McKibben’s Turtle

Because last night’s lecture was our class this week, I hoped for some posts on the lecture while it’s still fresh.

I included the lecture on our syllabus to focus a spotlight on the importance of helping our students know, name, nurture and work their intellectual projects, their “turtles.”

Bill McKibben’s palpable passion for his own intellectual work was for me last night a model for living an engaged life.

As a long-time high school teacher, I wanted to ask him about the origins of the project in adolescence and the influences that were especially important to him as a young man. I wanted to know if there were teachers, a teacher, who had “known” him and had affirmed his interests. Maybe even suggested books for him to read.

I wanted to know how Bill McKibben came to embrace his turtle. This has been my own project — over decades–to help my students recognize and or find their turtles.

I wonder what you’re thinking. Do quote Carroll and/or McKibben in your comment or post. KES

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8 responses to “McKibben’s Turtle

  1. mandygrl101

    I thought McKibben was fantastic the other night. He spoke eloquently about important issues and I also believe that his passion for the environment/social issues is evident. When I got home from his lecture, I turned on Glenn Beck ‘s show and he was ironically talking about global warming with a “specialist”, who repeatedly denied global warming was even happening. As McKibben warned about in his speech, this specialist was arguing that global warming is essentially a scam meant to hinder the economy and negatively effect other aspects of economics, including businesses, industries and factories. No mention of the future, only the here and now and production. It is so mind-blowing that research, NASA specialists and other scientific-based information continues to be denied by people in our society and by our government. Further, a lot of what McKibben talked about in relation to the lack of action taken to protect the environment can also be considered true of education in this country as well, something I was thinking about as he was speaking. Current strategies and reform efforts are not enough, and it is increasingly clear that the U.S. needs to “step it up” not only in terms of environmental action, but also in terms of education.

    -Mandy

  2. traverse02

    Mandy is right, McKibben’s speech was incredible. His knowledge on the subject and his examples shed light on the entire issue of Global Warming and made our positions in the matter evident. We either do something, or we don’t. It was a hard speech to take at times and a few things continue to make me feel uncomfortable.

    First off, there is my commute. I really don’t mind the drive at all, but that’s what worries me. That’s a significant amount of gas to use for one person. It just struck me as absurd after the lecture when I was filling my tank, just watching the numbers add up. Add onto that my my late night excursions to Wendy’s and the “Billions and Billions” served at McDonald’s…. McKibben’s straw, sucking the energy, the product, straight to our lips from thousands of miles away.

    He was right, he meant to make us uncomfortable. Though he managed to do it in a often amusing way, his sense of urgency permeated throughout the audience–at least, to those who were actually paying attention–and his call to action truly challenged us to go beyond our routine to do something right. Maybe that’s the reason people left immediately after he finished? Maybe they couldn’t handle thinking about the environment? Maybe they really did have better things to do? Or maybe, they were going to miss out on a new episode of HOUSE.

    I wanted to ask a question and I didn’t. I had just finished writing a blog on Plato’s Meno and the importance of asking questions and I completely failed to apply it. At the time, I felt my question was too open ended and I didn’t feel comfortable especially after a few people used the Q&A to make some unrelated announcements. I would have/should have/could have asked him whether or not he had ever gotten aid from celebrities. Since they are the trend-setters, the people with dozens of cars, private jets, yachts, ponies etc. (Ponies?) I wanted to know about their involvement in the movement to help the planet.

    I know that they throw a lot of money at charity organizations, but aren’t they more responsible than that? They have all the money. They have all the attention. If celebrity were James Bond, women would want him, and men would all want to be him.

    Shouldn’t they be a little bit more modest? Does anyone really need more than one car? Why a dozen? Why Hummers? Shouldn’t these people be a little more responsible since our culture, for some ungodly reason, has put such investment in them?

    Maybe people didn’t want to ask questions for fear of being tazered. But McKibben wouldn’t allow that to happen to anybody. He’s a good guy, just looking out for everyone, trying to inform and muster the troops, so to speak. Which is why I feel even more stupid for not asking the question.

    But, that’s enough of my digression from Mandy’s main point. Altogether, it was cage rattling experience.

    -Raph

  3. ll123

    I really enjoyed McKibben’s lecture the other night. I was impressed by his passion and humor that had attracted our attention throughout his speech. However, I did have one question that I should have asked him privately: Why so many Westerners went to China and only brought back negative image and information? Why couldn’t they see the positive side of China that I saw with my own eyes when I went to China this summer? I did not and still do not feel comfortable about this, yet I didn’t ask such a question publicly due to courtesy. Posted by L. L.

  4. sunyprof

    I appreciate all your thoughts about the lecture. Did you think, Li, that McKibben was negative about China? I admit I missed that if it was in his lecture. I thought he was reporting some of what he saw there–to compare the much more difficult lives of the rural working poor to our own affluent lives.

    As for celebrity–yes Raph the cult of celebrity in this country is a phenomenom that distracts us from the issues McKibben wants us to focus on.

    Take a look at the recent discussions that took place at the International Conf. on Energy Security and Climate Change at the State Dept. last Friday. Here’s a discussion from the Environment News Service on that forum.

  5. allison

    Thank you, Professor Stearns, for that additional article about climate change.
    One of the things that captured me at McKibben’s lecture was the connection between the economy and the environment. Indeed, Bush spoke about the connection at the conference. Here is a quote from the article.
    “‘Each nation will design its own separate strategies for making progress toward achieving this long-term goal. These strategies will reflect each country’s different energy resources, different stages of development, and different economic needs,’ said the U.S. president.
    Bush intends to ensure that the United States economy grows as a result of global free trade in energy technology, particularly nuclear technology”

    McKibben spoke about all of the stuffed animals that his daughter has as a representation of the material consumption of our society. Well, people like McKibben’s daughter and myself will be happy to know that Bush intends to ensure that our economy will not be hurt by the energy reforms. Good to know we can keep our teddy bears. I wonder if this will actually work though….

    Since my primary interest is English education, and not the environment, I will move on. I’d love to know how everyone related the lecture to education. Personally, I thought McKibben would make a great professor because he seems to really get students involved in the topic. I could also see him teaching an “environmental issues” elective in a high school. It was awesome how he started the website with those 6 college students.

    He is really in touch with youth. I was shocked when he said that he only worked with 20-year olds. I had to wonder, why do people in their 30s and 40s not get on board? Is it because they have careers and do not have time? Is it because they are not interested? Why are only college students the ones who really get invovled on these issues? I think we can learn something by his connection to young people, though. He doesn’t disregard a person simply for being young. From McKibben, we can learn that our students are smart enough and enthusiastic enough to do BIG things.

  6. sunyprof

    McKibben and Bush seem to hold opposing views.

    Allison, I think he works w/Middlebury College students–thus the reference to 20 year olds; I know his work in the environmental movement casts a wide net. Check out his stepitup website.

    The video is terrific.

    You mention what a good professor he is/must be. What can we learn from him? I ask this question implicitly in my own post.

    I’m interested in our analyzing why I wanted to substitute this lecture for our class on Tuesday. KES

  7. allison

    I know, I was trying to address your original post. It’s easy to get talking about the environmental issues and I was trying to get back on track with the educational focus. I think McKibben is a great teacher. He certainly represents a different method! Imagine if all classes were as engaging as his lecture.

  8. canadawr5

    I guess one day I can find my turtle, but it will probably take a while because you need experience.
    He didn’t talk much about being a teacher, it seemed like he was more engaged with the ideas of saving our environment. I wished he had of talked more about being an educator, I could still use some helpful hints.

    Ray Canada

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