“The Currency Of Movement” Environmentalist Bill McKibben Visits Campus

Lizzy Hardison ’16, Associate News Editor

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Nationally recognized environmentalist Bill McKibben speaking in front of a crowded auditorium during his lecture on Thursday, April 11.

Nationally recognized environmentalist Bill McKibben speaking in front of a crowded auditorium during his lecture on Thursday, April 11.

In a visit made possible by the Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism, environmentalist, author and journalist Bill McKibben recently spent two days at Dickinson.

McKibben’s visit on Wednesday, April 10 and Thursday, April 11 was a component of the Rose-Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism, which was endowed by Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters and awarded for the first time in 2012 to McKibben. The prize brings the recipient to campus to complete a short residency and includes a monetary award of $100,000.

During McKibben’s visit, students, faculty and staff introduced him to the various sustainability initiatives and offices throughout campus. He visited with the staff and interns at the Center for Sustainability Education (CSE), attended lunch with student leaders to discuss divestment, and visited tw o classes in the religion and environmental studies departments. His visit culminated in a lecture in the Anita Tuvin Schlecter auditorium on Thursday, April 11, where he discussed the effects of climate change and the activities of his organization 350.org. 350.org is a grassroots environmental activism organization that began at Middlebury College, where McKibben is a scholar in residence. According to its website, the organization has led more than 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009.

In addition to raising awareness about the dangers of rising carbon emissions, the organization has spearheaded the movement to divest from fossil fuels and actively protests against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. McKibben’s visit was timely, given that students have begun to discuss divesting Dickinson’s endowment from fossil fuel companies. During his lunch with student leaders to discuss the divestment movement, McKibben commended student initiative and expressed optimism for the movement on campus.

“In a way, I almost hope that the board of trustees says ‘no’ the first time around, because I know that students will spend the next two or three or four years making sure that [divestment] is something about which every person who comes to Dickinson is educated on,” he said.

McKibben also stressed the importance of recognizing divestment as a symbolic gesture, rather than looking at it as an end.

“Clearly we’re not going to outspend Exxon. We need currency other than money: the currency of movement,” he said in his lecture. “It’s not OK to invest in companies that kill the future.”

McKibben’s visit was well received by members of the Dickinson community.

“McKibben was a superb choice to receive the first Rose-Walters Prize,” said Neil Leary, director of CSE.

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