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McKibben’s new book expands on a new climate reality

In his new book Falter: Has the human game begun to play itself out?, Bill McKibben, author, activist and founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, writes about the undeniable reality of climate change.

“We are now truly in uncharted territory,” the book excerpt on the website Literary Hub begins.

 “To walk the roads through even a corner of Alberta’s vast tar sands complex is to visit a kind of hell. This may be the largest industrial complex on our planet—the largest dam on Earth holds back one of the many vast settling ‘ponds,’ where sludge from the mines combines with water and toxic chemicals in a black soup. Because any bird that landed on the filthy water would die, cannons fire day and night to scare them away. If you listen to the crack of the guns, and to the stories of the area’s original inhabitants, whose forest was ripped up for the mines, you understand that you are in a war zone. The army is mustered by the Kochs (the biggest leaseholders in the tar sands) and ConocoPhillips and PetroChina and the rest, and their enemy is all that is wild and holy. And they are winning.

“It is hideous, a vandalism of the natural and human world that can scarcely be imagined. I’ve spent years working to end it, and my efforts have been small compared to the unending fight of the people who live there. And yet, giant as this scar is, in itself it represents no real threat to the human game. The Earth is not infinite, but it is very large, and if you retreat far enough, even this scab (the single ugliest sight I’ve witnessed in a lifetime of traveling the planet) gets swallowed up in the vastness that is Canada’s boreal forest, and that in the vastness of North America, and that in the vastness of the hemisphere.

“Likewise, to wake up in Delhi at the moment is to wake up in a gray, grim purgatory. The clatter and smell of one of the planet’s most crowded cities assail you as always, but some days the smog grows so thick you can’t see the end of the block. Walking down the pavement, you seem almost alone, and the city noise seems as if it must be made by ghosts. When the air is at its worst, when the smoke from the region’s farms burning off stubble combines with the exhaust of cars and buses and the cooking fires of the slums, it’s almost unbearable: in one recent outbreak, the international airlines scrubbed their flights into Delhi because the runway was invisible, and then cars began crashing on the highways, and then the city’s trains were cancelled due to poor visibility. Imagine how bad the air must be to cancel a train, which runs on a track. At a big international cricket match the next month, with pollution levels 15 times the global standard for safety, players began ‘continuously vomiting.’ After halting play for 20 minutes, the umpire said, ‘There aren’t too many rules regarding pollution.’”

Exploring examples of how we continue to take our Earth’s resources for granted, McKibben describes how climate change is now a public health crisis of unparalleled proportion.

Read more of McKibben’s excerpt on the new climate reality.

The Council of Canadians is part of a growing network linking groups like ours with 350.org and others to build awareness and encourage urgent action on the most pressing issue of our time: climate change. We are moving towards the tipping point and must come together to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Read more about the Council of Canadians’ campaign for climate justice.