The Adirondack Explorer asked Vermont author, environmentalist and former Adirondacker Bill McKibben to discuss the climate-crisis arguments in his new book, Falter, and how the issue affects the Adirondacks.
McKibben spoke about climate change at an event hosted by the Explorer and The Wild Center in August, 2019.
In its July/August 2019 issue, the Adirondack Explorer asked McKibben to discuss the climate-crisis arguments in his new book, “Falter,” and how the issue affects the Adirondacks. Following is a transcript of the questions and answers.
As the author of numerous books on the subject (notably The End of Nature), as well as founder of the international climate change organization 350.org, McKibben’s passion as an environmentalist and educator has seemed to come through with each word. I left the event wondering how I could help my children understand. » Continue Reading.
Lost Brook Tract is a miracle both modern and ancient. Steeply situated on a high ridge in the central Adirondacks, miles from the nearest road and with no trail to it, it is a sixty-acre swath of Adirondack territory virtually unknown to all but a handful of people. That it exists today, an utterly unspoiled piece of high mountain boreal forest tracing unbroken lineage all the way to the ice age, can only be explained as a remarkable accident of fate.
As it turns out, that is indeed how it is explained. In future posts I’ll tell that story, how this little jewel came to be spared and saved from the debilitations that were suffered by most of the Adirondacks. For now it is simply there, a virgin forest never logged, never burned, largely spared even from the depredations of acid rain. Surrounded on all sides either by strict conservation easements or by New York State lands designated as Wilderness, it is in the fullest sense primeval. » Continue Reading.
Environmental authors Bill McKibben and Curt Stager will be among the distinguished speakers participating in the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Winter 2012 Lecture Series at the High Peaks Information Center (HPIC). The Saturday evening lecture series begins Jan. 7 and runs through March 17.
McKibben, one of the leading voices of the environmental movement, is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont. His books include The End of Nature, The Age of Missing Information and Hope, Human and Wild: True Stories of Living Lightly on the Earth. His Feb. 4 lecture, “Notes from the Front of the Climate Fight,” will focus on the global movement to address climate change. Stager, a professor at Paul Smith’s College, is the author of Deep Future: the Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth, which Kirkus Reviews listed as one of the best nonfiction books of 2011. On Jan. 21, Stager will speak on “Climate Whiplash: What Happens After Global Warming?” While debate over global warming generally focuses on what may happen in the next 100 years, Stager will discuss the long-term climate picture.
Other lectures in the series will focus on winter birds, backcountry travel, avalanche awareness and moose in New York State. On the lighter side, the series will also feature concerts by Annie and the Hedonists and the Rustic Riders.
Winter 2012 HPIC Lecture Series
Jan. 7: “Winter Birds of the Adirondacks” with Joan Collins, president of Adirondack Avian Expeditions & Workshops.
Jan. 14: “Backcountry Travel” with Pete Fish, a retired forest ranger with over 30 years experience patrolling the High Peaks.
Jan. 21: “Climate Whiplash: What Happens After Global Warming?” with Curt Stager.
Jan. 28: “Basic Avalanche Awareness” with High Peaks Forest Ranger Jim Giglinto.
Feb. 4: “Notes from the Front of the Climate Fight” with Bill McKibben.
Feb. 11: “Moose in New York” with state wildlife biologist Ed Reed.
Feb. 18: “Adirondack Environmental History: It’s as Clear as Mud” with Brendan Wiltse, a Ph.D. candidate from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.
Feb. 25: Music by Annie and the Hedonists.
March 3: “Introduction to Square Dancing,” with music and calling by Stan Burdick.
March 10: “Flora and Fauna of the Adirondacks.”
March 17: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with The Rustic Riders, an Adirondack-based acoustic group.
The High Peaks Information Center (HPIC) is at the end of the Adirondack Loj Road, 8 miles south of Lake Placid. For more information about the lecture series and other ADK programs, visit our website at www.adk.org or call (518) 523-3441.
The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is the oldest and largest organization dedicated to the protection of the New York State Forest Preserve. ADK is a nonprofit, membership organization that protects the Forest Preserve, state parks and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.
Writers Bill McKibben and Christopher Shaw were arrested Saturday in front of the White House as they took part in a demonstration trying to persuade the Obama administration to deny construction of a 1,700-mile pipeline that would carry Canadian tar-sands oil to American refineries.
