Why the “Do the Math” Tour Just Might Work

Bill McKibben kicked off the 22-city tour the day after Obama was re-elected; it’s getting a lot of attention because he’s leading a frontal assault on the fossil-fuel corporations, the most profitable industry in the history of the world, urging a global stock-divestment scheme similar to the one that brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa. (I’ll be posting about it regularly.) For an account of the stirring kickoff lecture, read this in Yes!McKibben Spearheads Plans to Hit Dirty Energy Where It Hurts.

For the nuts and bolts of how the lecture tour encourages grass-roots action in the cities it visits, see the Huffington Post article by Matthew Fleischer of TakePart on McKibben’s talk at UCLA.

[O]rganizers are turning what would otherwise be a lecture circuit into a political machine. Before rolling into town, Do the Math smartly organizes with local environmental groups. Prior to McKibben’s lecture, these groups are allowed to take the stage and talk about local initiatives that need fighting. Contact information is gathered to keep the audience updated on those efforts. Instead of simply listening to McKibben, as they perhaps intended, the audience has suddenly become part of their local environmental movement.

Despite the sensational headline,”‘Do The Math’ Tour Points to 2028 as the Year of Catastrophic Climate Change,” Fleischer says that McKibben is actually quite optimistic about our ability to forestall catastrophe:

Between renewable energy and more efficient engineering, the technology already exists to stave off catastrophic global warming. Though its application is lagging in the United States, it is being employed on a mass scale in other countries. In socially-stratified China, with its billion-plus population and tremendous wealth inequalities, 25 percent of the country still manages to use solar arrays to heat its water. Germany—Europe’s economic powerhouse—in less than a decade, has managed to get upwards of half of its energy from sustainable sources.

The problem is getting the political will to force the oil companies to accept lower profits from leaving reserves in the ground, unexploited.  Fleischer writes, “McKibben says the key to realizing that goal is to battle the lifeblood of the fossil fuel industry—its bottom line.” Thus the push for divestment.

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