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Bill McKibben is an environmentalist and writer who founded the international climate campaign Twenty years ago, with his book "The End of Nature," he offered one of the earliest[…]

Exxon Mobil made more money each of the last three years than any company in history. In our political system, that buys them power to prevent change.

Question: Are other countries adapting their energy use betterrn than we are? 

Bill McKibbon: I mean almost every rncountry is doing it better than the United States right now. We’re rnleading in nothing in this way. If you go to Germany you’ll find the rnlargest installed solar capacity in the world even though it’s a pretty rncloudy Wagnerian place. If you go to Denmark you’ll see a quarter of thern power coming from the wind. You’ll see almost everybody hooked up to rnthese combined heat and power plants that are very highly efficient. Yourn know there is a lot of places across northern Europe and central Europern that are doing quite remarkable things. If you go to China you’ll see rnthe largest installed renewable base in the world. You’ll see cities of rnmillions of people where essentially everyone gets their hot water from rnsolarthermal panels up on the roof. You’ll see the largest wind farm in rnthe world. If you go to Abu Dhabi, where they’ve making lots of money onrn oil for a long time but realized that oil isn’t there forever, you’ll rnsee the largest solar array on the planet. They’d like to make money in rnthe future as well. 

Question: Why are we so behind? 

Billrn McKibbon: We’re so behind for two reasons. One, we’re the most rnaddicted to fossil fuel of any country and hence it’s hard for us to rnkind of imagine change. It seems too scary. For some reason the rnEuropeans and others are just bolder in this way or more rational or rnsomething. But we’re also behind because this is the headquarters of thern fossil fuel industry and they’ve used their enormous power to keep rnchange from happening. ExxonMobil made more money each of the last threern years than any company in the history of money. In our political systemrn that buys them a lot of power to prevent change from happening and rnthey’ve done it effectively. 

Question: Do you rnconsider yourself an optimist or a pessimist? 

Bill rnMcKibbon: In some ways I’ve sort of given up trying to figure out rnwhether I’m an optimist or a pessimist. I just get in the morning and dorn my work and see what we can. Scientifically, one has to be more rnpessimistic. These changes are happening enormously quickly. That’s whatrn this new book of mine I’m afraid is kind of first to really catalog. rnIt’s a much darker scene even than we thought 20 years ago. Politically,rn though we haven’t yet accomplished anything, the last year has been rngood. This huge upswing of support for really means that for thern first time we have a movement going to kind of press for the political rnchange that we need. If we can make the movement large enough and rnpowerful enough then I think we have some chance of changing the rnpolitics. But it’s going to be a close call at best whether we get the rnchange we need in the time we need. Clearly it won’t come fast enough torn prevent an enormous problem, that’s already underway. Hopefully it willrn come fast enough to prevent sort of ultimate trouble. 
Recordedrn on April 13, 2010