Podcast • October 3, 2017

Karl Ove Knausgaard on Art and Loneliness

Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote a 6-volume selfie that a lot of us can’t stop reading. My Struggle he called it, looking inward and talking to himself for thousands of pages. Autumn, his new book, is ...

Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote a 6-volume selfie that a lot of us can’t stop reading. My Struggle he called it, looking inward and talking to himself for thousands of pages. Autumn, his new book, is a relief for him and us: It looks outward, in short pieces, letters to a new daughter before she was born, about Stubble Fields, Telephones, Wellington boots, chimneys, the painter Vincent Van Gogh. You name it, he’ll write it, a theme a day as in the college course we wish we’d taken.

In conversation it’s not one guy introspecting, it’s two guys groping for a connection, sitting in the back of my house in Boston for most of an hour in the storm season of 2017. What’s the difference, I’m asking, between his narcissism and President Trump’s?

We’re jumping from Russian novels to gene editing to the experience of loneliness, and I’m finding him wide open to engagement. He’s generous, transparent, in effect: innocent. Here’s an excerpt of the interview below:

Karl Ove Knausgaard: The books I’d been writing before were so introspective and so analytic and so self-analyzing. That’s very much about relations, very much about psychology, and it’s basically all about the interior life. And this book is the opposite. I’m looking at something outside of myself, and it is the things themselves that should be in the center, basically yes removed from myself. But from thing to me was to see what happens if you write, you know in your own style personally, about something objective that happens with an encyclopedia thought of the world, you know. Everything becomes, in the end, very personal anyway somehow. It’s impossible to remove yourself. You never think of quality of writing in an encyclopedic text, you know, in a dictionary. It’s just like it’s a matter of fact: this is the world. But what you discover when you write about it that’s just not true. The objective world just doesn’t exist. It’s all a relationship between me and the world and you and the world. There is nothing else.

Christopher Lydon: So why get out of yourself after so long inside? Was it for relief?

KOK: Yeah, very much a relief. It was joyful to write this book, and it wasn’t joyful to write My Struggle, as my previous book was called. But a joyful part is, you know, because I am writing about joyful things. I’m writing about being alive in this world, which is joyful. We do forget it all the time, but it is. And this book is mainly set in a garden and a house, and that’s it. That’s where the world is. I mean, even when there are hurricanes and, you know, climate change and all the wars and hunger and all of this, this is still true. It does exist.

Video: On Van Gogh and the Life of an Artist

Video by Zach Goldhammer. Illustrations by Susan Coyne.

October 27, 2016

‘The Great Derangement’

The most urgent existential risk facing the world today has received barely a footnote’s worth of attention in this presidential campaign. Over the course of the past three presidential debates, a grand total of five ...

The most urgent existential risk facing the world today has received barely a footnote’s worth of attention in this presidential campaign. Over the course of the past three presidential debates, a grand total of five minutes and twenty-seven seconds were devoted to discussing climate change and the environment. (That equates to 2% of the total time.)

But it’s not just us Americans and our presidential candidates who are slouching away from the looming climate crisis: a recent global survey done by the United Nations reveals that climate change ranks dead last on a list of the issues that matter most to people around the world.

Climate scientists have sounded the alarm and the world has responded by hitting the snooze button. What’s going on here?

The novelist Amitav Ghosh says our inability to grasp the scale of climate change is a failure of imagination. It’s a long story that’s tangled up in the spectacle of global politics, western imperialism, and a world-wide obsession with growth. In his new book, The Great Derangement, Ghosh examines how the public consciousness has been made impotent by a neoliberal machine. We must be deranged, Ghosh says. “We live in an era that worships science. Scientism is all around us, but we can’t take on the lessons science is teaching us.”

