Bill McKibben: the Future, 350 and Floyd

It’s taken me a few days to tell you about the Tuesday event at the Floyd Country Store with Bill McKibben. Even so, a shorter version than I’d like, so much left out.

Bill McKibben, still jet-lagged from his recent arrival from Australia and New Zealand, spoke twice in the area on Tuesday, May 23–first at the Country Store to a standing-room-only crowd and later in the afternoon, to the Community Foundation in Blacksburg.

I was pleased to attend the 8:00 breakfast and as fate would have it, put my plate next to somebody’s dayplanner and sat down. Turns out, the planner was Bill’s and we had a very nice conversation for the better part of the first half hour of the morning.

He seemed genuinely tired of being on the road. “Guess that’s the price of success” I said. He’d mentioned how proud he was of his daughter and how he was happy at least for Skype to bridge the miles of separation.

“No, the travel is mostly not related directly to my writing but to the global warming project, I hope Floyd will take a big part in that event on October 24.”

I was aware of the 350 efforts, that number being the “steady state” level in parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide to avoid run-away warming. The current level (which fluctuates but trends ominously upward) is 387 ppm. This is a crucial year for reversing that trend. Read why, join the action at the richly-educational web site where McKibben is effectively using the power of the Internet to create international focus and action NOW.

The man is  a realist, twenty years ago writing “The End of Nature” about the consequences of unmitigated changes to the atmosphere. After two decades of mankind’s having done little to change the outcome, does he think we can make enough difference soon enough to keep the planet livable for his daughter’s children? “We’re doing everything we can to make a difference” he said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster so far and so long away from home and as much optimism as one can have from the bigger-picture perspective his long look at the matter has gained him.

McKibben spent Monday night at Hotel Floyd and was briefly educated about current and planned endeavors towards a balanced and vibrant future. In that regard, he thought Floyd was well on its way towards a desirable steady state. He lives in a New England town the size of Floyd and saw many parallels; overall, he seemed impressed with where we are headed.

But he offered this warning: Figure out how you’re going to limit and control your ultimate success. Think now about how you will avoid galloping growth once the town and county become recognized as having the amenities, services, cultural offerings and aesthetics that so many will want to share with you.

More than a dozen hands in the Tuesday morning crowd were still going up when Woody Crenshaw drew the meeting to a close at 10:30.

You can listen via the web to Bill McKibben’s Tuesday afternoon talk taped and rebroadcast on the Virginia Tech station, WUVT, starting at 3:00 this Sunday, May 31. Andy Morikawa and a small panel of local citizens will discuss the complex issues to which McKibben brings our attention.

And Jeff Walker took notes Tuesday morning, posted in comment at Blue Ridge Muse.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. It is really great that so many people turned out for McKibben’s presentation! I’m sure many more would have attended if they hadn’t had to go to work. Thanks for being there and blogging about it, Fred.