Bill McKibben: Voice of Reason, Man of Action

Utne Reader visionary

| November-December 2010

  • Utne Reader Visionary Bill McKibben

    Illustration: Gluekit • McKibben photo: Nancie Battaglia

  • Utne Reader Visionary Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben basically invented the job title “climate change expert”: After all, he wrote the first general-audience book on the subject back in 1989, opening the world’s eyes to a then-obscure threat. Since then, he has continued to draw awareness to the predicament in a prodigious stream of books, articles, and media appearances, always coming off as reasoned and authoritative even when climate-change deniers attempt to paint those who bring this message as unhinged and alarmist. 

A few years ago, though, McKibben had an epiphany. 

“I spent a long time thinking that I was doing my part by writing and speaking about this, and that since it wasn’t really my nature to be a political organizer, someone else would build a movement,” he says. “But it never happened, and it became clear to me that this was one of the reasons we were making so little progress. It’s the most important issue we’ve ever come up against, so I figured I’d better do what I could.” 

McKibben, a Vermonter, organized a march in his home state in 2006. Buoyed by the event’s success, he coordinated Step It Up, comprising 1,400 demonstrations nationwide on a single day in April 2007. The movement then grew into, a campaign-style organization that unites a broad coalition of environmental groups under one banner, and that takes its name from the upper safe limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—350 parts per million. 

McKibben is’s founder and in many ways its main driving force, spending most of his time working on its behalf. Call him the leader, though, and he blanches. He believes that there are plenty of top-down green groups and sees as a bottom-up, grassroots organization fueled more by the passion of its activists than by a strong hierarchy. 

He continues to make talking-head appearances on news programs. Though he’s taken a clear stand on climate change, he retains his credibility as a seasoned and deeply knowledgeable expert on the subject. 

Pay Now Save $5!

Utne Summer 2016Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $40.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $45 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!

Facebook Instagram Twitter

click me