Summer’s End

by Bill McKibben

Yikes, I’ve been looking forward to doing this ever since Andrew asked in mid-summer, but now I feel like Sue and I have been given the keys to a shiny car that we’re a little unsure how to drive. I note with some relief that the week before Labor Day is the temporal equivalent of the empty mall parking lot, and that the regular Dish staff, in addition to doing most of the posting, also oversees what we write, a bit like the driving instructor with the extra set of brakes on his side of the floorboard. But I’m thrilled to be here, because like Sue I’ve been following Andrew around the web for years, and find myself strangely moved be part of the inquiring and eloquent community of readers that has developed here.

I’m best known as an environmental writer and activist. My preoccupation is global warming, about which I wrote what is commonly regarded as onePCMiheartNYC02 of the first books for non-scientists. The End of Nature came out a quarter-century ago next month—and I will cap that 25 years of involvement by helping organize what will (we hope) be the largest climate demonstration in human history on Sept. 21st in New York. (You sign up here and yes I will mention it again). Thinking about climate has molded my outlook enormously. I’ve come to think that the culture, including the blogosphere, pays far too little attention to the ongoing collapse of our physical systems: yes, the planet is burning in Diyala province, in the streets of Aleppo, in the country around Donetsk, in the fearful alleys of Gaza City, and in a dozen other places. But the planet is also burning—last month the demographers told us that a majority of the planet’s population has never known a month where the globe was cooler than the 20th century average. Climate change is no longer a future threat—it’s the single most distinctive fact about our time on earth, so it tends to preoccupy me.

That said, I’m conscious we’re at summer’s end—I feel the need to wring the last easy joys out of the season before the world really begins again a week from tomorrow. So with any luck I’ll manage a post or two of the slightly less-dire variety. It’s useful to me to remember that when it gets hot out one should build a giant protest movement (in my case I’ve volunteered at 350.org since I helped found it six years ago) but one might also consider going for a swim.