A Sentimentalist

"At some level," says Bill McKibben '82, "you could fairly accuse me of being a sentimentalist, I suppose."

Anyone reading McKibben's first book, The End of Nature would have no doubts. McKibben is sentimental, especially in discussing the world of lakes and mountains that surrounds his Adirondack home.

"What remains of it, and where it is pristine and beautiful, makes me incredibly happy," McKibben says.

That spirit runs throughout the The End of Nature in which McKibben argues that the process of global warming is killing off the very idea of nature by extending the reach of humanity throughout the planet.

McKibben, a former president of The Crimson, worked after graduation for The New Yorker, where he wrote the "Talk of the Town" column. At times, The End of Nature reads like an extended New Yorker column, as it dashes from current scientific theory to the literary rhapsodies of Henry D. Thoreau (Class of 1837) to his own experiences in upstate New York.

To counter the process of global warming, McKibben says, humanity needs to give up its "defiant" attitude and begin to think of the planet as a whole.

"I really do think that it's important for people to begin to think of the world as other than for their own comfort and convenience--as a sort of resource for people to mine forever."

But he acknowledges that such a solution doesn't really solve the basic problem which The End of Nature poses. By voluntarily choosing to reshape our society, we would still relegate nature to a secondary role. The natural world would exist in an untainted state only because we had willed it to do so.

Nonetheless, he says, such a situation is infinitely preferable to a pseudonatural world in which no one can count on a regular pattern. And he says he is very encouraged by the response people have shown to his book.

McKibben says that he believes that it is possible to find a solution to the global warming problem. People who "figured out how you could build an airplane that can fly eight times the speed of sound" can invent a way to survive without damaging the planet, he says.

"We've risen to the occasion before," McKibben says.