McKibben on Climate Change: “We Don’t Have a Movement”

If the melting of Greenland can’t make the American people pay attention to global warming, can anything? Environmentalist Bill McKibben, whose The End of Nature was one of the first books to raise the alarm on climate change for a general audience in 1989, is hoping that "Step It Up 2007," a day of rallies planned for April 14, will at least get things started.

Writing on Grist, McKibben admits that despite overwhelming scientific evidence, popular momentum on the issue is lacking.

[W]e don’t have a movement, the largest rally yet held in the U.S. about global warming drew a thousand people. If we’re going to make the kind of change we need in the short time left us, we need something that looks like the civil rights movement, and we need it now. Changing light bulbs just isn’t enough.

So pitch in. A few of us are trying to organize a nationwide day of hundreds and hundreds of rallies on April 14. We hope to have gatherings in every state, and in many of America’s most iconic places: on the levees in New Orleans, on top of the melting glaciers on Mt. Rainier, even underwater on the endangered coral reefs off Key West.

We need rallies outside churches, along the tide lines in our coastal cities, in cornfields and forests and on statehouse steps.

Every group will be saying the same thing: Step it up, Congress! Enact immediate cuts in carbon emissions, and pledge an 80% reduction by 2050. No half measures, no easy compromise, the time has come to take the real actions that can stabilize our climate.

McKibben reports that early interest in the project is high, but there are only three tiny gatherings listed so far in New York City. And even if people show up at the individual locations at the appointed hour, will it be possible to get any sense of "a movement" from rallies that are spread so thin?

  • AD

    Interesting point about the size of the largest rally. I hope that this will gain traction.

  • Ben

    Sarah and all-
    With regards to a larger rally, there is definitely one in the works. I’m working with a couple of friends and colleagues from Solar One to organize a truly massive event starting at City Hall, moving across the Brooklyn Bridge, and winding up in Empire-Fulton State Park on the waterfront in Dumbo. There the masses will assemble into a “Sea of People” symbolizing the potential future sea level rise.

    We are also working with other groups/organizers to ensure that NYC-based supporters aren’t spread thin over a bunch of smaller events. Obviously smaller events are fine, particularly in outer-borough neighborhoods and for people who don’t necessarily want to trek all the way into downtown Manhattan/Brooklyn (or for the agoraphobic!), but we want to make sure that the most people wind up in the same place. We’re working closely w/ the head organizors at StepItUp to ensure this.

    There will be information soon forthcoming at

    We will be looking for volunteers and help as the date approaches. Maybe we could have a guest post on here when the time is right?
    -Ben Jervey

  • A few staff members at Solar One ( are teaming up with a number of other activists to plan what will hopefully be a very high profile event for the 14th, worthy of our city’s size and influence. We have a basic idea hammered out, but are using this week to research the permitting process. After the 31st, we’ll have more concrete information, and will post on Streets Blog for those interested in participating. Stay Tuned


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