinking we end up over-reacting (myself included).

        The climate change issues is the CRITICAL issue of our day not just economic, not just political, not just cultural, but it is a spiritual/ethical issue above all even if the assumptions of climate scientists turn out to be wrong and there is an, as yet, unknown way to process carbon out of the atmosphere. It dwarfs, in my view, all other issues including who is “right” or “wrong.” The issue deserves something better.

        1. lambert strether

          I’m surprised to see you fall for Swern’s ad hom on “jealous,” Banger. Since today is my day to be kind, I’ll speculate — with not a shred of reasoning or a cite — that you’re so blinded by McKibben’s charisma thst you can’t recognize a sloppy argument when you see one.

          1. Bob Swern


            As both Yves and you have noted, in your post and in these comments, I’m a firm believer in following the money when cutting to the chase on most, if not all, discussions about U.S. politics.

            I also think there’s a current trend in the blogosphere, at least when it comes to some political discussions, to falsely diagnose and/or oversimplify many issues as being attributed to “class privilege” and/or “white privilege”–subjects that, in and of themselves, are both overlapping and often conflated, too.

            Getting back to “following the money,” I truly believe a deeper dive (both here at Naked Capitalism and elsewhere on the Intertubes) on a directly-related subject that’s just beginning to surface in the current news cycle would help ALL here, and elsewhere on the left, get to the heart of the matter. I’m talking about this: http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2014/10/20/steyer-passes-adelson-as-no-1-super-pac-donor/

            Steyer Passes Adelson as No. 1 ‘Super PAC’ Donor

            Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund founder who has pledged to spend $50 million of his own money to defeat Republican candidates in Senate and governor’s races this campaign cycle, exceeded that mark in September.

            Mr. Steyer’s “super PAC,” NextGen Climate Action Committee, reported on Monday night that it received $15 million from him last month], putting his total contributions to the committee since June 2013 at $55 million.

            That makes Mr. Steyer the largest super PAC donor, putting him ahead of the casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson, who gave $49.8 million to super PACs during the 2012 campaign. More than half of Mr. Steyer’s donations to NextGen have come in the previous two months; he also gave $15 million in August.

            NextGen has paid for millions in television advertisements and other campaign activities in Senate races, but also has become a donor to environmental organizations and to state committees: [http://docquery.fec.gov/cgi-bin/dcdev/forms/C00547349/963233/sb/ALL In September] it sent $5 million to its Florida affiliate and $925,000 to the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund.

            In other words, the ethical realities of this latest, little fact appear to be at the heart of much of what everyone’s discussing herein, as I’d hope many reading this would concur.

            Barring a virtually instantaneous revolution in this country, is this not the bigger picture, in terms of seeking a practical and fairly immediate solution to an emergency that simply will not wait for those of us on the left to ethically “work things out?” (And, by acknowledging this political expediency, are we not inherently admitting that we’re as morally corrupt as the right?)


            1. Bob Swern

              And, as an addenda to my last comment, it is the failure of unbridled capitalism and this country’s faux “two-party” system–wherein Democrats are supporting the likes of Landrieu and Begich, et al–which further undermines both the present and the future for our children, too.

              In other words, without addressing these bigger-picture issues, we end up in the same old rabbit hole of mental masturbation, don’t we?

              1. Yves Smith


                While we oppose the point of view of many on NC, that voting is pointless, it is astonishingly naive to focus on voting if you want to achieve societal change. Go read the Powell memo. The hugely successful effort to move the country to the right didn’t focus on voting. It focused on moving the entire ideological debate, on how ideas and policies are framed.

                If you were somehow by hook or crook (say by virtue of them being enormously wealthy personally and thus not hostage to anyone) to get an ideal candidate elected within a system where the ideological frame that is hostile to what they want to do, they won’t get anywhere. That is precisely why Lambert’s insistence that we understand who the elites are, since they are very much aware of the need to control the ideological frame (we had a link in our Links section today on how books on inequality and poverty are starting to be banned from schools, for instance).

                The fact that environmentalists have dissipated energy on fights like Keystone, that don’t make a dent in the problem on a practical level and don’t move the needle ideologically, is illustrative of the problem.

                Moreover, Lambert’s post is just about the only time on this site that Lambert or I have talked explicitly about white privilege. You imply that it is a regular topic. Another straw many.

                And you do owe Lambert a retraction.

                1. Bob Swern

                  Yves and Lambert, I didn’t attribute the white privilege meme to Lambert, in any way, shape or form. It was not implied. I was speaking in generalities, and in reference to comments made by others in these threads. “Class privilege,” on the other hand, is discussed in Lambert’s post.

                  I do apologize if you misunderstood from whereof I wrote. That was NOT my intent.

                  On the other side of this spectrum, I take exception to both your and Lambert’s fallback on the “tribalism meme.” It’s a downright insulting generalization, especially as it relates to my specific blogging. The fact that I blog at Daily Kos belies–and as it’s even inferred in these threads, by others below–the reality that I consistently support the “real left’s” side there on MANY, if not virtually all, of the most contentious issues discussed there. Furthermore, I’m consistently at odds–and a in very public fashion–with the hyperpartisan propaganda that’s pervasive there, from Markos Moulitsas on down, as well. In fact, I’m one of the very few people there that, to this day, continually reminds readers at DKos that party partisanship is both passé and irrelevant given the greater realities of the current state of our corporatocracy, U.S. politics, and U.S. society, in general.

                  Again, my sincerest apologies, Lambert. My intent–and, indeed, my words–were not meant to accuse you of invoking “white privilege.” In fact, even in my original comment, I went to substantial lengths to explain my sentiments regarding that often-misused term (and “class privilege,” as well).


                  1. Bob Swern

                    By the way, as recently as 15 hours ago, over at DKos, I made the following statement (be sure to click upon the links when reading it): http://www.dailykos.com/comments/1338145/54777784

                    The too frequent misuse of the “white privilege” meme at Daily Kos, specifically as it relates to all things economic and state security-related, downright pisses me off. And, I make no secret of it when I blog there, too.

                    Another great example and case-in-point regarding my blogging there about this and closely-related/closely-conflated topics: http://www.chaunceydevega.com/2014/09/ii-is-in-ether-have-you-read-chris.html


                  2. Lambert Strether Post author

                    Bob Swern: I did not misunderstand, and your words are quite clear; you are too good a writer for them not to be.

                    I do not want a non-apology apology.

                    I want the slur of “jealousy” as a motivator for the post explicitly retracted by you.

                    If you wish me to recommend a blog where drive-by smears can be issued and cemented in place with a passive-aggressive “I’m over it,” I will be happy to recommend one. Naked Capitalism is not one such.

                    1. Bob Swern

                      You’re correct. By using the word, “jealous,” towards the end of my initial comment, I engaged in pettiness while hypocritically claiming the same about your own words. I do apologize for that. Sincerely.

                      That being said, I do not recall anyone ever accusing yours truly of being passive-aggressive in my many decades walking around this planet, either face-to-face/personally, or via any other means of communications.

                    2. Lambert Strether Post author

                      Since today is my day to be kind, I’ll take your apology for a retraction, even though the word is not used.

                      On passive aggressive: When you assault a writer’s integrity by claiming their critique is motivated by jealousy, then claim that you’ve gotten over it, look forward to more work from the writer, and then end with “Peace,” I’d call that passive-aggressive, if passive aggressive be considered “the indirect expression of hostility,” or “sugar coated aggression.”

                      Since it’s late and I have other work to do, I don’t have time to demolish your other points. However, another writer on this thread discusses your point on housing. Maine has a very old housing stock, an aging population, and also the highest use of heating oil in the nation. Combine that with a rotten economy, and there are plenty of people who are struggling between high property taxes, high oil costs, the high maintenance costs of “this old house,” low income, and expenses like insurance. You really shouldn’t have shot from the hip on that one.

                2. Nathanael

                  “If you were somehow by hook or crook (say by virtue of them being enormously wealthy personally and thus not hostage to anyone) to get an ideal candidate elected within a system where the ideological frame that is hostile to what they want to do, they won’t get anywhere. ”

                  Simply outright false.

