Bill McKibben: From NIMBY to NOOPA

November 15, 2011

Bill Mckibben in Grist – writing on the Keystone decision.

Everyone from Tim DeChristopher speaking from jail to Robert Redford speaking from YouTubemade it clear that this is a more united opposition than the oil companies are used to dealing with. An opposition that takes strength from small victories, and which should be starting to worry the fossil-fuel industry just a little bit.

So I think we need a new name. Faced with projects like tar-sands oil which carry the possibility of deeply damaging the earth’s support systems, we should take to calling ourselves NOOPs: Not On Our Planet.

And if I weren’t a Methodist Sunday School teacher, I fear I’d be tempted to add an A to the end. If you’re an oil company executive willing to keep altering the chemical composition of the earth’s atmosphere, or a coal baron who thinks it’s okay to remove mountaintops, or a gas tycoon eager to pollute both water and air in search of some fracked riches — NOOPA! Find yourself a spaceship.

There is no Planet B.

25 Responses to “Bill McKibben: From NIMBY to NOOPA”


  1. The “A” must he McKibben’s signature, as even the NYT and the WaPo have realized stopping Keystone XL will do nothing at all, apart from moving oil to China very conveniently both for China (more oil) and Canada (slightly higher prices) .

    If 350.org is the defender of the planet, I pity the planet.

    • Martin_Lack Says:

      Anyone who can say “stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline will do nothing” (and I have read all those Fox News style reports and write-ups) shows a truly alarming inability to think laterally. Unfortunately, I fear that such one-dimensional, growth-fixated, thinking spells doom for us all.

      10,000 species in danger of extinction already, 1 in 5 plant species in the UK under threat, DNA and seed banks established in order to preserve vital information (in the hope of less anthropocentric in the future)… The Earth’s six major extinction event is already underway although, uniquely, this time it is being caused by a single species. This is not liberal misanthropic sentiment it is an old-fashioned undeniable fact. Therefore, the demonstrable ability of some to ignore it (or deny it) is truly astonishing.

    • Robert McClelland Says:

      People who say the tarsands oil will simply flow to China are ill informed. The Northern Gateway pipeline project required to ship the oil to the west coast is already facing heavy opposition and there’s a decent chance it too will never get built. The 40 public environmental hearings scheduled for next January have a record 4,000 people and groups registered to speak.


  2. “must be” not “must he”


  3. If those folks, Mr. McKibben included, went to jail for no reason, then what should they have been doing with their time? What’s your plan to save the planet?


  4. Martin – it’s another topic you know little about. Stopping Keystone XL means burning that same oil in China instead of the USA. So it will do nothing in terms of emission reductions. Please only comment AFTER reading on a topic.

    • Martin_Lack Says:

      My point is that made by James Hansen: Unless we phase out coal-burning by 2030 and choose not to develop all unconventional hydrocarbon sources (coal bed methane, oil shale, tar sands, deep sea oil, etc), we have zero chance of meeting international agreements on emissions reductions. Clearly, this assumes that you accept that we need to reduce our emissions. I can’t help it (or you, or the planet), if you do not.

      Another point made by Hansen is that all attempts at emissions reductions have failed because even those involved in the UNFCCC process are in denial about the urgency of the need for radical change in the way meet our global energy demands; and that nothing will change until politicians free themselves from the influence of big business in general; and oil money in particular.

      A global problem needs a global solution, but this will not be possible unless or until people stop invoking the selfish “if we don’t burn it someone else will” argument. To do so, merely proves how right Garrett Hardin’s ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ was.

      Therefore, with all due respect, your failure (or refusal) to see this bigger picture suggests to me that it is you that needs to do some more (i.e. wider) background reading.


    • omnologos, your point (fatalistic as it may be) might be valid if the alternative pipelines through British Columbia were a done deal, which they are not.

      The existing TransMountain pipeline would need to be expanded to accommodate the tar sands crude and the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines is still in the proposal phase.

      Both pipelines are encountering their share of resistance as is without the weight of 350.org – it ain’t over ’till it’s over.


  5. No, sir, your failure to understand how stopping keystone XL is a totally useless diversion no matter how one looks at it, is the strongest evidence yet that you’re here to pontificate about stuff you don’t grasp.

  6. Martin_Lack Says:

    I am not sure what it is you think I am not grasping, since you have not provided any credible response to the breadth of Hansen’s critique or the logic of his arguments. Just because Einstein was wrong to say that “God does not play dice with the Universe” does not mean that we should all gamble-away our children’s inheritence in the pursuit of short-term hedonistic greed.

    Anytime you can, just feel free to tell us all where Hansen has gone wrong; and I for one will be delighted to hear it. But until then – and until you have a credible solution (that does not involve denying we have a problem) – why don’t you do us all a favour; and stop wasting your energy.


  7. I give up on Martin and his inability to explain how exactly Obama’s decision will change a jot about CO2 emissions.


  8. Can’t wait to see oil prices shooting up and all that equipment in Canada remaining idle because of lack of pipes.

    • adelady Says:

      Well there are plenty of places around the world where perfectly fine, financially profitable asbestos mines are quietly rusting away because we _decided_ to abandon them. The risks of using the stuff were just too horrible.

      Asbestos is a great analogy to fossil materials. We have always had alternatives for power generation and transport, just as we always had other building and insulation materials. In both cases, the modern and still improving alternative materials and processes have not and will not bankrupt us.

      We just have to make the decision. Then act on it.

      • Martin_Lack Says:

        This is a brilliant analogy (i.e. asbestos mining) – one I have never thought of (despite having visted Wittenoom in the Hamersley Range of Western Australia over 20 years ago and thus seen the aftermath of such mining for myself). Thank you for your insight.


  9. […] not NIMBY, that’s NOOP, Ah! Share this:Email 0 Comments – Leave a comment! « Previous […]


  10. It’s a poor analogy instead. Just list asbestos uses and substitutes, and oil uses and substitutes. It’s a wholly different class.

    There was no China ready to gorge on asbestos.

    • Martin_Lack Says:

      Maurizio, How much effort does it take you to wilfully misunderstand people or misrepresetn their arguments? The point is that, having discovered the dangers of asbestos dust, we collectively decided (as a species) to leave it in the ground. It is therefore an excellent analogy – and a very salutory one – because not only are we showing little sign of doing the same with fossil fuel, we have a significant recalcitrant minority of the population who refuse to accept that, when being injected into the atmosphere from non-renewable sources at a rate that is far in excess of the Earth’s ability to assimilate it, carbon dioxide is even more dangerous than asbestos dust (because of the likelihood of mass extinction of species if we do not stop it soon).


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