It's the end of the world as we know it in author and environmental journalist Bill McKibben's latest book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (St. Martin's Griffin). "Eaarth" is McKibben's slightly altered name for our planet, which he claims has been much altered — physically, ecologically, and societally — by global warming. According to McKibben, climate change has fundamentally changed the world we live in, and we must adjust accordingly.
"We simply can't live on the new earth as if it were the old earth; we've foreclosed that option," he writes. He prescribes a life that is smaller and slower, one that embraces "hunkering down" and "digging in," combined with a renewed focus on community work and shared resources.
The University of New England's Center for Global Humanities will host McKibben, who is also a scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College in Vermont, for a lecture, "Local and Global: Notes from the Frontlines of the Climate Fight," this Friday evening.
Reached by email earlier this week, the author gave me a sneak preview of his lecture: "I'll be talking about the climate fights of the last year — especially the battle over the Keystone pipeline — and how they lay the groundwork for the future, especially for the battle to break the power of the fossil fuel industry on our political life."
Regarding the controversial Keystone XL project (see "Into the Pipeline," by Deirdre Fulton, September 2, 2011), President Barack Obama has until February 21 to make a decision on to approve the tar-sands pipeline, thanks to a late-November move by Congressional Republicans. McKibben's grassroots activism organization, 350.org, is planning a rally and public action against Keystone and "big oil," scheduled to take place on January 23 in Washington, DC. McKibben himself was one of 70 people arrested during an anti-Keystone rally last August.
Meanwhile, during his visit to Maine, McKibben won't abandon his mission of keeping things local. Before his 6 pm lecture at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center, he hopes to attend a midday demonstration outside the US District Court on Federal Street in Portland, marking the two-year anniversary of the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court ruling that gave corporations unprecedented power to fund political campaigns. City councilor Dave Marshall recently submitted a resolution that that calls on Maine's congressional delegation to support a constitutional amendment abolishing the so-called "corporate personhood" codified by the ruling.
"We simply can't win the battle against carbon if politics remains polluted by corporate money," McKibben says.
• Last week, I wrote about a local food fight that's going to court: THE FARMER BROWN CASE, in which the state is seeking both fines and an injunction to stop Blue Hill farmer Dan Brown from selling raw milk and milk products without a license. Brown and his allies say the Maine Department of Agriculture is overstepping the rights outlined in Blue Hill's food-sovereignty ordinance. The DoA points out that Brown's milk samples contained high levels of bacteria, and that Brown is not following state protocol for raw (unpasteurized) milk production and sales.
The plan was for the Food for Maine's Future group to present Governor Paul LePage with a petition to dismiss the case at last week's ag-trades show in Augusta. Unfortunately, a snowstorm derailed the farmers and the delivery was postponed; the group has requested another meeting with the governor but has not yet received a response.