                  Here’s the thing: it’s true for elections to a *legislature*. But it’s not at *all* true when electing someone like a President, Governor, or Attorney General. Those systems are organized in a very authoritarian, hierarchical, dictatorial fashion, and if you get the right guy in at the top, the ideological frame *doesn’t matter*; he can systematically wreck the existing organizational culture and replace it with guys loyal to him. It’s messy and it requires someone rather merciless, but it can be done pretty easily. Surely you understand this.

                3. Nathanael

                  “The fact that environmentalists have dissipated energy on fights like Keystone, that don’t make a dent in the problem on a practical level and don’t move the needle ideologically,”

                  Citation needed. I realize it’s arguable whether they move the needle ideologically and it’s probably untestable. On a practical level, it seems that suppressing pipeline construction (and the Keystone XL fight has morphed into a “no more pipelines” fight, thank you people for not making fine distinctions) *is* suppressing tar sands development, so you’re just wrong there. They shifted shipments to rail, but that’s under attack thanks to Lac-Megantic. So now they have a real shipment bottleneck.

              2. wbgonne

                Bob Swern:
                I read your last 2 comments a few times over and I honestly don’t understand what your point is. You seem in the first comment to suggest that our AGW salvation will be found in enlightened squillionaires like Tom Steyer. But in your followup comment you acknowledge the abject failure of the Democratic Party, which Steyer fully and unreservedly supports. (In fact, Steyer lost me when he refused to go against Mary Landrieu, a political abomination if ever there was one.)

                In any case, we are all on the same side here. I welcome Steyer’s effort though I recognize its limitations. Same for McKibben. That many others believe those well-intended efforts will prove inadequate and, therefore, more must be done is a welcome development, IMO.

                1. Nathanael

                  “In any case, we are all on the same side here. I welcome Steyer’s effort though I recognize its limitations. Same for McKibben. That many others believe those well-intended efforts will prove inadequate and, therefore, more must be done is a welcome development, IMO.”

                  Agreed 100%.

      2. Nathanael

        “Simplifying, if you don’t follow the money, and you don’t track who owns what, you’re going to pick your real enemy only by chance.”

        This is a piece of thoughtlessnes on Lambert’s part. Perhaps he hasn’t read Bill Black’s work on control fraud?

        It’s not really about who “owns” the money. It’s all about who *controls* the money. Which is *different*. Yes, even in the case of Warren Buffett. He is absurdly hands-off with the companies he owns; you have to target, shame, and anathematize their managements individually, and the most you can do with Buffett is push him to divest.

        An recent example is the corrupt general council of the Federal Reserve — he’s supposedly just a lackey, but he’s *in control*.

        McKibben is quite well aware of the correct targets, more so than Lambert.

        By the way, trash tags / landfill fees work very very well. People forget that they were a new innovation of environmentalists in the 1970s, and basically didn’t exist before that. There are still large parts of the country which don’t have them.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Thanks for sharing your concern.

          First, the concerns of the landfill group I’m with are siting and permitting. In general, I welcome approaches where trash is kept close to home, and not shipped up to (say) poison the Penobscot Watershed. Maine companies already know how to do that without help from out-of-staters, although they’re gradually unlearning it.

          Second, I’m at a loss to understand the nature of your complaint. Surely you’re not suggesting that “following the money” is an ineffective technique for untangling accounting control frauds? And surely you’re not suggesting that squillionaires like Buffet and the Kochs are incapable of recognizing that the companies they own are not working in directions they prefer, and taking action of they do not?

          That’s the problem with sloppy formulations like “the enemy” is the “fossil fuel industry.” Industries don’t have agency. People do, especially when they act in concert.

    2. wbgonne

      Hi Bob:

      I’ve always liked your work at Daily Kos. I wasn’t at the seminar Lambert attended so I can’t speak to his depiction. What Lambert’s complaint seems to be, however, is one you will be quite (nauseatingly?) familiar with from DKos: Lambert describes a McKibben who suffers from “white privilege.”

      My own observations of McKibben are similar but slightly different. I think McKibben is far too mild. We need a genuine uprising with real civil disobedience. McKibben, however, can’t even bring himself to separate from the Democratic Party, not in 2012 after Obama’s betrayal, not even now when the Democratic Party has plunged into Big Oil’s sea of money and stands ready to place Mary Landrieu as head of the Senate Energy Committe. I expect my objection to McKibben is similar to Lambert’s. I like McKibben and he seems like a nice guy. But nice guys are not what we need right now.

      1. DakotabornKansan

        Reminds me of this quote by Barbara Ehrenreich:

        “For all the talk about the need to be a likable “team player,” many people work in a fairly cutthroat environment that would seem to be especially challenging to those who possess the recommended traits. Cheerfulness, upbeatness, and compliance: these are the qualities of subordinates — of servants rather than masters, women (traditionally, anyway) rather than men.

        After advising his readers to overcome the bitterness and negativity engendered by frequent job loss and to achieve a perpetually sunny outlook, management guru Harvey Mackay notes cryptically that “the nicest, most loyal, and most submissive employees are often the easiest people to fire.”

        Given the turmoil in the corporate world, the prescriptions of niceness ring of lambs-to-the-slaughter.”
        ― Barbara Ehrenreich, Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream

      2. lambert strether

        If I had meant “white privilege,” I would not have written what I did write: Class privilege.

        1. wbgonne

          Fine with me. I mentioned “white privilege” to Bob Swern because that is all the rage on Daily Kos right now and your analysis seemed similar. I did not mean to put words in your mouth.

      3. NoFreeWill

        The enemy is not the corporations, the rich, or the fossil-fuel industry (though all three are key in its survival), but capitalism itself. Any environmental critique that doesn’t understand how the endless growth and accumulation built into the core of our economic system is the problem is clueless and will only propose band-aid solutions. A carbon-neutral capitalism (or green or degrowth) is impossible. We must build a new economic system from the ashes of the old. But first we must reduce capitalism to ashes.

        1. Anarcissie

          You need some idea of what you’re going to replace capitalism with, and how to do it, and how to get enough people to agree with what you’re doing to make it work. Just burning it down would be emotionally gratifying, but beyond that it’s not going to be very rewarding.

          1. NoFreeWill

            There are plenty of good ideas, but we need to develop one that can be successful economically and against aggression from capitalist countries. Planning for future socio-economic forms is necessary, but almost anything is better than the current system.

            1. NoFreeWill

              More likely, I fear, is neofeudalism (coal instead of oil) or collapse (which is better possibly, since it gives opportunity to rebuild).

      4. aletheia33

        seconded. only civil disobedience carries any hope of stopping the deluge. even that won’t be enough, probably, but for any significant level of constructive action to occur, people are going to have to not only commit CD but some people are going to have to die for its sake. it is the people around the world who are currently willing and ready to do so who are the leaders we need.

        as Cornel West said at OWS about exactly 3 years ago, quoting MLKing, if we want to act effectively to challenge power, we have to be “coffin-ready.” of course, not everyone can be such. but one can support those who are and broadcast the news of their determination throughout every land. and one can strategize, as King did, to make the most of their readiness–strategize to magnify that fire [of what is really a great love] and use it to burn TPTB where they will feel real pain.

        people were killed in King’s movement because they dared to risk their lives to speak out and march in public, knowing that TPTB had killed for decades to prevent ANY such activism and were quite ready to continue using killing as a weapon of intimidation. for the few who actually were killed, there were legions who were choosing to risk being killed. this mass heroism that took place is not often fully recognized or understood. and it seems quite clear to me that people had to die in this way for Johnson to put through the Voting Rights Act, which today remains as needed as it ever was, while powerful forces work harder than ever to get rid of it and may well succeed.

        if we think the entrenched global powers that control our economies and who think they will have a refuge from climate change when it becomes truly a threat to them are going to yield to anything less than the ultimate determination on the part of the rest of us, we are dreaming.

    3. Brindle

      I found Lambert’s post insightful and thought provoking–nothing petty there at all, the reality that class is a lens for all of us cannot be ignored.

      You seem to have got hung-up on some kind of personality issues:

      “stooping to a wee bit of pettiness”
      “your petty tone”
      “may not be philosophically pure enough for you”
      “Get over it!”

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      Bob Swern: If in fact you want to have a substantive discussion, you can respond to Yves’s comment above.

      For myself, I’ll confine myself to not responding to your ad hominem, which is beneath contempt. I’m surprised that, having had your coffee, you haven’t already retracted it. I’ll be looking forward to that.


