Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, interviewed by Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman:
We started, the year after some of us started this Keystone resistance, and which turned into a big resistance against pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, in general, following the lead of indigenous people up in Alberta. The next year, a bunch of us—Naomi Klein and I and others—started this fossil fuel divestment campaign to get institutions to sell their stock. Well, it worked better than we thought it would. It’s become, by some measures, the largest anti-corporate campaign of its kind ever. I think we’re now at $8 trillion worth of endowments and portfolios that have divested in part or in whole.
And it’s really beginning to take a toll on the industry. Earlier this year, Shell said in its annual report that divestment had become a material risk to its business. A couple of weeks ago, the heads of many of the biggest coal firms in the world were at a Houston energy conference, and they were quoted by Politico as explaining that they just could not find capital anymore for new coal projects. Too many funds had divested. People had been scared off.
That’s why Trump’s trying to push back on that and on pipelines. I think, in so doing, he’s done us, in a sense, a favor. I mean, it’s pretty much like he’s providing the blueprints to the climate death star, you know, and saying, “Here are the couple of places you might want to push really hard, because it clearly hurts.”
…Trump is obviously a ludicrous buffoon in almost every situation, but never more so than here. His dislike of windmills dates to his desire for a Scottish golf course where no golfer would have to see one in the distance. But what he’s—the reason that Grassley is standing up for this is because places like Iowa now make a ton of money off the wind. It’s not like anyone is going to defeat these technologies. Wind and sun are free. That’s why they’re coming so fast.
What the fossil fuel industry, with Trump as one of its helpers, wants to do is slow that transition down, stretch it out, so that their current business model can last a couple more decades. The problem with that is that if we don’t get action really soon, if we let it stretch out, those are the decades that will finish the work of breaking the planet. It’s why the urgency of something like the Green New Deal is so crucial.
…her basic point is, if governments can’t be bothered to prepare the world for climate change, it’s a little rich to demand that I sit in school all day preparing myself for the future. And it’s a message that’s amplified and resonated. There were millions of schoolchildren out on March 15th.
And now it’s time for adults to heed the call. Those kids were saying, in one rally after another, “We need adults backing us up.” Watch, over the next few months, as people try to organize the adult equivalent of those strikes, getting people out of their businesses for a day at a time, because if you think about it, I mean, they’re disrupting education as usual. We need to disrupt business as usual, because it’s business as usual, literally, that’s doing us in. It’s the fact that we just keep doing, going on doing what we’re doing, not changing in any dramatic way, at a moment when the world demands transformation.
What we’re playing for now is less a set of policies, though the Green New Deal is the set of policies that we’re going to need, but what we’re playing for most of all is a change in the zeitgeist, a sense of what’s natural and obvious and normal, going forward. And if we can get that change, then the legislation will follow rather easily. The point is getting that across, taking us from the place where we weren’t paying attention to climate to the place where we’re understanding that it is the issue of our time.
…the kids who are doing it, this Sunrise Movement, which is a wonderful outfit, an awful lot of them, maybe most of them, cut their teeth on college campuses as part of this divestment movement. And it’s a reminder of how movements grow. But now they’ve introduced this legislation that is the first time we’ve had an answer to climate change that’s on the same scale as the problem itself. That’s why it’s important. It gets the scale right, and it understands that at this point we have to address it alongside inequality, alongside the economic insecurity that people suffer from, that this is an enormous crisis, but also an opportunity to remake not just a broken planet, but a broken society.