Prominent Environmentalist Draws more than 700 to Student Center
Bill McKibben, one of the America’s most prominent and provocative environmentalists drew a packed house and a standing ovation at his public lecture Monday evening.
McKibben’s appearance at the Rutgers Student Center came on the heels of his much-talked-about “Do the Math Tour” last fall in which he spoke about the connections between extreme weather, climate change, and the fossil fuel industry.
An accomplished journalist and author, McKibben’s article in Rolling Stone last year went viral as it broke down the issue of global warming into a simple yet terrifying set of numbers showing how existing oil and gas reserves would raise global temperatures far above what scientists say is safe.
“We want to raise the profile of these issues both on campus and in the community,” said Melanie McDermott, associate director of the Rutgers Initiative on Climate and Society, in the School of Arts and Sciences.
The Initiative promotes interdisciplinary research and education on climate change throughout the New Brunswick Campus and is the principal organizer and sponsor of the event.
McDermott, an assistant research professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, noted that students were involved with the McKibben visit at all levels. Student environmentlists met with McKibben and discussed proactive ways to continue working on the issue of climate change at Rutgers.
“We’re not looking to form a new organization, but we are hoping there might be a coalition or some kind of ongoing student role,” McDermott said.
In addition, about students in the Rutgers Writing Program of the Department of English attended a master writing class given by McKibben.
“Many of our teachers consistently assign readings from Bill McKibben’s books or his latest articles,” said Alessandra Sperling, senior administrative assistant at the writing program. “It’s always helpful students can attach a face or an idea to a name they have read.”
Meanwhile, professors in disciplines ranging from geography to philosophy are drawing connections between their course content and McKibben’s presentation.
Robin Leichenko, a profesor of geography, had students in her Global and Regional Climate Change class attend the lecture and then come up with five questions for discussion.
"This comes at a really nice time of the semester," said Leichenko, who also serves as the director of the Initiative on Climate and Society. "It gives us a segue to jump into the issue, whether or not we agree with his suggested remedies."
On Wednesday, the Rutgers University Debate Union followed up by examining on one of his signature issues – divestment from the fossil fuel industry. Members of the union and professors debated what steps Rutgers should take to combat global warming.
"It was a way of galvanizing more direct student involvement and engagement with McKibben's ideas," said Storey W. Clayton, coach of the debate union, which is ranked No. 4 in the nation.