      * * *

      For the sake of the readership, I’ll point out:

      1) Simile: “Like kicking a puppy.”

      2) Metaphor: “You’re kicking a puppy.”

      And so, hilariously, Swern’s comment goes off the rails from the very start. Since today is my day to be kind, I won’t speculate why.

      1. juliania

        Thank you for your analysis, Lambert. Mr. Swern lost me when he stated that folks purchasing a house would factor in insurance – sure, I did that because I dearly wanted to own my own home, but it was mandatory and I struggled for years to pay it as well as my mortgage, just as I struggled for years to pay my car insurance. I had to give up my car in order not to pay the mandatory insurance (free as a bird now and not missing that car, so long as public transportation and my good feet for walking are available). But I gave up those insurance payouts because I had to eat, repair my roof (which I do myself), and pay utility bills, such mundane things as that. Many in the 99% don’t have a hope of owning their own home these days, many have lost homes through banking chicanery well defined by Yves here, so all that matteroffactness spells out privilege right off the bat.

        So, Yves is right about that bubble, and I appreciate her pointing that out. Also, you are right about sending a puppy out to do a guard dog’s job – it’s not gonna bring home the bacon (to thoroughly mix my metaphors.)

        I’m not against privilege per se, just when it surfaces in the wrong places. For example, this is delightful:


        1. jrs

          I guess the ideal not privileged would be someone renting from a true slumlord maybe? Stuff breaks and never gets fixed, the roaches overrun the place etc. It’s not quite as extreme as homelessness but it’s not having a mortgage on your own place.

    5. Rosario

      I have very little respect for Bill McKibben. If anything this article is too timid in its critique. McKibben jet-setting to various places to convince people that climate change is a major problem is front and center why I can’t stand his farcical climate activism. I suppose the irony goes over his head. Couple that with his trying to reconcile the current Capitalist structure (growth and all) with sustainability, which is impossible. I never understood his appeal. Because he is “pragmatic”? There are people engaged in far more grounded and viable dialogue that doesn’t follow McKibben’s “have your cake and eat it too” approach. Any political ecologist or Marxist geographer from the past forty years has far more relevant information pertaining to sustainability and positive ecology.

  2. Ben Johannson

    What I would propose is that the “enemy” is not an “industry,” but a class of people who own that industry — among other things that they own.

    The higher barbarians of whom Veblen spoke in Theory of the Leisure Class, competing for honors just as our ancestors did within the tribe. They’re remarkably primitive once one ceases to be dazzled by the wealth.

    1. Thorstein

      My gripe with McKibben is none of the above, but precisely his claim that the movement lacks an enemy. Insofar as the enemy is fossil fuels, science has been the hero. IMHO, 350.org’s confrontational tactics and theatrics, where they are not superfluous, are often media-spun to feed the current political heterostasis, detracting from the rational science that points the enlightened path forward.

      On another plane, “we have met the enemy and he is us”. A huge electoral majority–I would estimate 85% know in their heart of hearts that anthropogenic greenhouse gases, left unchecked, will pose a serious threat to civilization by the end of this century. But it has been hard to see the way forward without giving up our cars and our air conditioning and our cheap junk from China. So in poll after poll, we cling to our fantasies and deny it. (The Koch brothers know in their heart of hearts that their business is creating planetary collapse, too; they just want to make one last buck before the end comes.)

      However here, in this Panglossian scenario, I believe McKibben is right. With the next Fay, Gustav, Hanna, or Ike (the four hurricanes that devastated Haiti in 2008), and given the recent and continuing progress in wind and solar, a majority of the electorate will no longer be able to deny climate change against their better judgement.

      Finally, in McKibben’s defense, I must say that as a long-time teacher of English to Haitian immigrants, I think it’s unfair to conclude that all Haitians would be insulted by McKibben’s using Haiti ca. 2008 as an image of the apocalypse, or that in the use of this image McKibben was displaying a significant lack of empathy.

      [ps, I have been using the screenname “Thorstein” around the web for nearly 20 years, because (a) Veblen was born on my great-grandmother’s farm, and (b) because his work deserved to be more widely known. There is no need to proselytize here on NC, so I’ll try to post in the future as “Torsten”, keeping the allusion with less risk of being thought presumptuous. ]

      1. Otter

        “our cars and our air conditioning and our cheap junk from China”

        So long as these are the real issue, all the Bill McKibbens in the world, and the Lambert Strethers too, will be heard as no more than annoying whining mosquitos who never alight.

        Until solutions are forthcoming… and successfully communicated… the owners will address climate change only when they see opportunities to sequester more wealth for themselves.

        1. different clue

          Some of our air-conditioning problem could be lessened by better technology, accepting higher indoor heat-levels in summer, and retro-passivising what buildings we can (restoring or improving ventilation, etc.)

          Some of our car problems could be lessened by a slow steady rise in the gas tax till gas cost as much here as it does in Europe and Japan. This would give the car industry and its buyers-of-necessity time to turn over the car fleet for more efficient and less powerful and sexy models. It would also make people ready to settle for a 55mph speed limit on highways . . . the speed over which air resistance to a car forcing itself through the air reduces fuel efficiency. And a big part of the higher gas taxes could be spent on restoring some of our missing trains, trolleys, and streetcars and their systems.

          The cheap junk from China problem could be lessened by cancelling all our Free Trade agreements and withdrawing from all Free Trade Organizations, such as WTO. Restoring belligerent protectionism would allow us to begin re-onshoring our kidnapped industry held in Chinese exile, and make these things here with less carbon output per thing rather than there
          with more carbon output per thing. Punitive and exclusionary carbon fines and carbon tariffs would keep carbon-dumpers from getting their products into our country. By abolishing Free Trade and restoring Protectionist Tariffism, we would be free to exclude any foreign item which releases more carbon in the making-of-it than what we release in the domestic making of the same item. And of course more carbon-efficient countries than us could also withdraw from the Free Trade System and exclude our products till we reached their carbon efficiency levels. We could set off a Forced March To The Top.

          Just a few ideas on things we could do in the meantime before we get spiritually and culturally enlightened.

          1. Nathanael

            “Just a few ideas on things we could do in the meantime before we get spiritually and culturally enlightened.”

            Yep. Since we’re never all going to be spiritually and culturally enlightened, let’s leverage base emotions for human survival.

            That’s what Elon Musk is doing. Largely using his own marketing techniques, he’s made getting rid of gasoline a *status symbol* — so that gas cars are no longer the aspirational item they once were, but an inferior good which is dumped as soon as electric cars can be afforded. That’s a *big deal* in terms of leveraging base emotions.

            The solar power movement as a whole has done this too, with an assist from rapacious utility companies — solar power and going off the grid (in a mansion) are now *aspirational*.

            The marketers for the oil & gas & coal companies have lost the battle for mindshare. Finally. Thank goodness; it needed to happen 20 years ago.

  3. Faye Carr

    Finally, somebody smarter than me sees the flaws in McKibben.
    All hail to the incredible educational work he does.
    Not so much actually changing anything. The Keystone protests, the climate march? Staggering diversions.
    Ya know, keep those crazy enviro types busy whilst the environmental rape contines behind the flashy headlines in the progressive press.
    And you don’t want to know what I’d offer for an alternative. ‘Cuz that’s not gonna happen any time soon.

    1. Synapsid

      “…preventing the Keystone pipeline from being permitted…” caught my eye.

      The Keystone pipeline has been going since 2010 and delivers 600 000 barrels of Canadian crude a day to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

      Oh: the Keystone XL pipeline? Sorry. Well, the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, from Cushing, Oklahoma to refineries on the Gulf Coast, has been in operation since January, carrying etc. Now, the northern leg of Keystone XL, the part that would cross the Canadian border, that is indeed still waiting approval from the Administration, as it has been for years. During those years the volume of Canadian crude entering the US has been larger each year than in the previous year, so I’m not too impressed with the effectiveness of focusing so much attention on Keystone XL North.

      I’d rather see that attention focused on the coal industry in the US. If the northern leg of KXL were approved and the whole line began carrying crude at its planned 830 000 barrels a day, for 50 years, the amount of CO2 emitted by production and consumption of the oil would about equal the amount emitted by the US coal industry in 4 and a half years. I’ve said often that, if I were CEO of a coal company in the US, I’d make sure that checks were going to McKibben’s 350.org; to me he would be what Lenin called a useful idiot.

