a new era in human-environment relations

Bill McKibben

“The fight’s as good as the win… that’s how consciousnesses change.”

The Miami University 2014-2015 Altman Program came together when environmental activist and educator, Bill McKibben, closed the lecture series on “The Anthropocene: A New Era in Human-Environment Relations.” Over the course of the past two semesters, we heard his stories, read his works, and even watched video after video about McKibben’s activism concerning divestment and climate change. However, all of this preparation could not convey how passionate this man is about his cause.

Bill McKibben currently lectures at Middlebury College as the Schumann Distinguished Scholar; he has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, Right Livelihood Award, and also holds honorary degrees from more than five colleges and universities. Yet, after having dinner with McKibben, one may be pleasantly surprised by his humble nature. It never once seemed as if McKibben works for fame or awards; he continues to fight because global climate change is a cause in which he believes – and, in fact, this realization could be construed as the most important message anyone could walk away from after McKibben’s visit to Miami University.

What we find strikingly different about this visit as opposed to all of the other lecturers is McKibben’s belief on the importance of activism. Many of the other lecturers discussed ways in which students can get involved, but Bill McKibben was the embodiment of this message. As evident through his anti-carbon campaign group,, or his numerous visits to college campuses around the world, the importance of activism is what resonates most with his work to address climatic issues in the Anthropocene. Bill McKibben stated in his lecture, “the only way to create a competing power to fight the large entities of fossil fuels or carbon is through an assemblage that occasionally rises through the movement of human spirits.” And as he said this, he proceeded to show slide after slide of pictures from around the world, all of which, depicting people with some sort of sign, fighting against carbon use in their own ways. This display embodied the human spirit, the voice, the advocacy to which he refers. The challenge he left the audience with as he answered the last student’s question was to fight for whatever environmental issue you feel most passionate about – whether that is curbing carbon emissions or adapting to a vegan lifesstyle – and to fight it to the fullest. As he explains, these battles are not solely won by students’ protesting outside a university president’s office or WWII veterans’ protesting outside the White House, but rather won through the champions of the everyday.

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