For decades, author, educator, environmentalist and activist Bill McKibben has been telling us things we don’t want to hear — presenting scary scorched Earth scenarios due to carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Unlike many other climate experts, he also is leading a global grass roots campaign to try to stop this from happening. His initiative, 350.org, is a global call to action to solve the climate crisis.
McKibben will bring his message to Washington University in St. Louis Thursday, Nov. 1, and deliver the keynote address for the Sustainable Cities Conference. His talk, “350: The Most Important Number in the World,” begins at 7 p.m. in Graham Chapel on the Danforth Campus. The talk and the conference are free and open to the public. For details about the conference, see below.
The number 350 refers to 350 parts per million CO2, the number climatologists say is the scientific “cliff” leading to irreversible environmental damage. The bad news is that we’re already past that threshold with approximately 390 parts per million CO2 in the planet’s atmosphere.
Since McKibben established 350.org in 2009, he has mobilized millions of people to bring attention to this serious condition. Phil Valko, director of sustainability for the university, says he hopes that McKibben’s speech will inspire the community to think seriously and creatively about solutions.
“The first eight months of 2012 were the hottest on record for the United States, accompanied by an arctic ice melt unprecedented in recent history,” Valko says. “Nonetheless, meaningful discussion and problem-solving around climate change has been conspicuously absent from our national dialogue. Bill McKibben will elevate this important dialogue in St. Louis Nov. 1 to kick off the Sustainable Cities Conference.”
With the publication of The End of Nature in 1989, McKibben became firmly established as an important environmental writer known for his ability to present scientific information to the general public. It is now considered a classic.
Several best-selling books followed, shaping public perception and deepening understanding of the way culture feeds the machinery that contributes to the destruction of the planet. Through his books, website, essays and op-ed statements, McKibben strives to send his message to the masses. He is a frequent contributor to several national magazines and newspapers, as well as popular online news sites, such as the Huffington Post.
McKibben graduated from Harvard University with a degree in journalism. A former staff writer for The New Yorker, he is now a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. In addition to being inducted into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, his honors include being awarded Guggenheim and Lyndhurst fellowships.
The Sustainable Cities Conference:
The conference runs Nov. 1-3 and is sponsored by the university’s Office of Sustainability with assistance from many campus partners and the City of St. Louis. It will offer a variety of programs and workshops designed to explore and share innovative ways to improve the urban landscape. To learn more about the conference, read Record story
The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts is presenting a related conference: URBANISM(S): Sustainable Cities for One Planet. Scheduled for Nov. 9–10 on the WUSTL campus, the conference commemorates the architecture school’s 50th anniversity.
For information on URBANISM(S), visit