For the sake of preserving the loveliness of our cimate, Bill McKibben is doing his best to take over the American media. In a short feature in the NYTimes [$], McKibben explained why he’s launched Step It Up, a popular movement, as well as writing countless articles and ten books:
”I think it [climate change] has been too big for people to get their heads around. Those who wanted to do something did things at home — your car, your light bulb. Washington was blocked off for work for a long time.”
But McKibben is most accustomed to working from the top down, from publications such as The New Yorker (where he first published the essay The End of Nature). Last year In the National Geographic, he introduced the central idea from his new book, which is called Deep Economy. The crucial line:
Humans have never faced a civilization-scale challenge before. Whether we deal with it gracefully or not depends, I believe, on what happens to that creed we call environmentalism.
In the Los Angeles Times (last week), he explained it in a slightly different way. The crucial line, which happens to be the headline, is:
Global warming can’t buy happiness.
In Mother Jones, in a longer and well-detailed story called "Reversal of Fortune," he writes more specifically:
In general, researchers report that money consistently buys happiness right up to about $10,000 income per capita. That’s a useful number to keep in the back of your head—it’s like the freezing point of water, one of those random figures that just happens to define a crucial phenomenon on our planet. "As poor countries like India, Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil, and South Korea have experienced economic growth, there is some evidence that their average happiness has risen," the economist Layard reports. Past $10,000 (per capita, mind you—that is, the average for each man, woman, and child), there’s a complete scattering: When the Irish were making two-thirds as much as Americans they were reporting higher levels of satisfaction, as were the Swedes, the Danes, the Dutch. Mexicans score higher than the Japanese; the French are about as satisfied with their lives as the Venezuelans. In fact, once basic needs are met, the "satisfaction" data scrambles in mindlnding ways. A sampling of Forbes magazine’s "richest Americans" have identical happiness scores with Pennsylvania Amish, and are only a whisker above Swedes taken as a whole, not to mention the Masai.
And this month in the and in the New York Review of Books, he gets down to the nitty-gritty of emission reductions:
Even if we do everything right, we’re still going to see serious increases in temperature, and all of the physical changes (to one extent or another) predicted in the [IPCC] report. However, there’s reason to hope that if the US acts extremely aggressively and quickly we might be able to avoid an increase of two degrees Celsius, the rough threshold at which runaway polar melting might be stopped. This means that any useful legislation will have to feature both a very rapid start to reductions and a long and uncompromising mandate to continue them.
All together, it’s an impressive collection of work. My wife and I (and perhaps our youngest child, if we can drag her away from her homework) plan to be at a Step It Up demonstration in Oxnard on April 14th.