Bill McKibben isn’t a full-time Pollyanna, he says, but he is optimistic about the way people are reacting to the reality that they are impacting the environment. “People are ready for a real change,” he said, adding that change doesn’t come easy, but can be done.

This notion will likely be something he will explain during a special lecture he will be giving at UCSB on Sunday.

In his new book, Deep Economy, McKibben says the U.S. should try to limit the economy larger from growing larger. For the first time, more no longer equals better. The country’s devotion to economic growth is getting us in environmental trouble, he said – “It’s not making us happier or more satisfied.” There needs to be a stronger, tighter, localized economy to reduce energy and also to rebuild a tighter local community

McKibben’s rallying cry for the long-term is to move in a direction that is more local, with residents buying food from local growers and generating more of their own energy. The fastest growing sector of the food economy is farmers markets, McKibben said, and a recent poll shows 44 percent of people won’t purchase a car which gets less than 30 miles to the gallon. Having a solar panel is no longer considered a silly idea.

So what can be done now?

People need to go beyond screwing in energy efficient light bulbs and start getting involved politically,” McKibben said. Without pressure on the federal government, change won’t happen, McKibben teaches students at Middlebury College, where he started a program called Step It Up 2007 to prove to Congress that people were serious about changing. Step It Up organized 1,400 rallies held in all 50 states two weeks ago, and among the talking points at the rallies was a demand for Congress to cut carbon use in the U.S. by 80 percent by 2050.

If the country begins restructuring the prices of energy sources and begins giving subsidies to industrial agricultural concerns and alternative energy companies, the natural gravitation will allow people to buy into programs and ideas which are environmentally friendly. “It will be easier to have local food, it will be easier to put solars on roofs,” McKibben said.

McKibben will be speaking on “Beyond Understanding the Problem: Citizen Action for Global Warming Solutions” at UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion Sunday at 7 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public.


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