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Friday, November 30, 2012

Battle cry against Big Oil, coal

By TIM FAULKNER/ News staff
Bill McKibben urged civil disobedience to combat climate change
during his 'Do The Math' tour stop at Brown University.
 (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)
PROVIDENCE — The environmental movement's most recognized activist used humor and fun to deliver his message to combat climate change, but his call to action was serious.

Bill McKibben, author, activist and college professor, received a standing ovation when he took the stage Monday night at a packed auditorium at Brown University. He urged the audience of college students and local environmentalists of all ages to take on the fossil-fuel industry through protests and an active campaign of divestment.
"As of tonight, we're going after the fossil-fuel industry," he said.

McKibben made a strong comparison to the anti-apartheid protests of the 1980s to promote a new campaign to curtail carbon emissions. He also drew upon the success of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline protests to suggest that civil disobedience was the method of choice for getting results.
Bill McKibben pedals a bike-powered smoothy machine before
speaking at Brown University on Nov. 26. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)
The success of the mass protest outside the White House in 2011, he said, suggested that getting arrested for peaceful protest sends a powerful message. McKibben recruited the energized crowd to attend another mass protest in Washington, D.C., on Presidents’ Day in February.
The Nov. 26 Brown University event was one of more than 20 McKibben is presenting around the country to mostly college-age audiences on his “Do The Math” tour. Using a few props such as bottles of beer and video messages from environmentalists such as Van Jones, McKibben highlights the fact that coal, oil and gas reserves must stay in the ground in order to prevent the planet’s temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius.
“It’s going to be burned unless we change the story,” he said. “Either Exxon gives in, or physics gives in.”
Hurricane Sandy, the melting of the polar ice cap, drought and flooding are signs of what’s ahead if the planet gets warmer, he said.
But McKibben said there are ways to avert global climate change. The solution: a quick leap to renewable energy coupled with ending the “outlaw” business practices of the fossil-fuel industry.
“It’s still a trickle, it’s not the flood we need,” he said of the growth of wind and solar energy in the United States.
The Brown University event was organized by the student-run Brown Divest Coal Campaign. The group has asked the university to divest its investments in coal companies with the worst environmental records. The group is holding a campus rally Nov. 29.
Senior Keally Cieslik said after McKibben’s talk that she would likely attend Thursday's rally. “It’s a moral responsibility to take action,” she said.