Environmentalist Bill McKibben urges Grinnell College graduates to tackle climate change by becoming engaged citizens

May 19, 2015, 09:00 ET from Grinnell College

GRINNELL, Iowa, May 19, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Bill McKibben, environmental activist, author and founder of 350.org, addressed more than 400 Grinnell College graduates, urging them to them to tackle issues of climate change by embracing community and citizenship.

"This is the date that the last training wheels [of citizenship] come off and it's a moment when we desperately need you as full-fledged citizens," McKibben told Grinnell's Class of 2015 during the college's 169th Commencement Exercises, which drew a crowd of more than 3,000 to central campus on Monday, May 18.

The answer to climate change, McKibben added, "has to be citizenship --- aggressive, engaged and occasionally impolite citizenship."

As examples of climate change, McKibben cited the unprecedented drought in California and the rapid weakening of Antarctica's Larsen B Ice Shelf.

On a positive note, McKibben reported that on Sunday, May 17, Denmark generated 115 percent of the power that it used from the sun and the wind. Denmark, he added, does not have a monopoly on sun and wind, but the transition to renewable energy is not happening fast enough in other countries because of opposition from the fossil fuel industry.

In conclusion, McKibben encouraged the graduates to use their digital communications skills to build support across the globe for solving climate change and other major problems.

"The most important thing an individual can do is to not always be an individual, but to join together with others," he said. "All of us are in this together, and we are so overjoyed that that 'us' is today so magnificently enlarged."

McKibben received an honorary degree from Grinnell, as did:

  • Mary Seely, who works in environmental science, education and policy in southern Africa
  • Penny Bender Sebring, a life trustee and 1964 graduate of Grinnell College, a senior research associate at the University of Chicago and co-director of the Consortium of Chicago School Research
  • Charles Lewis, chairman of the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation, managing general partner of Coach House Capital and founder, along with his wife, Penny Bender Sebring, of the Grinnell Careers in Education Professions program
  • Kit Abel Hawkins, founder and director of the Arbor School of Arts and Sciences, a K-8 private school in Tualatin, Oregon

About Grinnell College
Since its founding in 1846, Grinnell has become one of the nation's premier liberal arts colleges, enrolling 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries. Grinnell's rigorous academic program emphasizes excellence in education for students in the liberal arts; the college offers the B.A. degree in a range of departments across the humanities, arts and sciences. Grinnell has a strong tradition of social responsibility and action, and self-governance and personal responsibility are key components of campus life. More information about Grinnell College is available at www.grinnell.edu.

Lisa Lacher

EDITORS' NOTE: Video of Bill McKibben's remarks (and the rest of Grinnell's commencement ceremony) is available upon request from Lisa Lacher, 515-343-9030 or lacherl@grinnell.edu.

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20150518/216900

SOURCE Grinnell College