Bill McKibben on Campus

I’m going to one of the best research universities in the country, yet I can admit that I rarely make it out to speaker events unless I am coerced by a friend to go. It’s not that I don’t like these things, but sometimes I also like staying home and reading too.

Last night, however, I went to an event like this without being coerced in any way. Northwestern’s Students for Ecological and Environmental Development (SEED) brought Bill McKibben, famed journalist and founder of 350.org, a climate activist site, to Northwestern to talk about climate change. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about the environment, but it is something I would love to read and learn more about, so I figured this event would be a great place to start. And it was.

I have always known climate change is an immediate and important topic we should all probably educate ourselves better on, but I never knew it was as big as it is. Bill spoke about how the Earth is only about a couple degrees warmer than its normal temperature, due to all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but there is the potential, with bad environmental decisions, to up the temperature even farther in the immediate future, an effect that would further acidify the oceans and disrupt weather patterns.

I realize Bill is very biased, obviously, in his views on the environment, but even if he is, the information he shared with us last night really got me thinking about what one person like me could do to help protect the environment. Yeah, I sometimes take long showers, and I sometimes forget to turn lights off when I leave the room, so I know there’s definitely room for improvement. I would love to read more about the subject, but for now, I’m glad these are ideas at the forefront of my mind.

One part of Bill’s presentation that particularly struck me was his photo slideshow related to his organization’s International Day of Climate Action and the more-than 180 countries around the world whose citizens demonstrated on behalf of environmental protection. It’s really easy to think about environmentalism and imagine the Al Gores and the hippies of the world as the face of the movement, but seeing Bill’s photos of all kinds of people in countries I have barely heard of before was really touching and memorable for me. It assures me that this is a topic that people around the world are sincerely passionate about and that can bring people together like many other huge political talking points never will.

I am a little bit reluctant to admit that it has taken me until my senior year to voluntarily attend these kinds of events, but better late than never, right? I think so.

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