McKibben, Shaw and approximately 65 others were being held in a DC jail over the weekend pending a court appearance Monday. Both McKibben and Shaw are former Adirondack residents who maintain strong ties to the region. Shaw is a contributor to Adirondack Almanack; McKibben is a climate change activist who co-organized the tar sands pipeline demonstration; both teach and lead an environmental journalism program at Middlebury College, in Vermont.
In addition to the risk of oil spills along the Keystone XL pipeline’s proposed path from Alberta to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Canadian tar sands could be North America’s largest “carbon bomb,” McKibben says. “If you could burn all the oil in those tar sands, you’d run the atmosphere’s concentration of carbon dioxide from its current 390 parts per million (enough to cause the climate havoc we’re currently seeing) to nearly 600 parts per million, which would mean if not hell, then at least a world with a similar temperature,” he wrote last month in an op-ed on TomDispatch.com.
The Department of State will decide by the end of the year whether to issue a permit for a pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canada border, so McKibben says the decision lies solely with the Obama administration and will be a test of the president’s commitment to the environment.
Protest organizer tarsandaction.org issued a press release Sunday stating that 2,000 people are expected to participate in the sit-in before it ends, September 3.
Photograph courtesy of Tar Sands Action. Christopher Shaw is third from the right.
Internationally-acclaimed author, educator and environmentalist Bill McKibben will present a program entitled “The Most Important Number in the World: Updates on the Fight for a Stable Climate,” on Monday, August 1, 2011 at the Adirondack Museum. The program is part of the museum’s Monday Evening Lecture series.
McKibben will share news of the latest science around global warming, its effects on the Adirondack region, and the growing global movement to do something about it. In the past two years his group 350.org has coordinated what CNN called “the most widespread days of political action in the planet’s history.” He will share with the audience what those fighting for a stable climate across the planet are doing. Bill McKibben is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, and author of a dozen books about the environment, including The End of Nature, which is often called the first book for a general audience about climate change. Time Magazine has described him as “the planet’s best green journalist” and the Boston Globe has called him “perhaps the nation’s leading environmentalist.” He has spent much of his adult life in Johnsburg in Warren County, N.Y.
The presentation will be held in the Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. The lecture will be offered at no charge to museum members; the fee for non-members is $5.00. For additional information, visit www.adirondackmuseum.org or call (518) 352-7311.
I recently read Bill McKibben’s book about cross-country-ski racing and wrote the following review, which will appear in the next issue of the Adirondack Explorer.
Several years ago, we asked Bill McKibben to ski the entire Jackrabbit Trail in a single day and write about it. Saranac Lake to Keene. That’s twenty-four miles, but that wasn’t enough for McKibben.
When he turned his story in, I learned he started instead at Paul Smith’s, where there is an orphan piece of the Jackrabbit. By following this trail and then a railroad bed, he was able to make it to Saranac Lake and add ten or eleven miles to the trek. Why extend an already-lengthy trip by slogging along a boring railroad track? I thought Bill must be a bit nuts, but now that I’ve read Long Distance, I understand what motivates him.
Long Distance chronicles McKibben’s yearlong quest to become the best Nordic ski racer he could. He trained like a pro, working out for hours each day, and competed on three continents. Originally published in 2000, the book was reissued in paperback by Rodale this past fall.
Early on, McKibben visits the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid to undergo a series of unpleasant tests involving a treadmill, a snorkel-like device, and numerous blood-lettings to ascertain his VO2 Max—a measurement of how efficiently his body uses oxygen. The tests reveal he has a higher-than-average VO2 Max, but it’s still far below that of elite athletes. And no amount of training will change that. The upper limit of his VO2 Max and thus of his competitive potential are determined by genetics.
It is not McKibben’s destiny to become a champion. Nevertheless, he diligently puts in six hundred hours of training over the year, all to prepare for a grand total of maybe twelve hours of racing. In one event in Lake Placid, he manages to come in first in his age group, but usually he’s closer to the middle of the pack.
What’s the payoff then? McKibben describes the “absolute immersion in the present” that he feels during a fifty-kilometer race in Ottawa, when all the cares of modern life fall by the wayside. “Everything really had come together for a moment,” he writes. “Or perhaps a better way to say it is that everything had disappeared.”
