Review of “Eaarth” by Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is the author of The End of Nature and a dozen other best sellers. Anthony Ketchum, Chair of the Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto and founder of ForOurGrandchildren, met Bill McKibben at Copenhagen.
Below is Anthony’s review of Bill McKibben’s latest book, Eaarth

Eaarth, Making a life on a tough new planet.

By Bill McKibben. 240 pages, index. Knopf Canada, 2010.

Are you ready for civil disobedience? If Creation is threatened and our decision-makers are not taking the action needed, are we not called to speak the Truth? What about Gandhi and the saints and martyrs of history?

Eaarth is not an explicit call for legal disobedience, but after reading McKibben’s most recent book and hearing him speak it’s hard to think of anything else with the moral might.

Many of us are old enough to remember the 1940s and how the free world whole-heartedly supported the war effort against fascism. Today, climate change threatens our entire civilization with runaway deterioration possible in decades.

But McKibben is not an alarmist. For 20 years he has been patiently explaining the simple physics and chemistry we are up against. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution we have been heating up the biosphere to the point that if business as usual continues, our descendants will be boiling in a 5 degree or more Celsius increase (that’s in just 250 years –a mere moment in time). We have been called to nurture our spectacular planet for our progeny not to plunder it as though it is a mere commodity.

With indisputable evidence Eaarth sets out first to document how our world is irrevocably altered, and then to tell us what we can and must do. No tyrant is poised to overrun our free world – just an incremental, invisible enemy so subtle we aren’t even aware that it has already invaded our home. The biosphere in our descendants’ world will be burning up before their eyes.

It’s as simple as watching a pot of water gradually come to a boil, as simple as knowing the difference between climate and weather; and it’s as complex as the interactions of our biosphere.

We talk about environmentalists as though they form one group among others such as economists, scientists, right or left leaning politicians and so on. It’s a huge mistake. We’re struggling to preserve Eaarth –  period. Acting together it can be done: the wealthy West, China, India, small island states, emerging and underdeveloped nations – each of us. Our enemy, as Bill McKibben emphasizes in Eaarth, is simple physics and chemistry.

In 1916 my uncle interrupted his university studies to give his life fighting for our generation in World War I; my godfather did the same in W.W. II as did countless others. It’s now my generation’s duty to mobilize humanity against an unseen enemy that has tens of millions of deniers disputing the science – along with interest groups such as Exxon and the coal lobby mounting massive disinformation campaigns.

Exxon alone has spent over $20 million to fund deniers and ridicule restrainers (James Hoggan, Climate Cover-Up, Greenpeace Exxon Secrets). Do the expanders fail to understand that our economy cannot continue with unbridled growth on a finite planet?

Our governments gave us no choice in wartime; conscription was imposed, Victory Bonds were sold, no new cars were allowed to be built – imagine, NO new cars! (It happened because President Roosevelt ordered it, over the objections of ‘big auto’.) Today, governments continue to subsidize fossil fuel industries (Exxon Mobil, in 2009, received $156 million in tax breaks) while our oceans and atmosphere and all of Creation cries out for drastic reductions in greenhouse gases.

Bill McKibben, a Methodist minister, exudes clear common sense and realism in Eaarth. Author Barbara Kingsolver speaks for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren when she says, “Whatever you were planning to do next, read this book.  Nothing could be more important”.

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