On Thursday October 22nd, global leader in environmental activism Bill McKibben gave the first of two speeches for Wake Robin’s annual Gentry Lectureship. Over 175 people, 150 residents and 25 Priority Depositors, from New England to as far as Denver, Colorado, listened to his talk over Zoom. After his talk, Mr. McKibben was happy to take questions and comments from the virtual audience.
For those who are unfamiliar, The Gentry Lectureship is named after Stokes and Mary Jane Gentry for their contributions as founders, board members, and residents of Wake Robin. The program was established in 2002 and has brought prominent figures from the government and economic sectors, as well as the fields of science, education, and the arts.
This year, residents organized the 2020 Lectureship around climate change and sustainability, creating a two-part program, “Crises and Change: Building a New Future in the Age of Climate Change.” The second speaker will be Mary Powell, former CEO of Green Mountain Power, who will make her address in December.
Bill McKibben is an author, environmentalist, and the founder of 350.org. the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement. He has spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement via stopthemoneypipeline.com. His book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change; and his latest is Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
Mr. McKibben entitled his lecture, A Crisis Inside a Crisis: What COVID-19 Might Teach Us About Dealing with Climate” and he argued “that we must do everything we possibly can right now” and “disrupt in a large way” to combat climate change. Noting that the world has already passed certain tipping points, he maintained we must limit the global temperature increase only to 2 degrees Celsius and not let it go to 3 or 4 degrees, which would be uninhabitable for current civilizations.
A former science journalist and current Wake Robin resident was deeply impressed. “I took a lot of notes because I felt he was giving a tremendous amount of information and educating us on critical issues. One point that really stood out was his mission to organize older Americans to advance climate change reforms.”
For its part, the Wake Robin Residents Association (WRRA) has two active groups that research, promote, and practice sustainable measures campus wide. The Greens Committee provides information on reducing energy use and works on community recycling and composting in coordination with Environment Services. Additionally, The Wake Robin Climate Action Task Force examines electrical and water usage, and promotes ways to cut back on those and other wasteful behaviors that tax and harm resources.
Concluding his address, Mr. McKibben gave some hope to a community eager to play an active part in the climate change movement. “The most powerful lesson of all is that social solidarity is necessary, and our job as individuals is to be less individual. ” Wake Robin continues to demonstrate that spirit.