McKibben, of course, is best known as an environmental writer, the guy who sounded the alarm about global warming in The End of Nature and who founded a worldwide movement to try to get politicians to do something about it. When I saw him speak a few months ago in Saranac Lake, he struck me as an Old Testament prophet with a sense of humor.
Long Distance reveals the private side of the public intellectual. Despite all his accomplishments—as a Harvard graduate, staff writer for the New Yorker, best-selling author, and global activist—McKibben still longs to be what so many males long to be: an athlete. Growing up, he felt like a wimp, because he wasn’t much good at basketball, hockey, baseball, or the other crucibles of boyhood. He writes that “gym became a recurring bad dream, highlighted each year by the President’s Physical Fitness Test, when I got to prove to myself that I still couldn’t do a pull-up.”
He feared he didn’t measure up to his athletic father, who went out for baseball and climbed mountains in his youth. Bill gravitated toward intellectual pursuits. While still in high school, he covered the school’s basketball team for the local paper. His father picked him up after the games. “He was proud of me, I knew, but I think some part of me always wondered if he’d have been prouder had I been out on the court myself,” he writes.
Part way through his training year, McKibben receives word that his father has a malignant brain tumor. He spends the next several months shuttling between Vermont, where he lives, and Boston, where his father is dying. He continues to exercise and ski, when possible, but the ordeal of watching his father deteriorate, physically and mentally, puts cross-country skiing into perspective. Training for a race becomes a metaphor for training for life. Our real tests are the difficulties thrown in our path—depression, illness, the demands of human relationships.
“The most profound test, of course, is the last one, dealing with your death,” he says. “But if you’ve done the training, the race will take care of itself—or so it seemed, watching Dad.”
After his father’s death, McKibben travels to Norway with his wife, Sue, and their daughter, Sophie, to enter one last competition, the Birkebeiner, a grueling fifty-eight-kilometer race that attracts several thousand serious skiers each year. He’s happy to finish in the middle of his age group.
“The next morning dawned clear and cold, so Sue and Sophie and I went for another ski,” he says. “For the first time in a long time, it meant nothing at all, and that was nice, too.”
Don’t expect to find lots of tips about wax, poling technique, and such in Long Distance. You’ll learn more about life than about skiing.
Click here to see a video of a downhill run on the Jackrabbit Trail.
The Adirondack Center for Writing presents Bill McKibben and Verlyn Klinkenborg as a part of The Field Guide to Nature and Environmental Writing – a weekend workshop at Paul Smith’s College. McKibben will give a lecture entitled “Writing and Fighting: The Great Activist Legacy of American Nature Writers” on Friday, August 13th at 7:30 PM. Klinkenborg will read the following evening at the same time, and both talks will be held in The Pine Room at the Joan Weill Student Union on Paul Smith’s Campus. The lectures are open to the public, free for ACW members and $5 for non-members. Bill McKibben is an American environmentalist at the forefront of climate activism and writing. He published The End of Nature in 1989, the first book for a mass audience on the subject of climate change. Since that groundbreaking release, McKibben founded and manages 350.org, which organizes international grassroots climate action, hoping to stabilize global carbon concentrations at 350 ppm.
His most recent book, Eaarth, questions whether we have changed our planet too fundamentally to treat it as the “Earth” we once knew. He outlines how we can live “Lightly, Carefully, Gracefully,” in our communities, and has been called by the Time Magazine, “maybe the world’s best green journalist.” In addition to his groundbreaking climate writing, he is the author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and Durable Future, Wandering Home and edited the collection American Earth.
Bill is a frequent contributor to magazines including The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and Orion Magazine, He is also a board member for Grist Magazine. He has been awarded Guggenheim and Lyndhurst Fellowships, and he won the Lannan Prize for nonfiction writing in 2000. He lives with his wife Sue Halpern and their daughter Sophie in Ripton, VT. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College.
Verlyn Klinkenborg is an acclaimed author of several books, and of the much-loved column “The Rural Life,” which appears on the The New York Times editorial page twenty-six times a year. Tom Brokaw has called Klinkenborg “our modern Thoreau;” others hear echoes of E. B. White in his voice. Like both of them, Klinkenborg observes the juncture at which our lives and the natural world intersect, and finds the luminous details that transform everyday experiences into luminous and revitalizing prose.
His books include The Rural Life, Making Hay, The Last Fine Time, and Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile. He has published extensively in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, National Geographic, Mother Jones, and other periodicals.
