Three Weeks From Now

by Bill McKibben


A lot of us who care about climate change will be marching through the streets of New York. If you want information, it’s here.

Several people have written in to ask me what good it does to march. Wouldn’t it be better to have a carbon tax? And there are people – some of them sincere, some of them concern trolls – writing in to say, “you’ll be using fossil fuel to get all those buses full of people to New York.” It would be better to have a price on carbon, and we will be using diesel to bus people to New York – all true.

But 25 years after I started writing about climate change, I’ve come to believe a few basic things.

One, we have long known much that we need to do to start addressing the issue (job one is to put a serious price on carbon, and stop letting Exxon use the atmosphere as a free sewer). Two, we won’t do these things as long as the power of the fossil fuel companies remains so powerful – we will continue to move in the direction of renewable energy because it makes sense, but we will do so too slowly to make a dent in climate change. Three, the power of the fossil fuel companies is a function of their money, which buys more influence than their arguments deserve; in fact, scientists long ago won the argument on climate change, they’ve just lost the fight. Four, the only thing that can match the power of that money is the power of movements. They’re hard and slow work to build, but when they reach a certain point they can change the zeitgeist, and suddenly segregation is obviously disgusting, gay marriage is obviously common sense, and so on.

I’m not certain we’ll get to that point – movements don’t always work. But I am certain that we won’t get there without one. And I’m certain too that even if we knew the odds were low we should march. Part of it is simply to bear witness, to say: when scientists issued their warnings, some portion of our species paid attention. It would be fun to see some of you there.

(Image: MIT students posing as science superheroes yesterday as they recruit their colleagues for the climate march)