Bill McKibben To Berkshire Students: 'It's Not Hopeless"
Posted 09/25/2015 12:30PM

By Virginia Watkins and Michael Hayes

On Thursday, September 24, Berkshire School presented a number of events as the culmination of the School's 2015 All-School Read, which focused on author and environmentalist Bill McKibben’s book, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist. 

To start things off, the School hosted a panel of renowned environmentalists for an afternoon discussion on climate change and environmental stewardship. The panel (WATCH HERE) was moderated by Kathy Orlando, Berkshire Class of ’89, and included McKibben, as well as Berkshire alumni Ned Sullivan '72 and Lindsey Fielder Cook '81. With its focus on communal awareness and activity, the panel gave students both a background in the environmental movement and access to the actions that they might take now. Following the panel discussion, students asked questions, revealing their deep interest in, and concern about climate change and what they can do about it.

Thursday night, the School culminated the program with a keynote presentation by McKibben, who is considered one of the world's leading environmental voices. He took the time to convey both the urgency of taking steps to change our carbon footprint and the possibility of actually doing so.

"If we had 50 years to deal with this problem this is exactly what we'd keep doing," McKibben said while pointing to pictures of protesters gathered around the world in support of his grassroots organization,

"That would be enough. Generationally we would change, we'd make the shift, we'd understand, we'd move at a nice easy pace... The trouble is we don't have 50 years. We needed to start 25 years ago. We are a mile behind already. The arctic is basically melted. It's not a good sign when you're losing the largest physical features on your planet," he told the audience of about 500 gathered in Allen Theater.

After McKibben's lecture, students were given the opportunity to ask questions, most of which centered on their concerns about reversing the damage already done; he responded to them with candor and hope.

"There is now an increasing number of people, entrepreneurs, innovators who are working in the right direction on these things," McKibben said. "It's not hopeless." 

McKibben's entire keynote at Berkshire can be watched online here.

At the end of the evening, McKibben signed copies of Oil and Honey, then returned to campus on Friday morning for a breakfast discussion with students and class visits to English, history and science classes, where he again made himself available for questions.