The globe's most influential climate advocacy journalist of our day is scheduled to take his message to East Tennessee in August. Scholarly, bestselling author Bill McKibben will speak to both University of Tennessee students and the wider community during his upcoming visit. The co-founder of grassroots group 350.org and author of several books, including his most recent Eaarth: Making Life on a Tough New Planet, is the featured Life of the Mind speaker for incoming UT students in August. UT faculty chose Eaarth as the designated Life of the Mind book for incoming freshmen because of its relevant message about sustainability and climate change.
|Photo credit Steve Liptay from McKibben press kit|
McKibben's group 350.org
aims to explain that 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide is the maximum earth's atmosphere can handle without dangerous side effects to our climate system. Yet, climate scientists have found that carbon dioxide levels have already reached 400 parts per million this year. Volumes of scientific facts, humanized descriptions of suffering and a calm sense of urgency fill Eaarth
because the extra "a" stands for the fact that our planet has already been altered. Because the burning of fossil fuels for energy causes what scientists say is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, 350.org is calling for a cleaner energy future to curb climate change. McKibben has become a leader in urging divestment from the fossil fuels industry.
In addition to his UT engagement, McKibben has generously offered his time for a free lecture for the general public at 7 pm Sunday, August 18, in Oak Ridge High School auditorium. His talk is titled "Keep the Faith and Do the Math." The Harvard-educated contributor to top publications like the New York Times and Rolling Stone calls on people to see climate change as a moral issue about protecting not just the planet, but each other. He is known for his earnest speaking style and his ability to synthesize this complex issue into human terms.
A diverse group of churches is celebrating a creation care theme on the Sunday when McKibben visits Oak Ridge. They're hosting an ecumenical worship service at 11:00 am in Historic Grove Theater with leadership from High Places nondenominational church, First Christian Church, Unitarian Universalist Church and First Presbyterian Church. FPC is also hosting a 100-mile potluck
at 1:00 pm to celebrate how local food can create fellowship while saving energy. The community-wide outdoor lunch will be on the grounds on Lafayette Drive. You're asked to bring a dish to share that contains at least one locally grown ingredient.
FPC is also sponsoring McKibben's talk as a special Jackson B. Davidson Memorial Lecture on Science and Religion. FPC member and UT computer science researcher Dan Terpstra suggested inviting McKibben to Oak Ridge. Terpstra reflected, "Bill McKibben's voice has been clear and prophetic and passionate for nearly twenty-five years on the ways that we are damaging our relationship with the beautiful planet that God created us for. It's not too late to listen and to act, but time is running out. Hopefully Bill's message on August 18 will provide a call to action that spurs us to demand corporate responsibility and legislative leadership to forge a new path to a sustainable future."
FPC Pastor, the Rev. Sharon Youngs, is hopeful about the wide range of creation care involvement from the faith community. "We thought one of the best things we could do is to worship together. It really is one of the broadcast theological spectrums you can design. This is a common concern, wherever you are on the theological spectrum or any other spectrum , this is a common concern and a growing issue."
While steeped in science, McKibben's message has not yet shifted government or business energy policies to get Earth back under that critical 350 ppm mark. Even his East Tennessee hosts realize not everyone's on board with McKibben's sense of urgency. Rev. Youngs added, "I would encourage folks, whether they agree or disagree with him, to come and to listen and engage in the conversation."