An article published in Rolling Stone in summer 2012 – Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math – drew attention to the need to keep us from burning the fossil fuels we have access to. It went viral and was followed by a Do the Math tour of campuses run by McKibben’s campaigning group 350.org, which included ‘After-math’ parties for community organising. With explicit echoes of action on South Africa, the resultingGo Fossil Free Campaign aims to limit funds and damage the social licence of the fossil fuel industry by inviting people to move their money, with a strong focus on seeding student communities of activists.
Academic Matt Nisbet, who has made a study of McKibben, criticises him for what he sees as a latent techno-scepticism, and offers Andrew Revkin as an alternative for those seeking a public intellectual on climate and energy. But Nisbet also praises McKibben’s abilities as a community organiser. We’ve seen these communities deepen in the US, and go global. What these communities go on to do will probably be as important to watch as any further leadership McKibben offers.