First reading of the day was this essay by a historian linked to once and referred to one time previously. And next up, the conscience of our generation compounds the idea, or rather pounds the idea home about who is writing the first draft of what will become our history, by defining reality as we see it today. I have listened to conversations with Daniel Yergin twice recently, and acknowledge being sucked into his expert definition of how to understand the fossil fuel world. I appreciate McKibben’s cold water on my face:
A search for the climate high ground
“Realism” is the high ground in politics—a high ground from which to rain down artillery fire on new ideas.
To wit, this week the New York Times profiled Canadian energy analyst Vaclav Smil, who—alongside others like Daniel Yergin—has long insisted that the transformation from fossil fuels to hydrocarbons must take a long time. Smil is a good writer and a smart historian; he’s documented the many-decades-long transitions from, say, wood to coal, and coal to oil as dominant energy sources. Continue reading
Yesterday I posted about one of the easier topics among the many options I have to post about every day. Today, a topic increasingly frequent in my posts, but definitely not an easy one. So I look to one person to summarize our week-to-week progress or lack of it. As always, I recommend signing up for his newsletter:
The Secretary General of the UN models how to think about climate change
I can remember when some of us organized what may have been the planet’s first truly huge climate march, with 400,000 people descending on New York in 2014. Then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon came to walk with us for a few blocks, and it was considered remarkable: the world’s top diplomat had previously been too diplomatic to join in protests challenging the policies of his member nations. Continue reading
Last week’s epic essay by Bill McKibben in the New Yorker was followed up by his weekly newsletter, in which he mentions the organization above. Visit and see what they are doing. And the newsletter is a useful footnote to the essay:
…It argues that the time has come for us to end—after 200,000 years—the central place of combustion in human affairs, and rely instead on the fact there’s a flaming ball of gas hanging 93 million miles away in the sky. I won’t repeat the argument here, but I do want to extend it a little. Continue reading
The market for electrons is predictable, meaning that solar panels installed on farmland can provide a fairly stable income for farmers. Photograph by George Rose / Getty
Illustration by Álvaro Bernis
If you have not been reading Bill McKibben regularly, or at all, here is as good a place to start as you will find. It is a long, powerful pitch:
In 2020, fossil-fuel pollution killed three times as many people as COVID-19 did. Photograph by Artur Widak / NurPhoto / Getty
On the last day of February, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its most dire report yet. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, had, he said, “seen many scientific reports in my time, but nothing like this.” Setting aside diplomatic language, he described the document as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” and added that “the world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.” Continue reading
(Original Caption) A man sitting atop a girder over the city is shown taking photos of the unfinished municipal building.
Bill Mckibben’s newsletter is one of the most efficient ways to stay informed on issues of interest to us in our daily posts on this platform. This week’s edition, titled Needs Improvement, is as good as any other recent edition. Consider subscription options that suit your budget by clicking the button, if you appreciate what you read below:
The Economic Giants Must Do Better than Meh
No one expects small businesses to be the leaders on climate change, though of course a noble handful are. It’s the giants—who have enormous brands to protect, and large margins to cover the cost of changing—that need to be out front. The ones with big ad campaigns with lots of windmills and penguins and cheerful shots of the smiling future. The ones who have made a lot of noise about ‘net zero.’ And how are they doing? Meh. Continue reading
Early offshore action in Texas. the rigs are bigger now—so big that a federal court found yesterday that they’re endangering the climate.
His first book was an early harbinger that we wish had changed the world. Now, decades later, his newsletter is worth subscribing to. When Bill McKibben says something has gone right, we cannot wait to read it:
Through no fault of its own, Biden’s team gets a big win on climate
Last summer the Biden administration granted the largest set of offshore oil leases in American history. The ironies abounded—Biden had insisted during his campaign that he would not be doing this (“And by the way, no more drilling on federal lands, period. Period, period, period,” he’d explained during the New Hampshire primary); it was the Interior Department that officially sold the leases, headed by a secretary, Deb Haaland, that environmentalists had fought like crazy to get confirmed. Continue reading
Bill McKibben’s newsletter on Substack asks the question:
It’s hard to go lower than net zero….
