In 1989, Bill McKibben’s book The End of Nature was the first to alert us to the looming threat of global warming. Since then, his work on climate change has appeared in everything from the Atlantic to Rolling Stone. A leading American environmentalist, McKibben has been a guest of Stephen Colbert and David Letterman.
In 2008, along with some Middlebury College students, McKibben founded 350.org, an organization trying to lower the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide levels to 350 parts per million, the safe limit for humans. 350.org plans large-scale events designed to raise awareness and cut carbon usage. Just last Sunday they organized 10/10/10, the largest carbon-cutting day in the planet’s history, with more than 5,000 events in more than 180 countries.
His most recent book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, explains how Earth has changed and what we need to do about it. McKibben is pursuing ways to make the world safer for everyone, and that’s why he’s our Man of the Day. We caught up with him for a few questions on manhood and why he does what he does.
Why start up a climate-change initiative?
Because climate change is the ultimate threat. If you have the slightest protective instinct—for your kids and family, for the rest of creation, for the weak and vulnerable everywhere, for those yet to come—then you really have no choice.
Are you a good man? Why or why not?
I don’t think of myself as particularly good. I’ve had a relatively easy and lucky life, beginning with being blessed with good parents. Why wouldn’t I want to do what I could to help?
What makes a good man, in your eyes?
Some mix of kindness and humility, both of which I wish I had more of. Being self-absorbed seems to me like our great problem.
Who has been the ultimate good man in your life?
My dad. I’ve literally never heard a soul say a bad word about him.