      Things are changing currently, with global oil price dropping and global coal price way down as well, so the figures will change, but not, I expect, in any way that would justify so much attention paid to the northern leg of KXL. Its lack does cut into profit for the oil industry but the oil keeps crossing the border, and by the time the permit is approved or denied that northern leg won’t matter all that much. It has been pointed out that without KXL North, the crude has been being carried by rail and truck and barge, with heavy environmental impact. That impact can only grow as global demand for oil grows, and it is growing–not in the US or the EU so much, but they aren’t the world.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Sorry, Keystone XL. Man, all the flack I’m getting for my less than genuflectory attitude to McKibben, you call him a “useful idiot,” and what do you get? *** crickets ***

        Why, it’s like the tone police aren’t even reading the whole comments section carefully, and are trying to make the comments all about the author of the piece, instead of the piece itself. Odd. Why would they do that?

  4. diptherio

    McKibben has rubbed me the wrong way from the get-go. Mostly it’s been his “I’m the expert” attitude…not that he isn’t an expert in some things, and this is hard to put my finger on, but I get a distinct whiff of technocracy from McKibben…and hero-worship from his acolytes. Like I said, it just rubs me the wrong way. And a carbon tax???? Puh-lease. We all know how clever our corporate overlords can be in avoiding taxes and regulation; why would this be any different? Stopping the Keystone (so far) has been a good thing, but carbon-tax is a wrong-headed approach, imo.

    And here’s something else that is strategically stupid about McKibben’s naming the “fossil fuel industry” the enemy: lot’s of good, environmentally conscious people work in that industry. I’ve got a family member who’s one of them. From the guys manning the pump-station to the engineers checking the smart-pig readouts, there are plenty of good people in the fossil fuel industry. By naming the entire industry as the enemy, McKibben is, by association, also naming these people as the enemy. Like I said: STUPID. You need those people on your side. You’re not going to get them by telling them that their soldiers in the enemy army, you’re just going to alienate them.

    The problem isn’t that we have a fossil-fuel industry—it’s how it is being operated, and for whose benefit. The problem isn’t that we have oil wells and gas pipelines, it’s that these wells and pipelines are controlled by people who don’t give a rip about much beyond their bank-account. If McKibben had a clearer view of “the enemy,” he would be calling for outright nationalization of large parts of the fossil fuel industry. That wouldn’t fix everything automatically, but it would at least put the system in the hands of people who actually care about running it as safely and as cleanly as possible.

    1. Nathanael

      No, the problem is, actually, that we have a fossil fuel industry. I’m not sure you actually understand global warming yet. We have to, sooner or later, stop pulling fossils out of the ground and burning them. Period.

  5. Carla

    Great piece, Lambert. Any little person who has been unfortunate enough to have had significant interaction with insurance companies of any kind knows: it’s a criminal industry. The simple fact that McKibben considers insurance to be “infrastructure” tells us a great deal about him.

    1. bmeisen

      Public health insurance IS infrastructure. The one with blind admissions, the one that everyone should be forced to participate in (because only with broad demographic representations, with members from the very young to the very old, is it posssible to achieve sustainabliltiy) – the one that doesn’t exist in the US (I consider medicaid and medicare hush money, not insurance), the one that exists in successful social democracies – that IS infrastructure! As is any other scheme by which a population organizes to equally distribute financial liabilities stemming from risks generated by essential activities. The aim is not to make someone rich. The aim is to share the financial burden that threatens the population should payment liability be triggered.

      1. Carla

        No, public HEALTH CARE is infrastructure.

        Health care is a human right.

        Insurance commodifies health care by placing a profit-making enterprise in between the person needing care and the provider of it. Insurance denies and restrict care to save a buck for shareholders and executives.

        Even 100 percent tax-supported national single-payer “insurance” (which would be a vast improvement over what we’ve got) only provides a possible route to health care. Government policy could result in the denial of some claims, including entirely legitimate ones, or in certain conditions not being covered at all, as is the case now with Medicare and the VA system.

        1. bmeisen

          health insurance in the us places a profit-making company inthe picture. it doesn’t have to be that way, and in fact with regard to health insurance, the profit motive screws the whole scheme up – it generates ultimately catastrophic inefficiencies, unsustainable relations. not-for-profit health insurers succeed in many countries, including where i live.

    2. Brindle

      “The simple fact that McKibben considers insurance to be “infrastructure” tells us a great deal about him.”

      That jumped out at me also—that Insurance Co.’s have a legitimacy and their nature is not questioned.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      To be fair, I can’t swear that McKibben used the word “infrastructure.” But the substance of his comment was very definitely “Here in America, we have insurance.” And again, I checked with other listeners to make sure my paraphrase was OK.

  6. John Zelnicker

    Lambert – Sometimes the puppy needs a kick. McKibben’s bubble makes him quite blind to certain realities. You are spot on about the insurance issue. After Katrina and the other hurricanes of 2005, the property insurance companies simply stopped providing coverage for windstorm damage in Lower Alabama (and the damage along our coast was not that great). The state was forced to set up its own insurance facility so homeowners could get the insurance required by mortgage companies. The policies have a 5-10% deductible with major limitations. Most homeowners will have a hard time paying that deductible, particularly with our shit-poor economy.

    Fortunately, the Gulf Coast has not been hit by a hurricane since 2005. And if we do get hit, the state insurance fund is not going to have enough money to pay for the damage even with the high deductibles and other limitations. I have state policies on two rental houses, and the premiums dropped significantly this year, which is good for my budget, but I think the actuaries are underestimating the risks.

  7. susan the other

    Good essay Lambert. I didn’t bother to listen to McKibben after you described him as unnervingly eloquent. All the smooth operators I have listened to over the years all seem to have an agenda, usually stg. like manufacturing consent. The ones who are a little rough around the edges all seem to be dedicated. And your point about knowing who the real enemy is has been my frustration forever. It is why I keep saying that the real enemy is the system. Or “system.” Since it is a mirage. No thoughtful system would allow the FIRE industry to run amok. Keeping control of the pretend system is certainly the big goal of the system now, no? (“The purpose of the system is to perpetuate the system.” – Gagne (?). It’s pretty clear that finance has been taken over by central banking; real estate is only for the rich; and insurance (has always been a shakedown) looks like it has been left to its own devices because all the expense of helping people out of disasters isn’t in any business plan. Yet we still say we are living in the “land of the free” as if it were a good thing instead of an idiotic thing.

  8. David Lentini

    I had the pleasure of knowing McKibben for a time back when I was in high school. He and I both attended Lexington H.S.(in MA), where we both debated for the school’s team, although he graduated a few years ahead of me. He took time from his college work to drive us to tournaments and even held a Christmas party for us one year. I see him now still very much the young man I met then: intelligent, articulate, and very sincere.

    But while I do think Lambert’s piece was a bit hard on McKibben (for example I think it’s very difficult for even the best people who become personalities like McKibben has to avoid the pitfalls and forced insincereites of “paracheuting” into locations), I do see how he reflects the socioeconomic nature of his biggest fans, who are New Yorker-reading (McKibben was on staff there for some years), well-above-average-income, social liberals. In short, he and they are still a product of the meritocracy; and it’s hard in such an environment to call out other “meritocrats” by name. I also wonder if the emphasis on the fossil fuel industry doesn’t reflect McKibben’s coming of age in the 1970s, when large industries were often seen as villians and the idea of class warfare seemed to have ended so long ago.

    So, while I applaud what McKibben and 350.org have done, I also realize that they have inherent limits to what they can achieve. Frankly, I recall thinking that Obama played them for fools over Keystone after first appearing to agree to their demands and then setting out on finding another route for the pipeline. I also think that many of the more powerful supporters of 350.org will have to struggle with their own class loyalties if the group is really going to make a difference in the future. Otherwise, they’ll likely go the way of Al Gore—Largely right on the facts and totally ineffectual on the reality.

    1. Carla

      When where people end up in life depends mostly or even partly on when, where, and to whom they were born, how does that make them “meritocrats,” please?

    2. Nathanael

      I think you’re actually wrong about the effectiveness of Al Gore. We’re facing a very problematic political period, but my reading of history says that at every turn, he has done about as well as could be done at the time given the mental state of the general public, and progress has been made. (Compare Lopez-Obrador, taking the other approach with no better success).

