Four Points for Bill McKibben

by Raymond Lotta | August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Bill McKibben, an influential environmentalist, has written and lectured widely on global warming. His organization,, has been staging protests against oil, natural gas, and coal projects this summer.

1. You say, if we are going to "tackle global warming," we need to "identify the enemy," and that "public enemy number one is the fossil-fuel industry... which has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth."

But in reality, the force on Earth destroying the planet is capitalism-imperialism.

Oil-drenched brown pelican on the Louisiana coast after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill dumped 172 million gallons of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico, April 2010. Photo: AP

Your image of a "rogue oil industry" covers over the reality that oil is foundational to the functioning of the whole imperialist system. Six of the 10 largest corporations in the U.S., and eight of the 10 largest in the world, are auto and oil companies. Rivalry among the great powers for control of production, refining, transport, and marketing of oil is in fact rivalry for control over the world economy. And U.S. imperialism's military depends on oil.

Oil is not a rogue industry. It is part of a larger system that operates according to certain capitalist rules and imperatives.

2. You talk about a movement from below that can pressure and shame officials and elites to see that you can move away from fossil fuel and curb global warming—and still have profits. You have said that Exxon Mobil and others can become "true energy companies...for real."

This is not a solution. Fossil fuel is so deeply embedded in the world imperialist economy that only revolution, nothing less, can change this: change how the economy is organized—change the fact that profit is its foundation. And only changing which class holds state power can change that.

Why are tropical forests being wiped out by logging and timber operations? Why is soil being degraded and dried out by agribusiness, and oceans acidified? Because capitalism invests, speculates, trades, and roams the globe treating nature as a limitless input into production for profit—without regard to long-term and planetary environmental consequences.

3. After Obama's climate change speech of June 25, you said that "the world desperately needs climate leadership and today Barack Obama showed he might turn out to be the guy who provided it."

This is as obscene as it is willfully self-deceptive.

You are aware that in 2009, Obama torpedoed any meaningful climate agreement in Copenhagen; that he expanded offshore drilling, including opening up the Arctic; and that he approved the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline (that would haul dirty tar-sands oil). You know that the U.S. posted the largest increase in oil production in the world and in U.S. history in 2012.

You also know Obama is: expanding war by drones, oversees the most massive electronic surveillance in history, is deporting immigrants in record numbers, and continues mass incarceration that especially targets Black and Latino youth.

As the political representative of this system, Obama's mandate is to maintain and strengthen the position of the U.S as the most powerful imperialist power. But because Barack Obama uttered a few honeyed words in June, you now anoint him "climate-protector-in-chief."

4. You stated to me in a public program that an "alternative system might possibly cope more easily with the environmental crisis" but then said we have to deal with current reality.

The reality is that capitalism-imperialism cannot interact with nature in a planned and sustainable way. But there is a solution: a liberatory socialist society, on the road to a communist world. This society can act on principles of socialist sustainable development, and tackle the environmental emergency for real, and with an internationalist perspective.

The vision and plan for this is set forth The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. We will be able to decisively restructure the economy away from fossil fuels; mobilize resources and the creativity and determination of people to address the different dimensions of the environmental emergency; share knowledge and expertise and promote unprecedented international cooperation to address the environmental crisis; and imbue people with the understanding that we must act as caretakers of the planet for current and future generations. . (See “State of Emergency The Plunder of Our Planet, the Environmental Catastrophe, and the Real Revolutionary Solution”.)

This is not some well-meaning abstraction for intellectual consideration. This is about the visionary and viable way out of the horror of this world—for creating a society and world that truly emancipates humanity and that enables humanity to work urgently to save the planet. And we are building a movement for revolution to achieve this.

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