Bill McKibben coming to Penn State on October 4th

Noted environmentalist and author Bill McKibben to speak on October 4, 2010

Bill McKibben will speak on the University Park Campus on Monday October 4, 2010 as part of the annual Colloquium on the Environment Speaker Series. His lecture, “The Most Important Number in the World,” is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in the Auditorium of the HUB-Robeson Center. A book signing will immediately follow his lecture. The event is free and open to the public.

Bill McKibben is an American environmentalist and writer who frequently writes about global warming and alternative energy and advocates for more localized economies. In 2010, the Boston Globe called him “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist” and Time magazine described him as “the world’s best green journalist." In 2009 he led the organization of 350.org, which coordinated what Foreign Policy magazine called “the largest ever global coordinated rally of any kind,” with 5,200 simultaneous demonstrations in 181 countries. The magazine named him to its inaugural list of the 100 most important global thinkers, and MSN named him one of the dozen most influential men of 2009.

“Penn State continues on its path to achieve a 17.5 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 and is currently working on the next plan. We are looking forward to Bill McKibben’s presentation and hope to be inspired to do even more,” explained Steve Maruszewski, Assistant Vice President of Physical Plant and Manager of the Finance & Business Environmental Key Initiative.

McKibben is the author of numerous books. His first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change. In March 2007, McKibben published Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. It addresses what the author sees as shortcomings of the growth economy and envisions a transition to more local-scale enterprise. In April of 2010, he published Eaarth. In Eaarth, he insists, we need to acknowledge that we’ve waited too long, and that massive change is not only unavoidable but already under way. Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. We’ve created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.

He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College and lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.

The annual colloquium is sponsored by Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment and the Finance and Business Environmental Stewardship Strategy at Penn State. This year’s event is also sponsored by the Center for Sustainability and Penn State Outreach. The event has brought numerous high-profile guests to campus including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Christine Todd Whitman, William McDonough, Amory Lovins, and David Suzuki.

Contact for more information:

Patricia Craig

Paul Ruskin

Milea A. Perry
Program Coordinator
Penn State University
Campus Sustainability Office

1 Land and Water Building
University Park, PA 16802
Email: map40@psu.edu
Phone: 814-865-2714



Human Faith and Nature's Place in Belief and the Faithful's Actions

In poll after poll, the United States' population (the human one that is) repeatedly asserts its religious convictions. According to Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life data, about 83% of Americans affiliate with some religion. 80% of Americans report being Christian. Religious life in America seems so important that former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney gave a speech on religion in 2007. Faith matters.

But what is the content of that belief? How does it inform their actions and choices? Does what people believe about the divine and their relationship to it matter when it comes to how they treat nature? Can faith inspire sustainability? Can it do the opposite?

We hope that Sylvia Neely (Associate Professor of History - Penn State) can help us answer these and other questions about faith. She and others are starting a Penn State chapter of Interfaith Power and Light. The organization recognizes that global warming constitutes a civilization challenging situation. They write:
Global warming is one of the biggest threats facing humanity today. The very existence of life — life that religious people are called to protect — is jeopardized by our continued dependency on fossil fuels for energy. Every mainstream religion has a mandate to care for creation. We were given natural resources to sustain us, but we were also given the responsibility to act as good stewards and preserve life for future generations.
How is this panning out? What are their challenges? How can sustainability come to the forefront for more of the faithful? Can it?

Consider the challenge posed by the Southern Baptist Convention in particular and the Baptist denomination in general. In 2008 Jonathan Merritt, a 25-year-old student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., garnered media attention by releasing "A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change." It was signed by 46 leading SBC representatives. It stated, "Human beings have a responsibility to care for creation and acknowledge their participation in environmental decline." That decline includes climate change. Merritt wrote,
Though the claims of science are neither infallible nor unanimous, they are substantial and cannot be dismissed out of hand on either scientific or theological grounds. Therefore, in the face of intense concern and guided by the biblical principle of creation stewardship, we resolve to engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or our responsibility to address it. Humans must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change—however great or small.
The notion of stewardship, in part, comes from Genesis 2:15, which states "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." For Merritt, and Interfaith and Power and Light, this care means addressing the degradation that humans have induced on nature.

But the SBC wrote in 2007 that they were skeptical of climate change, advising that members
"proceed cautiously in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research." This statement came despite the overwhelming consensus view among relevant scientists that industrial humans have induced climate change. This naturally followed:
RESOLVED, That we consider proposals to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions based on a maximum acceptable global temperature goal to be very dangerous, since attempts to meet the goal could lead to a succession of mandates of deeper cuts in emissions, which may have no appreciable effect if humans are not the principal cause of global warming, and could lead to major economic hardships on a worldwide scale;
To our knowledge, the SBC has not officially changed its position and joined Merritt's call.
Given that Southern Baptists account for nearly 7% of America's believers, this tension has consequences. (Image taken from Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.) Though we should doubt that all Southern Baptists are united under a monolithic views of nature, stewardship, climate change, or environmental ethics, the flock has been charged with following its shepherds. We have good reason to believe that the climate skepticism of leaders represents broader views. But is that tension a reason to hope for sustainability in America's big religion?

Can Interfaith Power and Light help? Given that they have successfully worked with churches across the nation to embrace renewable energy initiatives, reduce carbon emissions, and develop sustainability and environmental education initiatives, we might think they can.

Join us with Sylvia Neely this Friday, September 17th from 4-5 pm to find some answers. Call 865-9577 to voice your views.