      Same with Mikhail Gorbachev — who is now in the enviable position of being completely untouchable, and can therefore say what many people in Russia would like to say about Putin.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        The claim was “totally ineffectual on the reality.” Of course, that’s entirely compatible with “about as well as could be done at the time,” which sounds like more Democratic excuse-making and blame-shifting to me. I’m not so pessimistic, or so forgiving.

  9. McMike

    You are working pretty hard not to like him. He’s what, not adequately Marxist?

    And so the self destruction of the left continues.

    And the 1% enjoy another hearty laugh.

    1. lambert strether

      Had you considered reading the piece? You seem to think that picking the wrong enemy is a trivial flaw. The 1% are laughing, alright — just not at what you (to be charitable) think. You need to get that knee seen to.

      1. McMike

        I read it alright.

        Tell me how McKibben’s organization is working against the climate change movement.

        Then tell me what his personal character flaws have to do with it.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          First, I don’t do assignments. Second, where did I make the claim that McKibben is “working against” anything? I claim McKibben could be making a huge strategic error, but that’s not “working against.” Third, pointing out a class lens through which values and interests are viewed isn’t about personal, individual character flaws, and is in fact the very reverse of that (and if by “flaw,” you’re referring to my use of the word “flaw” or “rift,” you really didn’t read the piece; I’m referring to McKibben’s actions, not his character).

          Take a break and reread the piece.

          1. Nathanael

            I don’t see any strategic error from McKibben, and you haven’t described one.

            Is he viewing things from his class’s point of view? Sure. So did Lord Grey. He made every single strategic move correctly.

    2. McMike

      To elaborate, I fully agree that we should be skeptical of large organizations, even environmental ones.

      I also agree that many “mainstream” solutions tend to be partial, inadequate, and non-disruptive enough on their own. However they still play an important role, as long as they are kept on task from their left flank.

      I have also found that the leaders of successful organizations, also authors and the like, often tend to disappoint in person.

      Nevertheless, taking him down for failing to address an audience question to your liking, or for failing to intervene when the moderator robbed you of a chance to pitch your own local campaign, that is indeed petty, and ad hominem.

      And plays into the hands of the elite.

      1. Light A Candle

        I agree with McMike. None of us are perfect and we don’t need to be perfect in order to work together to save the planet.

        Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd spoke about that many years ago, that we need to embrace our allies and not throw rocks at each other. (Of course he spoke much more eloquently!)

        Does McKibben have some blind spots? Of course. Don’t we all?

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        You commment is either careless or a product of distortion. You write:

        failing to intervene when the [1] moderator robbed you[2] of a chance to pitch your own local [3]campaign, that is indeed [4]petty, and ad hominem[5].

        I’ve helpfully numbered the discrepancies:

        [1]McKibben called a halt to the questions, and some administrator came up to hand him an award, and that was that. And so a golden opportunity[4] to connect 350.org students to an on-point, local, and above all successful[3] organization[2] was lost. It’s not so much that I’m miffed that our guy wasn’t allowed to speak; it’s what kind of organizer[5] shuts down Q&A with one person left in line, in order to collect an award? Again, it’s in my interest not to have more landfills in my watershed, and as it turned out McKibben lost a chance to defend me; but I’m not so sure what values were operating here, either.

        [1] Not the “moderator,” but McKibben himself. Reading fail.

        [2] Not “you” (me) but the organization (of which readers know I’m a small and peripheral member)

        [3] Not a “campaign.” Earlier in the post, I note it was a “victory party.” Our campaign was finished.

        [4] Apparently, you believe that when a national organization misses a “golden opportunity” to connect with a successful local organization, that’s “petty.” Oh-kaaaay. And if 350.org thinks as you do, then I question its abilities even more.

        [5] “ad hominem.” Simply false. Readers know me well enough to know that if I want to take a flame thrower to a public figure, I have the skills to do it. I’m questioning McKibben as an organizer, based on actions. That’s not the same as assaulting McKibben as a person, based on his character.

        1. McMike

          Ok, rather than engage in tit for tat, I’ll go to the main point:

          It is clear (not just to me, look around) when you shift from your usual mode into an issue that you have a more personal stake or passion. Your tone changes, your standards change, and your attitude in the comments change. Not for the better.

          It’s your blog and you can do whatever you want. Perhaps you’ll notice that in certain threads the nature of your engagement in the comments seems different. Perhaps you’ll further notice a theme there.

          As for myself, I will just try and steer clear of those threads when I sense this occurring.

          1. Yves Smith

            Your first comment was clearly trying to pick a fight with Lambert. And you persisted, engaging in multiple personal attacks, in addition to misrepresenting his grounds for criticizing McKibben.

            Having gotten precisely what you wanted, and having lost, you now are struggling to find other grounds for attacking Lambert.

            The commentariat can see full well what is going on here. I remind you that the saying goes, “When you are in a hole, quit digging.”

            1. McMike


              I was challenging Lambert to do better. That’s not picking a fight, unless you have thin skin.

              Which is my point. On certain posts, the skin seems to get thinner than others.

              His post was in places petty, nitpicking, and part of the ritual circular firing squad practiced by the left. Whatever valid critiques he has of 350 were lost in his snark about the slideshow and whining about McKibben’s handling of questions and questioners.

              And not up to his other work.

              The commentariat, meanwhile, abides.

                1. Nathanael

                  Pro tip: Know when you’ve lost, Lambert. If you actually paid attention to the comments, you should know you lost a while back. Swern pwned you, to use the gamer term.

                  1. Lambert Strether Post author

                    Oh, a tag team! Yes, I suppose that’s why Swern had to resort to the tactics he did. Please. Others dealt with those points perfectly well (including the outright ignorant cheap shot on housing) so I don’t need to.

              1. Yves Smith

                The number of approving commentors is substantially larger than the number disagreeing, and many of those who approve were enthusiastic in their support.

                And you did bait Lambert. For you to deny that is an insult to anyone’s intelligence. Go back and read what you wrote. I’m not going to deign to unpack it.

                So basically, having lost, you now engage in fabrications to assuage your ego. And you have the temerity to act as if you are qualified to judge Lambert’s piece.

                1. McMike

                  Won/lost, counting the number of likes, that’s your metric. I’d suggest you not feel too triumphant on your home turf though.

                  More than one poster suggested the piece was petty and essentially a personal attack.

                  Several me-to posters indeed joined in with their own “McKibben is a jerk” story, which while ostensibly endorsing Lambert’s attack, in fact validates my critique that the takeaway of Lambert’s piece is not an impersonal analysis of 350’s strategic failings, it was an ad hominem hit piece on McKibben. Many of the posters who endorse the piece took it that way too.

                  Lambert might also want to remind himself of Danth’s Law.

                  1. Lambert Strether Post author

                    Hey, thanks for the link on Danth’s Law. Oh, wait. You made me do your work for you and find the link myself…

                    Pretty funny, since citing Danth’s Law is meta, right?

                    Sheesh. Commenter whinges about ad hominems, and actually has the chutzpah to start with “You are working pretty hard not to like him.” And then has the nerve to claim “challenging to do better”!

      3. rur42

        Any mainstream solution that doesn’t have the means to buy a significant number of politicians and major media outlets is doomed to failure.

  10. wgersen

    Read Deep Economy to get a sense of the ideal world McKibben seeks. Having heard him speak and read many of his articles and two of his books I think his earnestness is genuine and he is uncomfortable villainizing anyone— even squillionaires— but OK villainizing an abstraction like the petroleum industry.

    1. wbgonne

      McKibben is a good guy and certainly earnest. But he’s too nice. And nice isn’t what we need. We need ruthless.

  11. TheCatSaid

    As long as we still conceive this as an “us vs them” problem (i.e., needing an enemy) solutions will elude us.
    A different mental framework is needed.

    David E. Martin explained this to me once as the very small amount of energy that is required to change the balance of a rapidly spinning top. The existing momentum can do almost all of the work for us, as long as we are working from the center (i.e., a place that includes all parties, and that includes the massive built-up charge from all the previous and ongoing disputes). While the existing momentum can seem unstoppable, its instability means that big change is possible when the inputs genuinely consider the whole picture.

