What Happened to Bill McKibben?

by SUZANNA JONES

Walden, Vermont

In his 2008 book Deep Economy, Bill McKibben concludes that economic growth is the source of the ecological crises we face today.  He explains that when the economy grows larger than necessary to meet our basic needs – when it grows for the sake of growth, automatically striving for  “more” – its social and environmental costs greatly outweigh any benefits it may provide.

Unfortunately, McKibben seems to have forgotten what he so passionately argued just five years ago. Today he is an advocate of industrial wind turbines on our ridgelines:  he wants to industrialize our last wild spaces to feed the very economy he fingered as the source of our environmental problems.

His key assumption is that industrial wind power displaces the use of coal and oil, and therefore helps limit climate change. But since 2000, wind facilities with a total capacity equivalent to 350 coal-fired power plants have been installed worldwide, and today there are more – not fewer – coal-fired power plants operating.  (In Vermont, the sale of Renewable Energy Credits to out-of-state utilities enables them to avoid mandates to reduce their fossil fuel dependency, meaning that there is no net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.)  At best, industrial wind simply adds more energy to the global supply. And what for?  More!  More energy than the grid can carry, more idiotic water parks, more snowmaking, more electronic gadgets, more money for corporations.

Why should we spend millions of dollars to destroy wildlife habitat, kill bats and eagles, pollute our headwaters, fill valuable wetlands, polarize our communities, make people sick, mine rare earth metals – just to ensure that we can consume as much or more next year than we did this year?

The costs of industrial wind far outweigh the benefits… unless you are a wind developer. Federal production tax credits and other subsidies have fostered a gold rush mentality among wind developers, who have been abetted by political and environmental leaders who want to appear “green” without challenging the underlying causes of our crises. Meanwhile, average Vermonters find themselves without any ability to protect their communities or the ecosystems of which they are part.  The goal of an industrial wind moratorium is to stop the gold rush so we can have an honest discussion on these issues. Why does this frighten proponents of big wind?  Because once carefully examined, industrial wind will be exposed for the scam that it is.

McKibben’s current attitude towards the environment has been adopted by politicians, corporations, and the big environmental organizations.  Environmentalism has been successfully mainstreamed, at the cost of its soul.  This co-opted version isn’t about protecting the landbase from the ever-expanding empire of humans.  It’s about sustaining the comfort levels we feel entitled to without exhausting the resources required.  It is entirely human-centered and hollow, and it serves corporate capitalism well.

In Deep Economy, McKibben points out that the additional “stuff” provided by an ever-growing economy doesn’t leave people happier; instead, the source of authentic happiness is a healthy connection to nature and community.  As Vermonters have already discovered, industrial wind destroys both.

What industrial wind represents should be obvious to everyone: this is business-as-usual disguised as concern for the Earth.  Far from genuine “environmentalism”, it is the same profit- and growth-driven destruction that is at the root of every ecological crisis we face.

Suzanna Jones is an off-the-grid farmer living in Walden.  She was among those arrested protesting the Lowell wind project in 2011.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
September 4-6, 2015
Lawrence Ware
No Refuge: the Specter of White Supremacy Still Haunts Black America
Andrew Levine
Compassionate Conservatism: a Reconsideration and an Appreciation
Paul Street
Bi-Polar Disorder: Obama’s Environmental Bait-and-Switch Politics
Arun Gupta
Field Notes to Life During the Apocalypse
Steve Hendricks
Come Again? Second Thoughts on My Ashley Madison Affair
Ron Jacobs
Bernie Sanders’ Vision: As Myopic as Every Other Candidate or Not?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Arkansas Bloodsuckers: the Clintons, Prisoners and the Blood Trade
Richard W. Behan
Republican Fail, Advantage Sanders: the Indefensible Budget for Defense
Ted Rall
Call It By Its Name: Censorship
Susan Babbitt
“Swarms” Entering the UK? What We Can Still Learn About the Migrant Crisis From Che Guevara
Kali Akuno
Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation in the Disposable Era
John Wight
Adrift Without Sanctuary: a Sick and Twisted Morality
Binoy Kampmark
Sieges in an Age of Austerity: Monitoring Julian Assange
Kathleen Wallace
The Child Has a Name, They All Do
David Rosen
Why So Few Riots?
Norm Kent
The Rent Boy Raid: Homeland Security Should Monitor Our Borders Not Our Bedrooms
John Helmer
IMF Officials Implicated in Theft, Concealment of Ukraine Loan Corruption
Michael Welton
Canada’s Arrogant Autocrat: the Rogue Politics of Stephen Harper
Patrick T. Hiller
There’s Nothing Collateral About a Toddler Washed Ashore
Ramzy Baroud
Palestine’s Crisis of Leadership: Did Abbas Destroy Palestinian Democracy?
Pepe Escobar
Say Hello to China’s New Toys
Sylvia C. Frain
Tiny Guam, Huge US Marine Base Expansions
Pete Dolack
Turning National Parks into Corporate Profit Centers
Ann Garrison
Africa’s Problem From Hell: Samantha Power
Christopher Brauchli
Poor, Poor, Pitiful Citigroup
Norman Pollack
Paradigm of a Fascist Mindset: Nicholas Burns on Iran
Roger Annis
Canada’s Web of Lies Over Syrian Refugee Crisis
Chris Zinda
Constitutional Crisis in the Heart of Dixie
Rannie Amiri
Everything Stinks: Beirut Protests and Garbage Politics
Missy Comley Beattie
In Order To Breathe
James McEnteer
Blast From the Past in Buenos Aires
Edward Leer
Love, Betrayal, and Donuts
Cesar Chelala
Cruelty is Not a Human Right
Louis Proyect
Migrating Through Hell: Quemada-Diez’s “La Jaula de Oro”
Charles R. Larson
Class and Colonialism in British Cairo
September 03, 2015
Sal Rodriguez
How California Prison Hunger Strikes Sparked Solitary Confinement Reforms
Lawrence Ware
Leave Michael Vick Alone: the Racism and Misogyny of Football Fans
Dave Lindorff
Is Obama the Worst President Ever?
Vijay Prashad
The Return of Social Democracy?
Ellen Brown
Quantitative Easing for People: Jeremy Corbyn’s Radical Proposal
Paul Craig Roberts
The Rise of the Inhumanes: Barron, Bybee, Yoo and Bradford
Binoy Kampmark
Inside Emailgate: Hillary’s Latest Problem
Lynn Holland
For the Love of Water: El Salvador’s Mining Ban
Geoff Dutton
Time for Some Anger Management
Jack Rasmus
The New Colonialism: Greece and Ukraine