Bill McKibben, our environmental Pied Piper, is at it again

Bill McKibben

You gotta admire Bill McKibben. And you gotta wonder, where the frack does the guy get his indefatigable energy??

Off he goes again this week, starting a new campaign to protest hydraulic fracking in Ohio—you know, the state where natural gas drill rigs caused manmade earthquakes.

I think we all have a pretty good idea of how bad it is to have flammable toxic fumes coming out of your water faucets, earthquakes rumbling in your backyard, and tons of toxic waste building up above and below ground level.

Fracking sucks and we know it. It must be stopped. The question is, are we going to follow Pied Piper Bill to Ohio to occupy the Statehouse and make our demands known?

No doubt there will be plenty of Ohioans and even ardent out-of-state environmentalists who rally to the call, just as they did last summer when Bill led them down to Washington DC for sit-ins to protest the Keystone XL.

That battle did score some points, although more recently it seems that the southern portion of the titanic pipeline is going to be built after all, another huge investment in 20th century thinking and technology that can lead us in one direction only: over the nearest cliff.


In the Grimm fairytale, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” the town suffers from a plague of rats, which only the Pied Piper can solve.  When the town councilmen refuse to give the Piper his just reward for destroying all the rats, he takes his revenge, leading all the children of the town into a mountain cave, from which they are never recovered.  The moral of the story: don’t cheat the Piper!

Today the rats we suffer from are precisely the fossil fuel industry and their military-industrial, Big Ag, Big Finance brethren, which are, as in the Grimm story, destroying our homeland and eating us alive.

Even if Bill McKibben could lead all those rats into the river, we would still be left with the greedy councilmen, our politicians, who would very likely continue playing by the old rules, and would bring further disasters upon us.

When the Piper wanted to punish the town fathers, he did so not by attacking them directly, but by attacking their children.

Truly, there can be nothing worse than being forced to watch your children suffer and die.

Sometimes I think that the only way the rich and privileged are going to listen to reason and stop their destructive, world-killing ways is if they are forced to confront the reality of what their children will have to live with in the future, because of the lifestyles they themselves are living now.

I say “they” but I should be saying “we,” because I certainly have participated in this destructive lifestyle my whole life.  We humans, especially privileged Americans and Europeans, have been the rats that have been destroying the global village for decades now.

Unlike rats, though, we humans generally respond to reason.  We can be persuaded to change our ways, especially if we can be made to understand that the future survival of our precious children is at stake.

What sort of tune would the Piper need to play to change the hearts and minds of the frackers, for example?  Or the loggers, or the tar sands extractors, or the nuclear power plant engineers?

Bill McKibben has been tireless in his efforts to hit the right notes to attract enough people to follow him—not over a cliff or into a mountain tomb, but into a sustainable future.

You gotta admire the guy.  You gotta think—maybe I should get on that bus for Ohio.

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