The Ballad of Bill McKibben

04:57
Michael Levy

Lyrics

It was 1988 when young Bill was jarred awake
With the question “Is the world getting hotter?”
If time flies like an arrow bearing news of what’s to come,
Bill reached up his writer’s hand and caught her.

From his cabin in the hills, Bill thought we would find the will
Now that we knew, the action would be startin’
But nobody wanted to hear, and with each passing year
We dug ourselves deeper in the carbon.

Katrina came and went, and Mr. Gore made a serious dent
The world learned that the truth was inconvenient
Bill put down his pen—too little snow at Lake Champlain
Better get the word out now and mean it.

He gathered a little crew—They laced up their hiking shoes
Marching across Vermont to wake creation
Arriving in Burlington, a thousand had grown from one
The papers said, “a record demonstration.”

2007: the cards are dealt, and the Arctic starts to melt
Scientists shake their heads in consternation
What can one person do, living in the belly stew
Of the world’s most avid oil-consuming nation?

Somehow assemble power—Step It Up hour by hour
Eggheads with their studies get no traction
Bill and a few young minds, in only three months time
Fourteen hundred rallies for climate action

Leaders in denial, CO2 mounts all the while
Hansen says 350 is our ceiling
Spread it ‘round the globe, make sure everybody knows
Sound the trumpets, let’s see who the call brings

It turns out in every place—people are on the case
15,000 march in Ethiopia
Asian and black and brown—the poor and the young are down
350’s heard from Egypt to Estonia

Asleep in some motel, Bill rests up, the truth to tell
One more TV spot or climate rally
Trudging the speakers’ trail, sometimes a night in jail
Dreaming of back home in Champlain Valley

Bill says I run this race—in the name of my place
The tang of the frost when Fall hits the Adirondacks
Breadloaf and Otter Creek, Mt. Mansfield to the east
With these in my mind I find that my heart is on track

If you want a clue of what a force of nature can do
You might check out the one called Bill McKibben
And if we save our skin, it will be because, like him
We stand up for these places that we live in

What can a person do, here in the belly stew?
Never thought he’d even be a leader
Bill and a few young minds, in only three months time
Fourteen hundred rallies for climate action
Breadloaf and Otter Creek, Mt. Mansfield to the east
With these in my mind I find that my heart is on track

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