With rising global temperatures and climate change as a backdrop, the 2015 All-School Read committee selected Bill McKibben’s Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist to support our commitment to environmental stewardship, one of the tenants of the Berkshire School mission.
In his autobiographical book, renowned environmentalist Bill McKibben intertwines his personal story with the global fight to build and preserve a sustainable planet. During his visit to Berkshire, McKibben made a compelling case for a renewed commitment to small-scale local answers and solutions on a global level. This year’s program provided a powerful look into current climate issues—be it during the keynote address by McKibben or the ongoing work in our academic classes. In September, the School hosted three distinguished environmentalists from our alumni body for an afternoon discussion on climate change and environmental stewardship. The panel was moderated by Kathy Orlando ’89 and included Ned Sullivan ’72 and Lindsey Fielder Cook ’81 along with Bill McKibben. With its focus on communal awareness and activity, the panel gave students both a background in the environmental movement as well as information about some of the actions that they could take to help make a difference. Students asked many questions, revealing their deep interest in, and concern about climate change and what they can do about it.
Themes from Oil & Honey were incorporated throughout the year across disciplines. As part of an ongoing environmental lecture series complementing the All-School Read, students in sustainability and environmental classes discussed topics ranging from the effects of climate change on the local environment to divestment and its practicality at an institutional level. The Advanced Math/Science Research class explored Colony Collapse Disorder Virus, while biology classes studied bee ecology. Students in English classes used the teachings of Henry David Thoreau to help make sense of the relationships between man, society and nature.
From Ned Sullivan’s work restoring the Hudson River Valley to Kathy Orlando’s dedication to preserving our own backyard through the Sheffield Land Trust to Lindsey Fielder Cook, who combats climate change through a civil justice lens in her work with the Quaker United Nations Office in Bonn, Germany, this year’s program empowered our students to become involved and understand the impact that one person, one story can actually have.
“There is now an increasing number of people, entrepreneurs, and innovators who are working in the right direction on these things; it’s not hopeless.”