    He has personally applied this approach successfully in projects all over the world,large and small, including some of the most “impossible” (e.g., extractive industries in Papua New Guinea including Bougainville, of which I have some personal experience).

    The existing systems require an opposing force to push back, in order for them to continue. As long as we focus on a dualistic, “us vs. them”, enemy-required strategy we are feeding the existing system.

    The biggest challenge is finding new ways of thinking in our own heads, starting with the willingness to entertain the possibility that there are possibilities other than “us vs. them”.

    1. wbgonne

      Fair points. I realize your view may be somewhat different but, IMO, the false-battle between Democrats and Republicans is the greatest problem we face right now on the collective-action front. All that time and energy wasted. Being a political partisan in America today is lunacy, just a mess of fools cheering for the kabuki theater.

      1. TheCatSaid

        I think the principle can be applied to situations with which we choose to actively engage.

        M-CAM is an organization that does this across the board. Leading by example.

  12. Vatch

    Sure, Bill McKibben said some things that can be criticized, but I don’t think that what he said is quite as bad as this article seems to imply.

    Regarding insurance as infrastructure: This is remarkably similar to Yves’s very reasonable idea that banks should operate like public utilities. Naturally, many insurance companies, and manifestations of insurance such as ObamaCare, do not operate like either infrastructure or public utilities. For some types of insurance, such as health, life, or auto, the infrastructure metaphor is incorrect. But it seems very appropriate for property insurance, just as the public utility metaphor is correct for the way that banking should (but does not) operate.

    Haiti: I didn’t hear what McKibben said, so perhaps there was something supercilious about his tone that rubbed people the wrong way. Anyhow, if I were from Haiti, I would not want Haiti to look like Haiti. For goodness sake, the French demanded that Haiti compensate them for the loss of the colony and their slaves. Haiti has suffered from unfair onerous debt almost since they won their independence. Haiti’s poverty prevents the construction of sturdy homes and other buildings. When a hurricane or earthquake strikes Haiti, this tragically magnifies the people’s suffering.

    The landfill and the line of questioners: Absolutely, McKibben should not have halted questioning when there was only one person left in line. I’ve been the last person in line to ask a speaker a question, and it’s unpleasant to be denied the opportunity for interaction. When it happened to me, though, it wasn’t the speaker who halted the questions, it was the host. Perhaps McKibben has experienced lines of questioners which never seem to end; that is, people keep joining the line when it’s down to only one or two people. Of course, the right way to handle that is to announce that no new people can enter the line for questions. Afterwards, someone should have approached the administrator, and asked him to tell McKibben about the landfill meeting.

    The failure to follow the money: This is a valid criticism. Some people have a blind spot about this, and it’s good to point it out. It’s like the blind spot that some people have about overpopulation. We’ll never solve global warming or world poverty if we don’t solve overpopulation. Redistribution is necessary, but it isn’t enough when there are more than 7 billion of us.

    1. bmeisen

      re insurance: it may be better understood as a utility, if utilities are essential services like water and electricity supply while infrastructure is essential equipment like resevoirs and power plants. the meeting point is public good, with regard to insurance more specifically public risk. the financial liabilities associated with some risks can only be covered by shared effort. is the relevant risk a private risk or a public risk? the mega-mistake that the american polity has made is to treat sickness and disease as a private risk. this has made many insurance executives rich and millions of uninsured vulnerable.

      1. Vatch

        Yes, I’m fine with the concept of insurance, or at least some forms of insurance, as being provided by utilities. This is like Yves’s useful concept that banking should be a utility. Insurance and banking are certainly related, hence the acronym “FIRE”.

      2. TheCatSaid

        If insurance were treated as a utility with shared risk and a break-even scenario, that might deserve consideration.

        That’s not what we have now.

        I remember a post that showed how the insurance industry’s foundations were in the timing of coal deliveries. They discovered the main risk of house fires was within a week or two of coal deliveries. The folks who devised the policies arranged to issue the policies in such a way that they’d come into force after the main risk was gone (i.e., a few weeks after the most recent coal delivery). And they’d be set to expire before the next coal delivery. The policies were written in such a way to guarantee lucrative revenue streams to the insurance company, with miniscule risk.

        IOW, it’s a rigged game.

        I have no reason to believe things have changed, it’s just that the small print mechanisms are adjusted to the kind of policy.

    2. Michael

      Thank you for making this post. I have some work to do for class but I could not focus. I can not understand why anyone would take offense to the Haitian comparison. Some places on this planet are in horrible shape. Haiti is one of those places. The discussion around how to solve that problem can not happen in one response at a climate change forum.

      I agree with everything else you wrote. I also think that Lambert was annoyed that his group was snubbed but a lot of the national groups interact this way with local groups. I sometimes think that they only purpose of the national “progressive” organizations is to siphon off support from local radical organization that are capable of affecting change locally and turn the focus to a hopeless fight in DC. (I am a former grant writer for a local NGO, I’ve seen this happen more than once.)

      Fwiw, the battle over ANWR opened up the shale industry in Utah. The big greens could claim that they protected ANWR from exploitation while the fossil fuel industry was able to move into pristine land to explore for shale. The Keystone pipeline is just the new ANWR.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Yes, I get “annoyed” at stupidity and lost opportunities. Your mileage may vary, and apparently does. However, for the second time, it’s not “my” group, for pity’s sake.

        1. Michael

          I’m right with you except with the Haitian issue. If a Haitian, or anyone from a degraded location, wants to discuss the historical reasons why their half of the island or region is in terrible shape then I can participate in that discussion but I would not censor myself in a public setting just to be sure I do not insult someone from a degraded region. (And fwiw, very few people from Jersey would take offense to your example. I do not think you understand the culture in my area. Of the people I know, a lot of them would agree with your statement then start to complain about Christie and the Feds.)

          I think you are emotionally invested into your local group even if you are not an major participant in that group. Your annoyance was evident in your article but I personally liked that aspect. I enjoyed reading your original essay.

          I would have liked the comments even more if you and Yves both discussed how it is extremely frustrating that national “progressives” take away momentum from local groups especially if that local group is organizing an event. The credit for the event will go to the national figure unless they really push focus onto the local org…I’ve never seen it happen but I have not been active in these kinds of events for 5 years.

          Instead it seems like you and Yves spent most of the time defending the tone of the article. I found nothing wrong with the article and liked the tone. I’m not a blogger so I do not know if this was/is a big deal. Or its just all over my head…

          On another point, it is nearly impossible to get people to understand basic political concepts. McKibben is going after fossil fuels because they are an easy target and people are able to connect with simplistic arguments. I would like to know what he says behind closed doors.

          I’m not as careful as you and Yves with my words. If I am taking you out of context remember that I only have a few minutes to post a comment.

          Your analysis about McKibben is spot on but I think it applies to almost all major national figures that run on timetables. I personally do not know why people took offense to what you said about McKibben…I just don’t.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            See above. What makes you think Yves and I have more than a few minutes ourselves? Well, gotta return to carefully selecting the next bon bon to consume from my easy chair…

  13. Annette

    Lambert, thank you for this insightful commentary. You have identified and articulated the same things that many of us watching Bill McKibben from his current state of residence, Vermont, have observed. When he first came to Vermont, I reached out to him about issues associated with a multi-national mineral processing company that is one of the largest fossil fuel users in the state. Never got a response. More recently, Vermont is seeing a huge push (by the Governor and industry) to build out a fracked gas pipeline from Burlington to Middlebury, then under Lake Champlain to serve International Paper in NY, then down to Rutland, then back over to NY, and there are three other routes planned after that. Where is McKibben, a professor at Middlebury College and a resident of nearby Ripton, in the fight against the fossil fuel infrastructure build-out in his community? A year or more ago he wrote a lame letter to the editor published in the Addison Independent sort of opposing the pipeline but he threw a bone to Middlebury College’s attempt to put a very small percentage of farm methane into the mix, thereby making it sort of renewable. Thus, your experience with the lost opportunity to engage him in a local issue is typical of his bubble.

