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Sandy the Frankenstorm: "If There Was Ever a Wake-up Call, This Is It"

Bill McKibben says we've got to put the fossil fuel industry front and center if we're going to avert catastrophe

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And one thing for all of us to remember today, even as we deal with the horror on the East Coast, is that this is exactly the kind of horror people have been dealing with all over the world. Twenty million people were dislocated by flood in Pakistan two years ago. There are people with kind of existential fears about whether their nations will survive the rise of sea level. We’re seeing horrific drought not just in the Midwest, but in much of the rest of the world. This is the biggest thing that’s ever happened on earth, climate change, and our response has to be the same kind of magnitude.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, why are you waiting ’til after the presidential election to have your 20-city tour raising the issue, calling it "Do the Math"?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, I mean, we’ve been involved as we can be in the political fight, but we don’t want this issue to go away when elections are over. Even if Barack Obama wins, we do not want everybody to just, "Oh, well, he’ll take care of it." That’s what happened four years ago. What we want is for—no matter who wins and no matter who wins in the Senate and the House, we want to put the fossil fuel industry front and center and put real pressure on them. We’re going to try and launch a divestment movement that looks like the one around South Africa a quarter-century ago. We’re going to be bringing home the math that I described in a  piece in Rolling Stone this summer that went kind of viral, explaining that the fossil fuel industry already has five times more carbon in its inventory than even the most conservative government thinks would be safe to burn. And every day, they go out looking for more. This is a rogue industry now. I mean, if Sandy is a rogue storm, then, say, Exxon is a rogue industry. They, in their inventory alone, have more than 7 percent of the carbon necessary to take us past two degrees. They’re outlaws not against the laws of the state, but against the laws of physics. And you begin to see the results of that when you look around events like today’s.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, I want to thank you for being with us. And very quickly, how are people in Vermont preparing? I mean, when—when Hurricane Irene hit, it ended up not being a very big deal in New York, but it ended up being a massive catastrophe for your state, for Vermont. What’s happening? How are you preparing here?

BILL McKIBBEN: [inaudible] in Vermont in a very long time. We’re expecting to lose power and have very strong winds. I think, selfishly, those of us in Vermont are just almost psychologically—I’m—you know, we really, really, a year later, don’t need to be the center of this storm. We don’t wish it on anybody else, but, you know, physically and psychologically, Vermont’s barely recovered from Irene. And we have some incredible sense of sympathy for the people who are getting hammered hardest by Sandy this time around.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Bill McKibben, for being with us, founder of 350.org, speaking to us from his home in Vermont. When we come back, we’ll stay with Greg Jones, climate scientist, professor of environmental studies here at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, and we’ll be joined by meteorologist Jeff Masters. Stay with us.

Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben is the founder of 350.org, an international climate campaign.
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