York Stater of the Month, September 2006: Bill McKibben

For the first time, we are going to feature in this monthly column someone who was neither born in Upstate New York nor currently lives here. However, I think that most York Staters will gladly join us in recognizing this incredible importance that Bill McKibben has had for both the region and environmental thought at large.

This last Friday, I attended a conference sponsored by the
Adirondack Museum entitled Living with Wilderness: Community and Nature in the Adirondacks[1]. The day-long event featured several prominent environmental speakers discussing the struggles that Adirondack communities are caught in trying to balance the demands of a healthy society with those of a healthy environment. The intriguing nature of the Park, and what makes it globally unique, is what McKibben referred to as “creative tension” surrounding the ever-present question within the Adirondacks: “can we coinhabit this world?”

It is this question that lies at the heart of all of McKibben’s works, which repeatedly demonstrate a profound respect for the natural world and a desire to find a place for human beings within it:

"...Human beings--any one of us, and our species as a whole--are not all-important, not at the center of the world. That is the one essential piece of information, the one great secret, offered by any encounter with the woods or the mountains or the ocean or any wilderness or chunk of nature or patch of night sky." --The Age of Missing Information, p. 229

Perhaps McKibben’s best know work was the seminal End of Nature (1989), which was one of the first calls to arms regarding global warming written for the general public. This incredible and cogent, if somewhat depressing, work is today a standard-bearer for the general environmental movement.

What many do not know is that McKibben wrote this text while living in Johnstown in the Adirondack Park. This “landscape of hope” (his words) has inspired a number of his works. In fact, I’m currently reading his latest, Wandering Home, where he travels by foot from his current home in Middlebury, Vermont, back to his old home in the Adirondacks, exploring how people throughout this landscape are attempting to remake their relationships with the land. Like so many prominent environmental thinkers
[2] before him, New York’s great experiment has profoundly affected the way he views the land and the people.

And so, despite his lack of current York State credentials, we here at York Staters salute Bill McKibben, the “best known American environmental author in the world.”
[3] We also recognize that he stands in for any number of lesser known writers, poets, scientists and philosophers that have been inspired by the land and the communities of Upstate New York—their work may not be as well known, but is no less important in the grand picture. To all of you, we thank you for your hard work and encourage you to continue.

-Posted by Jesse

Bill’s Homepage
Articles by McKibben

[1] More on this seminal event to come.
[2] Such as Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, Verplanck Colvin, John Marshall and Ralph Waldo Emerson
[3] A quote from a professor friend of mine who teaches environmental studies at SUNY Potsdam.

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