  14. Vermonter

    Lambert, thank you for this insightful commentary. You have identified and articulated the same things that many of us watching Bill McKibben from his current state of residence, Vermont, have observed. When he first came to Vermont, I reached out to him about issues associated with a multi-national mineral processing company that is one of the largest fossil fuel users in the state. Never got a response. More recently, Vermont is seeing a huge push (by the Governor and industry) to build out a fracked gas pipeline from Burlington to Middlebury, then under Lake Champlain to serve International Paper in NY, then down to Rutland, then back over to NY, and there are three other routes planned after that. Where is McKibben, a professor at Middlebury College and a resident of nearby Ripton, in the fight against the fossil fuel infrastructure build-out in his community? A year or more ago he wrote a lame letter to the editor published in the Addison Independent sort of opposing the pipeline but he threw a bone to Middlebury College’s attempt to put a very small percentage of farm methane into the mix, thereby making it sort of renewable. Thus, your experience with the lost opportunity to engage him in a local issue is typical of his bubble.

  15. Left in Wisconsin

    McKibben seems like a good guy and 350.org deserves huge credit for uncovering and publicizing the issue of accounting for oil & gas reserves (if they can’t be accessed in a livable future, why are they valued at current market prices?). But definitely in the bubble. I remember reading about his well-publicized move to small-town upstate NY to lead a low-impact life (except for the flying to speaking engagements, I guess) and thought, that’s it, all we need to do is each write a million seller and problem solved. I gotta get working on that.

    And Lambert nails it: it’s class, not whiteness. After all these years, why still so little attention to the small question of what people are supposed to do to make a living, or even how they are supposed to get to and from where they report to so as to earn such living, in future McKibbenworld?

    1. Linda J

      McKibben has hidden his funding sources. Not a good sign!


      In a 2010 article by McKibben, posted on at least 10 websites, he writes, “Last year, with almost no money, our scruffy little outfit, 350.org, managed to organize what Foreign Policy called the ‘largest ever co-ordinated global rally of any kind’ on any issue.” In another article that McKibben penned for Tikkun magazine, he says that he built the climate movement with seven graduate students at Middlebury College and “no money or organization.” During the fall of 2012, in interviews with Jed Lipinski and Grand Valley University, McKibben again told the story of starting 350.org with seven students and “almost no money.” But that’s not what tax returns indicate.

      1Sky began in 2008. In its first year, 1Sky reported expenditures of US$2.6-million, tax returns show. Of that, US$2.2-million was payroll, including US$1.2-million for consultants. In 2009, 1Sky’s campaign director, Gillian Caldwell, a lawyer by training, was paid US$203,620 through the Rockefeller Family Fund. A salary of more than US$200,000 is hardly typical of a “scruffy little outfit.”

  16. Working Class Nero

    While everyone is at it I’ll give this puppy a few whacks. McKibben recently came squarely down on the side of supporting mass immigration into the US. Now I obviously don’t agree with him but I always like to read well-constructed arguments. Unfortunately he doesn’t have one and instead he comes off as the stupidest guy on the planet since Doug Feith.


    He starts off OK; arguing for Americans to have smaller families following the logic that fewer people in the first world would produce fewer greenhouse gasses. He also admits that moving a person from the third world to the first world increases the total amount of greenhouse gasses will increase. What he doesn’t say is that the average Mexican produces 22% of the greenhouse asses the average American produces. For Central America it is even less.

    The logical conclusion from the earth’s point of view would be that the math says the US should both reduce births and send emigrants to the low consuming third world in order to reduce global greenhouse gasses. But this is where McKibben goes off the rails as he comes to exactly the opposite conclusion:

    But there’s a higher math here that matters much more. At this point, there’s no chance we’re going to deal with global warming one household at a time — scientists, policy wonks and economists have concluded it will also require structural change. We may need, for example, things such as a serious tax on carbon; that will require mustering political will to stand up to the fossil fuel industry.

    And that’s precisely where white America has fallen short. Election after election, native-born and long-standing citizens pull the lever for climate deniers, for people who want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, for the politicians who take huge quantities of cash from the Koch brothers and other oil barons. By contrast, a 2012 report by the Sierra Club and the National Council of La Raza found that Latinos were eager for environmental progress. Seventy-seven percent of Latino voters think climate change is already happening, compared with just 52% of the general population; 92% of Latinos think we have “a moral responsibility to take care of God’s creation here on Earth.”

    First of all I can agree that anyone with a at least a double digit IQ who doesn’t believe that the climate is changing should be immediately extradited to a third world country. Then again I have never heard anyone, anywhere, ever who believed in a solid state, unchanging climate. Even the dumbest creationist around, even the most mindless believer in race-is-a-social-construct still have enough brain cells to understand that the climate is changing and has always been changing. So why do we even have polls asking about belief in “climate change”? Are they perhaps asking a different question but prefer to do it in code?

    Be that as it may, what McKibben is basically saying, based on a poll by the National Council of La Raza, is that whites are bad and Latinos are good so let’s just swap populations. Of course, following this logic, maybe then we should disallow white guys from having anything to do with environmental organizations, and especially never let white guys run one, since whites clearly don’t get it on the environment. But what he really means are “the wrong kind of white people” not elite progressives like himself. I suppose he dreams one day of a America consisting of a mass of Latinos run by a small white elite; kind of like what Mexico is still like today. And since he lives in ultra-white Vermont I suppose he believes he and his family can avoid most of the “externalities” brought on by mass immigration. And if not he can always fall back on the magic thinking of his “higher math” that will mitigate the massive increase in greenhouse brought on by the increases in the US population.

    But the white collective guilt thing wasn’t enough — his editor pushed him to find at least one more reason to support mass third world immigration into the US. And this is where the power of McKibben’s brain really shines:

    But immigrants, by definition, are full of hope. They’ve come to a new place determined to make a new life, risking much for opportunity. They’re confident that new kinds of prosperity are possible. The future beckons them, and so changes of the kind we’ll need to deal with climate change are easier to conceive.

    That paragraph almost brought tears to my eyes. Sure who cares about increased CO2 levels when we can talk about huddled masses. Almost that is until I remembered that I myself am an immigrant and so I know there is a duality here, that all immigrants are also “by definition” emigrants. You cannot come to a new country without leaving your old one. And so this makes the following paragraph below just as true as the one above:

    But emigrants, by definition, are void of hope. They’re leaving the old place and giving up on making it better, risking nothing for opportunity. They’re confident that no prosperity is possible. The past repels them, and so changes of the kind we’ll need to deal with climate change are difficult to conceive

    And so people who were not willing to stay in their country of birth and fight to make it better are going to be the vanguard of change in their new country? At best it is a 50-50 proposition but I think the most realistic expectation is that these people will be so glad to be out of their third world hell-holes that they are not really going to be interested in rocking the boat in their new country. Which is exactly why the ruling elite are so desperate to have them here.

    1. different clue

      People aren’t slyly speaking in code when they say “climate change”. They have merely been Luntzed without realizing it. Luntz introduced the feelgood word “climate change” to drive “global warming” out of the language. Anyone who uses the word “climate change” is doing Luntz’s work without even knowing it.

      Till they have read this comment. Now they know. Hopefully they will stop using the luntzword “climate change” for what is properly called “global warming”.

  17. Vatch

    Insightful comment, Nero. You say much that is true, and your final two sentences are especially valuable. The U.S. oligarchs love immigrants.

  18. ScottW

    “McKibben parachuted in to speak at the local university . . .” If I said, “Lambert parachuted into Somerville last night to speak about . . .”, what inference would you draw from my use of the word “parachuted”? To mean it sounds cynical, but maybe I am reading to much into the word. Why not just say “McKibben spoke at a local university . . .”?

    But then again, maybe he did arrive by plane and to use a parachute.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I would draw the inference that lambert was a well-funded speaker who came to push a perhaps praiseworthy[1] but certainly generic agenda with little knowledge of local context, and few local connections, and came and went without acquiring either, which is precisely we saw happen. That’s also been my experience with other national environmental groups.

      [1] I say “perhaps” because often candidates and operatives are parachuted into districts.

  19. frombc

    Oh, hell, the McKibbins of the world, are a dime a dozen – TED talks are just McKibben over, and over and over… They come from privilege, speak to privilege, ARE privilege. If you want to know what real protest sounds like, looks like, and feels like, read Hunter Thompson. If you want to read what real criticism looks like, sounds like, and feels like, read Christopher Hitchens. Both despised privilege, despised what privilege teaches, and spent their lives fighting its very existence. Because they knew, to paraphrase Mordecai Richler, that privilege doesn’t teach, it deforms.

