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Is Obama Serious About Breaking Our Catastrophic Oil Addiction?

Has the President been transformed by the oil spill in the Gulf, or is he merely trying to ride out the public reaction?

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I’m putting this all on Obama, even though it’s clear that he can’t do it by himself. He’d need a movement to make real progress. That’s the tragedy, though: he’s already  got a movement. He was elected with millions of us sending him money, knocking on doors, standing in snow banks with signs. He commands a standing army (albeit one that’s growing rusty from disuse and a little demoralized).

And it’s not just here. Across the world, we at  350.org were able to organize giant demonstrations last year -- 5,200 of them in 181 countries, what  Foreign Policy called “the largest ever coordinated global rally of any kind." We did it the way Kennedy did, by rallying people around a hard goal instead of an easy one: 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide which, according to NASA scientists, is the most we can safely have in the atmosphere. Since we’re already past that point -- at 390 ppm -- we need to work harder than we could ever have imagined. We really  do need to get off oil in the coming decade. 

But to have a chance we need a leader. We need someone to stand up and tell it the way it is, and in language so compelling and dramatic it sets us on a new path. On this planet of nearly seven billion, at this moment in history, there’s exactly one person who could play that role. And so far he hasn't decided.


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

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