Bill McKibben is a respected environmentalist and author of a number of environmental books including The End of Nature, The Age of Missing Information, Hope, Human, and Wild, Fight Global Warming Now, and Deep Economy. In 2006, Bill led a five-day walk across Vermont to demand action on global warming (it was considered by many to be the largest climate change demonstration to date in America.) In 2007, he founded Step It Up 2007 and organized 1,400 global warming demonstrations across all 50 states to demand that Congress take action on climate change. In 2008, Bill co-founded 350.org, an organization that aims to spread the word about the dire need for meaningful action on climate change. Bill is also the proud green parent of a teenaged daughter. Here’s what Bill McKibben had to say about the environment, bicycles and fast food.
JS: Parents are often led to believe that they can buy their way to a happier family by investing in items that will theoretically save them time and money. These are often the items (fast foods, disposable diapers, chemical cleaning agents) that get us in to the most trouble with the environment. What advice do you have for parents who see the needs of the environment as conflicting with those of their family?
BMc: My guess is that in most cases environmental goals and family goals are closely correlated. For instance, fast food is pretty much an environmental mess--cheap food grown under dubious conditions and trucked long distances that makes kids fat. But it's also a social mess--eaten fast, in noisy and anonymous buildings. A simple dinner prepared fast but with some love and care and shared together, even for a few minutes, around the table brings a family into focus. It's hard to imagine my own family in its absence.
JS: Where do you think parents should focus their environmental efforts in order to have the most beneficial impact (greener cars, shorter showers, recycling)?
BMc: Anything that truly addresses energy use, which is our particular problem. So, put in insulation, lots of it. Buy a hybrid car or better yet buy a bike (it's nice that our most traditionally kid-friendly means of transport is also the most eco-friendly).
JS: Do you have any advice for parents who want to find a way to promote environmental stewardship that does not sound like “eco-nagging” in the ears of their children?