In honor of the Earth I wanted to post two recordings of talks I attended at Seattle University from two of our most important environmental leaders today in the United States, Bill McKibben and David Loy. In this post I’m going to focus on the more recent talk from McKibben, saving Loy for the next one. If you don’t already know him, Bill McKibben is the author of many books on the environment and the leader of an umbrella organization called 350, which has charged itself with building a broad environmental movement to stop climate change. 350 supports and connects all kinds of environmental actions by partnering with local groups across the world. One of the more well-known actions that 350 has supported, at least among the collegiate crowd, is the student-led movement to push universities and colleges to divest their financial portfolios of funds linked to the fossil fuel industry. As part of this movement, students at Seattle University fought hard to raise support for divestment among students, faculty and staff, and, of course, senior administration. Since the effects of climate change and climate destruction disproportionately affect people living in poverty, and thus communities of color and especially indigenous communities, climate change is not just an ecological issue, it’s an issue of social justice, or more accurately, ecological justice. These are the grounds upon which students at Seattle University are fighting for fossil fuel divestment. Since the university (which is a Jesuit institution) and the Catholic church more generally have long had the mission of creating conditions for social justice in the world, students coalesced under the banner of “reigniting the mission.” Their first proposal to the administration was, however, rejected, but talks with them about divestment are still ongoing. There is hope that soon Seattle University’s financial advisors and Board of Trustees will figure out a way to reinvest the university’s funds in areas that do not promote the destruction of the planet’s habitability for us all, and most significantly in those areas where vulnerable communities of people live and make their livelihoods.
This was the history that had unfolded in the year before Bill McKibben gave his recent Earth Day talk at Seattle University on April 5, 2016. The questions asked centered around climate change, and specifically, the problem of our fossil fuel economy for meeting the goals set by the Paris climate talks back in December of 2015. In Paris, nations across the world, including the United States, met and decided upon the goal of keeping the rise in Earth’s average temperature to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. McKibben had some sobering news, as usual. February of 2016 was the warmest ever recorded in history—showing an increase in average temperature of 1.5 degrees Celsius—ALREADY. He also talked about the recent investigations into Exxon Mobile and their role in the comprehensive disinformation campaigns about climate change science. Apparently scientists at Exxon knew everything over 30 years ago and mounted a conscious and concerted effort to cover it up (see, for example, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/exxon-knew-about-climate-change-almost-40-years-ago/) .
McKibben’s conclusion: “If you’re investing in Exxon, you’re participating in a charade.”
We might well say that this charade is our collective hallucinosis, a kind of “institutionalized delusion,” as David Loy has put it. In my next post, I’ll talk more about what this means in the context of Loy’s talk last May at Seattle University. His is a Buddhist read on this, our shared delusion, the denial of the link between fossil fuel consumption and our climate emergency.
Please enjoy listening to McKibben’s talk in full (almost!) here: