Divest Harvard sit-in (Photo: 350.org; CC BY 2.0)
Earth Day is typically seen as an occasion to take action to help the environment, to ride your bike to work or pick up litter along rivers and streams. But environmental writer turned activist Bill McKibben tells host Steve Curwood we need to take to the streets together to solve the massive problem of climate change.
CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Boston and PRI, this is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. Writer Bill McKibben is the award-winning author of the End of Nature and many more books, who’s now better known as the founder of the climate change advocacy group 350.org. As Bill has changed his focus from page to picket line, he’s gone to jail protesting the Keystone XL pipeline at the White House, and toured dozens of college campuses in the push to get endowments and pension funds to stop investing in fossil fuels. And as we approach the 45th Earth Day, Bill McKibben joins us to talk about the state of the environmental movement.
MCKIBBEN: Earth Day’s interesting because the most important one by far was the first one. I mean, I’m not sure any more is a very important moment in the year, but the very first one could not have been more important. In 1970, 20 million Americans went into the streets. That was about one American in ten of the then population, and that was absolutely enough to absolutely transform the political landscape. It may have been the highest participation in any protest in American history, and what it meant was, for the next 4 or 5 years, everything with the word environment in it got passed in Washington. Richard Nixon, who was as un-environmental a human being as it’s possible to imagine, he signed the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, all because he knew that there was this tide of people who had been in the streets and were ready to go back, who were demanding action.