Fossil Fools: Bill McKibben crunches the numbers and names an enemy


story by Liz PachecoWhen Bill McKibben publishedThe End of Nature in 1989, it was the first book aimed at educating the general public on climate change. Since then, McKibben has given lectures, written books, penned articles and led countless campaigns to raise awareness and inspire action on climate change—this includes a five-day walk he led in 2007 across Vermont. In November, McKibben will take his message on the road with, his international grassroots climate campaign. The “Do the Math” tour—a name taken from the frightening warming calculations McKibben presents in the August 2, 2012 Rolling Stone—will be making 20 stops in 20 days in an effort to jumpstart the climate movement. We caught up with McKibben to discuss the tour and it’s goals.

What can we expect from the tour? 

It’s not going to be a typical stand-at-a-mike-and-give-a-lecture. We’re calling it a roadshow—we want to drive home the math of our predicament, and then we want to get people organized to go after the fossil fuel industry. If it works, there will be campaigns springing up everywhere in its wake. 

What’s the significance of the tour kicking off the night after the presidential election? 

Because no matter who wins, the people have to take the lead here—no waiting for Barack to save us this time. And because, in the end, the fossil fuel companies matter more than the politicians.

20 cities in 20 days is fairly ambitious, why the short timeline?

We’re trying to start a lot of brushfires and see if we can get them really blazing fast. 

Are you taking on any volunteers or local artists/bands? 

Yes—there will be music every night, sometimes from national acts and sometimes local heroes. Environmentalists have spent so much time with bar graphs that they’ve sometimes forgotten there are other ways to reach folks.

Do the Math: Sat., Nov. 17, 6 p.m., $10, First Unitatian Church of Philadelphia, 2125 Chestnut St., Learn more at