Klinkenborg was raised on an Iowa farm belonging to his family, graduated from Pomona College, received a PhD from Princeton, teaches creative writing at a number of American universities and colleges, and lives on a small farm in upstate New York. In 2007, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, which is funding his current writing project, The Mermaids of Lapland, about the 18th-century English radical and farmer William Cobbett.
Several local events calling for drastic reductions in fossil fuel emissions are planned for Saturday, October 24. They’re all part of an international day of climate action organized by 350.org. In the Adirondacks so far nine actions have been announced. People are invited to hike a High Peak, kayak Lake Champlain, carpool, attend seminars, stack firewood, make a mural, and gather at a ski area, among other things. They will stand together for group photos that’ll be displayed on 350.org’s Web site to send a message to policymakers. 350.org hopes grassroots activism will encourage world leaders to enact a meaningful global climate treaty this year at their meeting in Copenhagen. Below are in-park event locations with links to more information, including how to participate.
Blue Mountain Lake
Lake Champlain (Westport)
Paul Smith’s College and neighbors
Parkwide (cool commute)
Also, the coordinator of the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Steward Program is planning a hike up Mt Marcy to take photos with a banner. Others are invited to participate, though pre-registration is necessary because of group-size limits in the High Peaks Wilderness. Contact Julia Goren via [email protected]
“As NY’s highest peak, Mt. Marcy seemed like an obvious choice of an iconic location for this event,” Goren e-mailed. “The Adirondack High Peaks Summit Steward Program is a partnership of the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and the NYS DEC. We work to protect alpine vegetation atop the highest peaks, so the effect of climate change on this special ecosystem is of particular concern. We will discuss some of these effects during the hike. ADK will also be participating in the 350 event on October 24th at the Heart Lake Property as well.”
Read here for information on why some scientists think 350 parts per million of atmospheric CO2 is an important threshold for all life on earth, or read here for an explanation of the number’s significance.
For more information see 350.org, founded by End of Nature author and former Johnsburg resident Bill McKibben. Late-breaking events may pop up on that site during the week, or you can organize and list your own action.
In the past month Bill McKibben has been in India, the Maldives, Lebanon, Oman and Dubai. And last weekend he seemed delighted to be in Newcomb, population 472, catching up with Adirondack friends. The writer told Nature Conservancy members gathered at the Newcomb school for the Adirondack Chapter’s annual meeting how new information on atmospheric carbon has made him a global activist, and why he’s spreading the message that we must do more than install low-watt bulbs if we are to keep climate change from spiraling entirely out of control. Two years ago arctic ice began melting dramatically faster than computer models had predicted, McKibben said. Scientists had projected that the natural systems that gave rise to civilization and the current array of life on earth would be disrupted when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 450 parts per million. A recent paper by NASA scientist James Hansen and others puts that tipping point at 350 parts per million. The planet is already at 390 parts per million.
McKibben referenced several places where life as people know it is changing, perhaps irrevocably: Glaciers that feed rivers supporting hundreds of millions of people in Asia are melting. The Maldives, a nation of coral islands preparing to be swallowed by the Indian Ocean, is essentially shopping for a new homeland. “Hundred-year” rainstorms are becoming routine. A problem that McKibben thought would manifest in the time of his children and grandchildren appears to be unfolding now.
“We need to make [the transition away from fossil fuels] happen quicker than is economically or politically comfortable,” McKibben said. And that means more than reducing personal carbon emissions; citizens must pressure government and industry to change, he argued. “We all need to play a role of some kind in that solution.” Action taken in the next couple of years will determine “whether we get out of it at all,” he said.
McKibben is trying to engrain the number 350 in the minds of policymakers and citizens worldwide. As director of 350.org, he’s organizing a day of global activism on Saturday, October 24, encouraging people to go public in support of the 350 ppm goal. So far, 1,323 actions in 91 countries are planned, including some in the Adirondacks.
The Adirondack Council, based in Elizabethtown, is looking for 350 or more people who will commit to an alternative commute to work or school the week before Oct. 24. Paul Smith’s College, which coincidentally will have an incoming freshman class of 350, is organizing an event, details still to come. The Adirondack Green Circle in Saranac Lake is planning to do something as well, and other communities are early in the planning stages. You can visit 350.org to find an action near you or to register your own.