Greenwashing began, as it name implies, as a gentle, barely perceptible rain of fibs. Back at the start, it was mostly pictures; it was pretty easy to gauge how much environmental damage a company did by the number of penguin photographs it felt it needed to include in its annual report. Continue reading
When The Ministry for the Future came to my attention late last year, it was the first I had heard of this author (I am buried deep under a big rock when it comes to science fiction). Now I wonder how I could have missed such an important thinker on the most important topics of our time (not science fiction):
One of the premier writers of thinky sci-fi, Kim Stanley Robinson opened his book “The Ministry for the Future” with an all too plausible scenario: a lethal heat wave descends on India, with vast, horrifying consequences. It’s a sobering read, especially after July, 2021, was declared the hottest month on record. And yet Robinson tells Bill McKibben that his work is not dystopian; his central concern is how the globe could respond to such a disaster and begin to halt the momentum of global warming. Continue reading
The main way to counter the malign power of vested interest is to meet organized money with organized people. Photograph by Nicole Neri / Bloomberg / Getty
For the entire run of his newsletter McKibben made this point over and over again, and now one final time from his unique platform at the New Yorker:
Illustration by Tim Robinson.
Sometimes one recommendation is not enough, so here is one of the environmental writers we feature most frequently giving us a second look at Junk:
Mark Bittman’s history of why we eat bad food.
Mark Bittman writes the way he cooks: The ingredients are wholesome, the preparation elegantly simple, the results nourishing in the best sense of the word. He never strains; there’s no effort to impress, but you come away full, satisfied, invigorated.
From his magnum opus, How to Cook Everything, and its many cookbook companions, to his recipes for The New York Times, to his essays on food policy, Bittman has developed a breeziness that masks the weight of the politics and economics that surround the making and consuming of food. In Animal, Vegetable, Junk, his latest book, he offers us his most thoroughgoing attack on the corporate forces that govern our food, tracking the evolution of cultivation and consumption from primordial to modern times and developing what is arguably his most radical and forthright argument yet about how to address our contemporary food cultures’ many ills. But it still goes down easy; the broccoli tastes good enough that you’ll happily go for seconds. Continue reading
Climate activists at a rally in Athens, Greece, in late 2018, hold up banners warning that time is running out on efforts to contain the earth’s warming to a rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Photograph by Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP / Getty
Thanks to Bill McKibben for this Earth Day edition of his newsletter, The Climate Crisis, which we sample from regularly:
Protesters have argued that you shouldn’t try to profit off the end of the world. New analysis shows that, in any event, you won’t. Photograph by David Grossman / Alamy
This is a short read with a big implication; as always we are grateful to Bill McKibben for his weekly newsletter:
I am sure that the New York Times has made available, but I cannot find it, an explanation for when they link out to Amazon (e.g. on a podcast interview with an author promoting a recently published book) and when they do not (e.g. in a traditional book review). Our thanks to Bill McKibben for taking the time to review this book:
HOW TO AVOID A CLIMATE DISASTER
The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need
By Bill Gates
First things first — much respect to Bill Gates for his membership in the select club of ultrabillionaires not actively attempting to flee Earth and colonize Mars. Continue reading
Every time I listen to or read an interview with an author who has recently published a book, and want to get a closer look at the book itself, I click the link provided. Nearly 100% of the time the link goes to Amazon. Not good. When I listened to an interview with Elizabeth Kolbert on a podcast I respect, that is what happened. Frustrated by that link, I looked for alternatives to Amazon for buying this book, and found plenty. For example, thanks to Powell’s Books for making the discussion about this book available in the online event above.
One option is Bookshop.org, which came to my attention while trying to find an interview with Kolbert about her new book that did not link to Amazon. It took some effort, after finding the Powell’s links, but thankfully I found an interview given a couple days ago to Audubon for their review of Kolbert’s book. None of our many earlier links to Kolbert stories have featured an image of the author, so I will share here the one that accompanies the Audubon piece. In the middle of the interview there is this exchange:
Elizabeth Kolbert at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Photo: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times/ReduxI have seen plenty of images of her, but this may be the only one in which she is smiling.
A: We’re, of course, doing this interview for Audubon, which focuses a lot on species conservation. Much of the work that people do to save various species—and there are so many examples of this in your book—involves altering previous ways that we’ve altered the natural world. How do you suggest that people who care about species protection think about efforts like these?
