Bill McKibben on how we might avert climate change suicide

Thirty years ago, Bill McKibben wrote the first book on climate change for general readers, The End of Nature; it didn’t save the world, but McKibben hasn’t stopped trying. The Vermont-based author and activist’s new volume, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, explains, in compelling prose and with devastating detail, the magnitude of the risks posed by carbon emissions���and also unregulated genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. He acknowledges the difficulty of making change when vested interests in fossil fuels and big tech have so much leverage. However, McKibben does offer a scintilla of hope, based on the widespread adoption of green technology, the acceptance of regulation, and the power of non-violent protest movements. On the phone from San Diego, where he was fundraising for his grassroots environmental organization, 350.org, McKibben spoke with Maclean’s about how the human species may be able to survive its suicidal impulses. Canada’s got some of the very best climate activists, experts and policy people in the world. And it has a government that’s rhetorically, and in certain respects actually, committed to being a leader on climate change and carbon taxes. But Justin Trudeau said in Houston a couple of years ago, “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil [in the ground] and just leave them there.” And so, Canada is committed to using up about a third of the remaining carbon budget [we can emit before what] the scientists say is a catastrophe. If Canada’s determined to dig up the oil underneath the oil sands and ship it around the world to people who will burn it, then Canada is inevitably going to be a great source of destruction. We can’t afford to have Canada do that, any more than we can afford to have the U.S. dig up all the coal in the Powder River Basin or have Brazil cut down all the trees in the rainforest.

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