Our planet is still the sweet spot for human existence, but it won't be for long, Bill McKibben warns. We've polluted it drastically. More than 22 years ago, the writer foretold The End of Nature. While that death is not complete, it's a process that has led to a transformation so profound, he argues, that our world is no longer the same, comfortable, amenable environment it once was. Welcome to Eaarth, as McKibben calls it in his new book. And brace yourself.
This book has an alarmist tone. Why spend so many pages telling people our planet is changing for the worse environmentally--won't the people who pick up this book already have the same thought?
Actually, it's not alarmist at all. The End of Nature was alarmist--I was sounding the loudest alarm I knew how. Didn't work--and now we're into the rapids. So, we've got to deal with that new world. The first half of the book explains that new world, the second half gives some thought as to how to deal with it.
What audience would you like to reach? Those who are already environmentally conscious, or climate-change skeptics with an open mind?
People who are curious about the world, I think.
You propose some strategies for living on a damaged Earth. What are the first things you want people to do after reading your book?
Think hard about the spectrum that runs from individuality to community. We've been very trained to be hyperindividuals, which is not such an excellent strategy for the tougher world we're moving into.
You advocate a radical simplification of daily life. How do you think such a massive cultural transformation can come about in the U.S., where bigger is seen as better?
We're already seeing this shift--farmers markets have been the fastest growing part of the food economy for a decade. Seed sales shot up 40% last year as people started growing vegetable gardens anew. Record sales are tanking, but local live performance is gaining rapidly. All these sorts of good trends will accelerate when we take one policy step: put a price on coal, oil, and gas that reflects the damage they do to the atmosphere. When that happens, industrial agriculture will become less economically advantageous, and so on. That's why we campaign so hard for climate legislation at 350.org.