If you missed McKibben’s talk last week and can’t catch him tomorrow at a Protect the Adirondacks benefit in Olmstedville, you can watch him surviving this interview on the Colbert Report Monday.
Also, here’s a little of what Bill had to say about the Conservancy’s Finch lands purchase, and here is an excerpt from his Newcomb talk, broadcast earlier this week on North Country Public Radio.
Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, has been rallying support from around the world to call for a fair global climate treaty. Wildlife biologist Al Hicks trying to prevent the extinction of bats in the Northeast. McKibben (left) will be the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust on Saturday, August 15, at the Newcomb Central School in Newcomb, NY. Hicks’s lecture, The End of Bats in the Northeast?, is one of three field trip/educational opportunities being offered before the meeting formally kicks off at 1:00. The event is free and open to the public. Participants are asked to register in advance. McKibben is founder of 350.org, which according to the website, “is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis–the solutions that justice demand.” Their stated mission is to”inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis–to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.” The number 350 refers to parts per million, and represents the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.
The meeting will also feature a conservation update from Michael Carr, delivering the latest news on historic land protection projects involving the former Finch, Pruyn & Company lands and the Follensby Pond tract—175,600 acres in all. Attendees will find out how sustainable forestry fits into part of the conservation plan.
At 11:00 a.m. in the Newcomb Central School Auditorium, state wildlife biologist Al Hicks will give an up-to-the-minute account of “white-nose syndrome,” a mysterious affliction causing bat populations in the Adirondacks and at least nine northeastern states to plummet. Hundreds of thousands of bats, including animals from well-established colonies in the Adirondacks, have already died. Hicks has been on the frontlines of this environmental crisis since the outbreak was first discovered in 2007.
Participants should plan to arrive around noon for the annual meeting, or before 11:00 a.m. to attend the special lecture. Bring a bag lunch or call ahead to reserve an $8 lunch from Newcomb Central School students raising money for their trip abroad.
To register for this event, reserve a bag lunch, or obtain more information, contact Erin Walkow at (518) 576 – 2082 x133 or [email protected]
Researchers, summit stewards and others interested in protecting northeast alpine zones will gather in the Adirondacks May 29 and 30 to explore the impact of climate change on these fragile ecosystems. The Northeastern Alpine Stewardship Gathering is held every two years to allow researchers, planners, managers, stewards and others to share information and improve the understanding of the alpine areas of the Northeast. The 2009 conference, the first to be held in the Adirondacks, will feature presentations by environmentalist and author Bill McKibben and award-winning photographer Carl Heilman. Alpine zones are areas above the treeline that are home to rare and endangered species more commonly found in arctic regions. In the Adirondacks, alpine zones cover about 170 acres atop more than a dozen High Peaks, including Marcy, Algonquin and Wright. Because these summits experience heavy recreational use, New York’s alpine habitat is one of the most imperiled ecosystems in the state. Alpine vegetation is also highly susceptible to climate change and acts as a biological monitor of changing climate conditions.
The conference, which will be held at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Lake Placid, kicks off Thursday evening with a reception and Carl Heilman’s multimedia presentation. Friday will feature a full day of sessions on such subjects as “The Effects of a Changing Climate on the Alpine Zone” and “Visitor Use and Management of Alpine Areas.”
On Saturday, conference attendees will have an opportunity to participate in a variety of field trips, such as guided hikes to a High Peak summit, a morning bird walk or a visit to the Wild Center.
The $40 conference fee includes Thursday mixer, Friday lunch, Friday dinner and Saturday bag lunch.
The 2009 Gathering is hosted by the Adirondack High Peaks Summit Steward Program, a partnership of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The Gathering is sponsored by the Adirondack Mountain Club, the Adirondack Forty-Sixers and the Waterman Alpine Stewardship Fund. Conference partners include the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Adirondack Park Agency Visitor’s Interpretive Center, the Crowne Plaza Resort, New York Natural Heritage Program, DEC, Paul Smith’s College and the Wild Center.
Rooms are available at the Crowne Plaza. For reservations, call (800) 874-1980 or (518) 523-2556. Camping and lodging are available at the Adirondak Loj, six miles south of the village of Lake Placid. For reservations, call (518) 523-3441. Additional lodging options may be found at www.lakeplacid.com.
For more information, call Julia Goren at (518) 523-3480 Ext. 18 or visit ADK’s Web site at www.adk.org.
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