Climate activist stumps for Sanders


With a tight race expected in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary on Feb. 9, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders continue to campaign heavily in the Granite State, and they’ve been getting some help from their friends.

Clinton was joined by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at town-hall events in Rochester and Manchester on Friday. The next morning, Shaheen launched a “Hillary for New Hampshire” canvass in Exeter.

Meanwhile, Sanders got some support from fellow Vermonter Bill McKibben, a renowned author and environmentalist who has written extensively about climate change. Among half a dozen stops in New Hampshire over two days, McKibben addressed voters at Portsmouth Book & Bar on the morning of Jan. 21.

McKibben told a few dozen guests at the café that they have a chance to “pivot the course of history” by helping Sanders get elected. He said it will take a big movement to tackle climate change and other major challenges, but he said Sanders has a “deep belief in the idea of movements and of engagement and of people coming together to do the work that democracy requires.”

Hitting on one of Sanders’ frequent talking points, McKibben cited a recent report indicating that the world’s 62 richest people have as much combined wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people.

“That can’t be stable. That can’t work for much longer, if it’s working now,” he said.

McKibben also brought up several media reports that emerged last year indicating that ExxonMobile knew “everything there was to know about climate change” by the early 1980s, and yet continued to fund climate denial for the next three decades.

“It’s amazing how often if you fight, you win. If you don’t fight, you don’t win.” — Bill McKibben

Meanwhile, the effects of climate change continue to cause widespread suffering. McKibben pointed to a mosquito-borne virus in Brazil that is causing babies to be born with shrunken heads. Global warming is exacerbating the problem by creating ideal conditions for the mosquitoes, McKibben said.

Wealth disparity and climate change are perhaps the two issues that Sanders brings up most frequently on the campaign trail. And those issues are closely linked, McKibben said, with big money in politics preventing significant action on climate change. He noted that the Koch brothers are expected to spend some $900 million on upcoming elections across the country.

“We’ve got to somehow stand up to the power of the fossil fuel industry,” he said.

While that seems like a daunting task, McKibben pointed to successful protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline as evidence of the power ordinary people can wield. Large-scale protests, which McKibben helped organize, led to President Barack Obama rejecting the proposed pipeline late last year, he said.

“It’s amazing how often if you fight, you win,” McKibben said. “If you don’t fight, you don’t win.”

In response to a question about Sanders’ electability, McKibben said he thinks Sanders would thrive in a general election. He noted that Sanders has polled well against Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, and relished the idea of the two debating.

“Bernie will make him look like the phony windbag that he is,” McKibben said.

The famed activist encouraged guests to watch Sanders’ latest campaign ad, which began airing the next day. Set to the Simon and Garfunkel song “America,” the ad pans through several images, including tugboats docked at the Port of New Hampshire. — Matt Kanner