In a recent profile of McKibben’s post-election plans, Coral Davenport rehashed the Keystone fight:
In 2011, as Washington’s green groups licked their wounds over their failure to push Congress to pass a climate-change bill, McKibben organized thousands of protesters to rally outside the White House against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700-mile conduit for oil from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries.
Hundreds were arrested—including McKibben himself—during the multi-day rallies, in which protesters stood four and five deep as they wound a black plastic “pipeline” around the White House. But it worked—McKibben successfully marshaled President Obama’s political base of young people and environmentalists to send a message to the White House that approving the pipeline would freeze their support for him in 2012. And the Obama administration, which had been on track to approve the pipeline, put the project on ice until after the election—at a cost of frequent pillorying by Republicans.
Soon after, The Boston Globe profiled McKibben in a story headlined “The Man Who Crushed the Keystone Pipeline.” And his influence has grown since then: In July, he wrote a story for Rolling Stone, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” which went viral and became one of the most widely read and shared stories on the magazine’s website. Now he’s planning his next campaign.
Do The Math is modeled after a divestment campaign in the 1980?s that put pressure on American colleges and universities to pull money out of South Africa — a strategy credited with helping put an end to the country’s apartheid system. Environmental groups want to characterize fossil fuel companies in the same way.
“It is high time for us to play offense. These companies have lost their social license,” said McKibben to the crowd. “This is a rogue industry.” Vilifying and boycotting fossil fuel companies is not exactly a new strategy. But this campaign is unique. It’s the first time that any environmental organization has attempted a divestment strategy of this scale. And the targets outlined by McKibben — the actual math in “Do The Math” — creates a very clear case for campaigners when putting pressure on institutions to wind down their investments.