K: Well, that’s a really profound question, and to be honest that is the question at the center of the book. One of the points is, what do we think of as conservation, right? Continue reading
The Biden Administration’s next few weeks may decide the fate of the remote Yaak Valley, on Montana’s Canadian border. Photograph by John Lambing / Alamy
Bill McKibben’s weekly newsletter, as usual, has gems worthy of attention, and the fate of the Yaak Valley qualifies:
The blizzard of federal climate initiatives last week (a blizzard that might help allow actual blizzards to persist into the future) is without precedent. For the first time in the thirty-plus years of our awareness of the climate crisis, Washington roused itself to urgent action; veterans of the cautious Obama Administration—the domestic climate adviser Gina McCarthy and the global climate czar John Kerry chief among them—were suddenly going for broke. In fact, only one branch of the Cabinet seemed conspicuous by its muted presence: the Department of Agriculture, which has responsibility for the nation’s farms and for many of its forests—that is, for the natural features that will either speed or slow the flow of carbon into the atmosphere. Continue reading
BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, continues to behave as if the corporations rapidly destroying the planet are normal players.Photograph by Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Bill McKibben’s weekly newsletter gives us reason to take a closer look beyond the hype about one of the most influential investment firms in the world. He uses baseball to raise concern in a way that is clear, if you know a little about the sport:
The year is coming to an end, and all eyes are trained on D.C., as Joe Biden prepares to helm a venerable enterprise with a four-trillion-dollar budget. On the climate front, Biden’s team, which he announced last week, with Gina McCarthy, Deb Haaland, Jennifer Granholm, and John Kerry at the forefront, seems highly credible—a hundred-and-eighty-degree shift from the coterie of coal lobbyists and oil-industry operatives that have decorated the current Administration. Biden’s group has a real shot at getting Washington squarely in the global-warming fight. But, although that federal effort will doubtless occupy much of our attention in the year ahead, let’s close out 2020 by examining the de-facto government based on Wall Street. Its obvious head is BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which is—just for purposes of scale—an eight-trillion-dollar enterprise, and the largest shareholder in almost every company that matters to the future of the Earth. BlackRock is a monetary heavy hitter.
To continue the baseball analogy, BlackRock finally stepped up to the climate plate this year. Larry Fink, the C.E.O., focussed his annual letter to investors on global warming, promising that henceforth sustainability would be at the heart of investment decisions. For that stand, Fink was recently named the first Institutional Investor of the Year—by Institutional Investor magazine. This encomium seems a little like awarding the season’s M.V.P. during spring training, simply because an intrepid player announces his plan to bat .400. In point of fact, BlackRock mostly whiffed on climate last year: the activist group Majority Action reports that, during proxy season, when BlackRock’s votes would have made a real difference, the firm voted to elect ninety-nine per cent of the directors proposed for boards at energy companies and utilities, even if the companies had made no serious climate commitments. The group also highlights that BlackRock supported just three of thirty-six “climate-critical resolutions” put to shareholders at S. & P. 500 companies—resolutions that might have curbed JPMorgan Chase’s lending to the fossil-fuel industry, or Duke Energy’s lobbying efforts. In half these cases, if BlackRock and its smaller competitor Vanguard had voted with the planet in mind, the resolutions would have passed. Fink didn’t bat .400, in other words—he batted below .100. Continue reading
Bill McKibben‘s Climate Crisis newsletter this week has an interesting segment on the total weight of things humans have made, mentioning the book to the right for visual reference. Turns out our stuff now weighs more than all living things on the planet. That is impressive, but not necessarily in a good way:
We are necessarily occupied here each week with strategies for getting ourselves out of the climate crisis—it is the world’s true Klaxon-sounding emergency. But it is worth occasionally remembering that global warming is just one measure of the human domination of our planet. We got another reminder of that unwise hegemony this week, from a study so remarkable that we should just pause and absorb it. Continue reading
The Miniature Science series of ads, created last year by the very talented folks at BBDO on behalf of their client ExxonMobil, are snappy.
By now most people who pay attention to climate science are aware of ExxonMobil’s active role in creating doubt about the emerging facts that their own scientists established about mankind’s impact on climate. In addition to actors like that giant petrochemical company, there are also behind-the-scenes, complicit creatives who have provided essential messaging to strengthen the deception. In a new essay, Bill McKibben turns his attention to those folks, and expects accountability:
If money is the oxygen on which the fire of global warming burns, then P.R. campaigns and snappy catchphrases are the kindling. Illustration by Lia Liao
Renewable-energy projects are now finding capital faster than fossil fuels. Photograph by Ken Cedeno / Getty
Since our platform name change, each daily post has been either about coffee or about birds. We have not neglected or forgotten our commitment to all the other important environmental, conservation, culture and related themes this platform has showcased, under whichever name. Today, Bill McKibben, one of our favorite sources of both depressing and heartening environmental news, is our go-to for some good news:
Usually his writing voice sounds like he is frustrated, and his spoken voice can sound like he is feeling headed for defeat. Today there is a different sound and it is worth listening to:
This week, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump Administration’s request to expand construction on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and the climate-change task force formed by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders urged politicians to “treat climate change like the emergency that it is.” Bill McKibben, an activist in the environmental movement for three decades, joins Dorothy Wickenden to discuss whether the United States has hit a turning point in the battle against global warming.