By JJ Luceno
A lot of us had expected more “fire and brimstone,” as one person put it, when Bill McKibben stepped onto our campus. What we found in our Baird classroom instead was a soft-spoken man who paused before choosing his words. Maybe a piece of us wanted to be riled up. Maybe we wanted him to make us feel something by flipping our roundtable into a soapbox for an impassioned speech. That was not the man in our classroom.
Part of me resented this man who spent his time tucked away in a little cabin in the woods describing a once pristine nature. The End of Nature painted a picture that isn’t sitting outside everyone’s kitchen window. Another part of me deeply respected someone who could galvanize interest and enthusiasm across so many borders and despite so many different languages, cultures and levels of consumption. The Baird experience has been that of a tightrope. I often find myself balancing between these competing contradictions and insights. That’s the point isn’t it?
The aim of this semester’s series of speakers is that we should end up with not just more but tougher questions. While it is easy to find the shortcomings of these leaders of the environmental movement, it has been even more challenging to confront the question of my own role in the issue. Maybe the Oberlin Project doesn’t reach far enough into pre-existing inequalities of consumption and access and maybe McKibben’s movement ignores those not already at the table because he feels the issue is too pressing to wait, but does that make them inefficient means? I don’t think so. They never asked to be templates. These are the paths that these leaders have created and we ourselves must define our own path within the multitudes of movements that surround us.