  20. upstater

    Many years ago was the first “Earth Day” — April 22, 1970 I believe. Being an outdoors person and nascent environmentalist, I was immediately attracted to the ideal.

    Simultaneously, there was a vigorous antiwar movement and college campuses were routinely closed because they were effectively OCCUPIED by the students. Eventually the cops would come with their billy clubs and tear gas. But ROTC was thrown off many a campus. The draft ended (but the resulting “volunteer” force is clearly a huge part of the military adventurism today). Also at the same time there was avid interest and study in socialism and class. There were many hard left groups that were well organized.

    When Earth Day was born many believed it was a diversion from addressing the fundamental issues of class, war and political economy. Identity politics is just another modern manifestation of the diversion tactics.

    I believed it then and I still believe it today. I am still and environmentalist, but without addressing class and political economy, it is a fool’s errand to think that there can be substantive change with anything.

  21. Eclair

    Lambert, you are saying what friends who are indigenous and people of color are saying about McKibbon. That he is so white and privileged and, after parachuting in to talk or get arrested, returns to his I polluted neighborhood, while they and their children get asthma and cancer and get displaced from their homelands.

    He is undoubtedly charismatic in person, and has done a great job in changing the narrative on fossil fuels and their effects on our climate. But, he is a white, educated, upper middle class moderate who is insulated from the worst effects of pollution. If you are a Black Mesa Dine, who is being displaced from ancestral lands by a strip mine, divestment is a useless concept. Mass direct action would be more helpful.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes. Some of the people involved in the anti-landfill activity were from the Penobscot Tribe, who played a really key role. So it’s unfortunate that attendees as the event weren’t given a chance to connect with them.

  22. docg

    Bill McKibben could be making a huge mistake! I’ve recently completed a pretty serious blog post dealing with climate change, with reference especially to the new NASA report on deep ocean (non) warming, which as I see it, could make a huge difference to the debate. And no, I’m not a “denier,” but a card carrying lifelong Democrat, liberal to the gills. My post has elicited several comments, mostly highly indignant, as one might imagine, leading to a very interesting and instructive debate, which is ongoing. Feel free to dive in. But hold your nose first. http://amoleintheground.blogspot.com/2014/10/common-sense-on-climate-change.html

  23. Elise Mattu

    The bigger problem is that the number one elephant in the room, in terms of direct harm to our environment, this elephant cannot be discussed (usually) as it has been deemed a “Conspiracy Theory.”

    Yet the US Naval research people came out last May and stated that they had manipulated a trillion units of energy to create and then affect plasma bubbles in the upper, upper reaches of the atmosphere. These bubbles then allow for total disturbance of the environment, which can include such things as Super Tornados, tornadoes running along the US Plains in parallel, and of course droughts and hurrianes and far too much rain.

    So is it now true that the entire upper echelon at Naval Research has gone batty? Those who label everything udner the sun a “Conspiracy Theory” need to explain how the Naval Research people felt confident enough to announce what they had accomplsihed, as the conspiracy-labeling team says none of this coud ever happen.

    Or are we in the public being led down a ridiculous path, in which Ma and Pa Kettle should walk two miles every day to the store, to cut down on their carbon footprint, even while the fleets of jets over head throw out phantasms of horizon-covering plumes, which contain barium, strontium, aluminum, etc? (And in drought-devastated California, probably silicon distillates, which would explain why the tremendously gorgeous black and dark grey rain clouds are evaporated and dried up. We should have had four days of rain a few weeks ago, but we had four days of MIST! I have lived here for over 32 years, and never have I experienced mist when the skies overhead are darker than ebony, and thicker than cotton.)

    Scandinavian researchers have already tried to explain that some 15% of what is happening to the earth’s climate is occurring because of these geo engineering efforts under the control of the US government. Anyone with some curiousity can discover business contracts on the internet in which charter plane companies have sent in bids of 10 billion dollars to put up seven planes that would fly overhead 24/7 for all 365 days of the year. Since every county in the lower 48 is now being blanketed by these fleets of jets, does listening to Mr McKibben count at all? (And think of the money ebign spent, at a time when austerity is supposedly the Big Imperative, and yet every county in every state has at least seven jets assigned to it.) If you don’t understand much of the controllable situation in terms of Climate Change, then McKibben is a mere Santa Claus, promising a better environment if we all take that daily walk to the store. (Not that the exercise would hurt any of us, but really?)

    If you want citations, here are two. Note that in the Dutch Sinse YouTube, he includes a video of Michio Kaku explaining how we can use technology, including HAARP and Extremely Low Freqwuencies (ELF) of electricity/microwaves to do such things as affect the weather for an important event (like the OLypmics in China, when the Chinese government told their public they had the weather under control!):

    Naval research labs admit that their experiments created plasmic changes in upper atmopsphere.

    DutchSinse and his citations – and also Michio Kaku

    1. jrs

      Well IF (IF please don’t think I’m taking a position that it is) that was true I don’t know that it should even be interpreted in the AGW is not real (denier) column. Because geoengineering could be done because things are staggeringly bad with the climate afterall due to AGW, as a desperate attempt at mitigation.

  24. Kim Kaufman

    I’m way OK with taking a closer look at McKibbon and his machine. I’ve read other stuff about him that raised some red flags but, unfortunately, I can’t remember it all now. I think he’s not really stopping Keystone – it seems that it is getting built only in sections so they don’t have to call it “Keystone” and draw attention to what they’re doing.

    1. different clue

      There was a CounterPunch article a long time ago about how the Obama Administration was green-lighting and red-ball-expressing the permitting/etc. of huge numbers of pipelines designed to access the tar sands, work aROUND the unbuilt Keystone XL area, and move just as much oil through many pipelines as thought that oil were all moving through Keystone XL. That way they can get ALL the oil moved yet claim credit for not okaying the Keystone XL.

  25. bob

    “She was from Haiti, and found the passage offensive; I would have, too. (Imagine you lived in Sandy Hook and went through Hurricane Sandy. How would you feel if somebody said, of your community, “Do you want your town to look like Sandy Hook”?)

    McKibben’s response was interesting. First, he didn’t offer even a non-apology apology; no big deal, but I would have thought that de rigeur. Second, he in essence filibustered; he explained what he really meant: That if you were an American”

    First, they came for the people that were offended.

    Then, they came for the people who were offended that others were offended.

    Then, they completely lost my attention by making the thesis second to a perceived slight on someone else.

    de rigeur…sure. It’s why nothing ever changes. Everyone is too busy being personally offended. It’s now spread to being personally offended by proxy.

    To put it in the most plain language that I can- Stop worrying so much about the guy slapping you across the face, and start worrying a whole lot more about the huge dick that is fucking everyone in the ass.

    “apologies will be made!”

    I have no idea who he is or why he is being talked about. I still don’t know that much about the guy after reading this. It’s the equivalent of the TMZ treatment for a ‘new face’.

    He made an off the cuff remark. A statement a lot of people from haiti might agree with. I don’t think it’s stretching credibility to say that “haiti” is not on any utopia lists.

    But, this type of side track is exactly what is intended. I will faithfully apologize to each and every hatian and butt-fucked person who was offended by my remarks. Yanno why? It cost me NOTHING. Apologies are cheap, and a great way to hold a floor without ever, actually, having to say anything. I could go on, if I’ve offended anyone….

  26. different clue

    This article is a lot milder than some outright condemnations of McKibben that I have read over at CounterPunch. But maybe the wrong thing is being hoped for from McKibben here. And maybe an opportunity is being overlooked.

    McKibben and 350 is a big draw. Lots of people are attracted to it. A diffuse sprinkling of people all over the country who share your views about these particular problems with McKibben’s approach can enter ( infiltrate?)
    local 350 groups all over the country and begin advancing this analysis face-to-face to those small grouploads of people over time.

    Perhaps over time the “analytical upgraders” among the 350ers may convince just enough of the 350ers to think of organizing them into a more focusedly-political/economic combat group in parallel to 350. They could call it something catchy like 350 Plus. ( “Plus” as in “right target, right weapon, right reason”).

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yep. Most NC readers know I’m not averse to taking a flamethrower to public figures, so in fact I tried to bend over backwards to be nice. So I was, quite frankly, astonished at the intensity of the whinging from some of the more vocal commenters about how mean I was to the guy. One might almost think they had something to be defensive about. Go figure.

Comments are closed.