Later, we’re joined by the acclaimed biographer Andrea Wulf who tells us about the remarkable life and mind of Alexander Von Humboldt — an 18th century Prussian scientist, who Emerson once hailed as “one of the wonders of the world.” We’ll find out what environmental insights one of the greatest scientists of the 18th century has to offer the 21st. Journalist and naturalist Michael McCarthy enters the conversation and shares with us the abundance of joys to be found in nature, as well as the heartbreaking realities of contemporary species loss.


Contemporary illustration of Alexander von Humboldt – from the cover of ‘The Invention of Nature’.

We’re joined also by transgender signer Anohni, whose politically-charged new record Hopelessness takes direct aim at the Obama administration and its failure to bring sanity to our deranged situation. Anohni urges us to look past the charade of identity in this campaign season and turn our attention towards the existential threats to our planet. Hear an extended part of the conversation:


Illustration by Susan Coyne 

August 18, 2016

Apocalypse Now?, Part 3: So Far, So Good?

You can hear the first part of our summer series, “Apocalypse Now?” here, and Part 2 here. We’ve come to the end of the end: our third and final apocalyptic investigation (for now!). In the ...


You can hear the first part of our summer series, “Apocalypse Now?” here, and Part 2 here.

We’ve come to the end of the end: our third and final apocalyptic investigation (for now!).

In the first two episodes we faced a future of superintelligent machines and a nearer-term genetic revolution—all (still) a little sci-fi. But we’re closing with the apocalyptic anxieties of Right Now, and the beginnings of a reorientation.

That story begins with the 20th century, which our leadoff guest, Amb. Chas Freeman, learned his trade as a diplomat and advisor. It was a period of enormous development, in spite of the twin Armageddons of the world wars, with America rising to the top of the heap. And it set our species moving at a turbocharged clip—after 250,000 years of relative tranquility. We live pretty high up the hockey-stick inflection in every kind of graph measuring human growth and progress: consumption, carbon emissions, productivity, population growth, economic expansion, and computer processing power.

A few numbers for context. In 1900, there were 1.4 billion humans. Today, there are 7.3 billion. The “gross world product”—a roundup of all human-produced value—grew from about one trillion dollars to more than 77 trillion dollars over that same period.

When you dwell long enough on all the turbulence of the last century, it becomes kind of a miracle that we made it to this one. And yet, when it comes to carbon pollution, we seem to be stepping over our first threshold. Finally, planetary consequences. It’s a caution: can we count on the spaceship Earth to keep cruising at its incredible clip?


Our guest, the great investor Jeremy Grantham, reminds us if the population of ancient Egypt had grown at even 1 percent a year across 3,000 years, it would have increased by a factor of 9 trillion. (Instead it doubled.)

And yet our population is still growing at that rate, year after year. Economists tell us to expect even greater growth in GDP: 2 or 3 percent, year over year. Grantham warns us that what goes up must come down:

The people who [dismiss the possible end of growth] are really like the people falling out a very tall, burning building: “so far, so good, so far, so good.” Of course, the “so far, so good” argument can always be used, but anyone with a slight math tendency can see that compound growth is unsustainable.

Grantham calls this period “the race of our lives”—the last-ditch, hundred-year effort to step up technological development in order to convert our civilization into something sustainable, harmonious, equal and fair. He gives us a 50-50 shot of making it!

The activist-turned-novelist Paul Kingsnorth would put it a slightly different way. After a career of advocacy, he’s restarted life with his family, farming and writing in the Irish countryside. Where Grantham preaches collective effort on technological fixes, Kingsnorth preaches repair, if not quite retreat: working land, baking bread, unlearning dependencies and relearning skills.

The solution to the problem of apocalyptic risk in our society lives somewhere in the middle—between the technological crusade and the moral revolution.

A final production note!

We heard that the doomy tone of the past few shows was getting to some of our younger listeners—born at the end of the last century but determined to do some good in this one. So Christopher Lydon concluded the series with a reminder from the eternal optimist Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote that “the World Spirit is a good swimmer.” From his first book, Nature:

All that Adam had, all that Caesar could, you have and can do. Adam called his house, heaven and earth; Caesar called his house, Rome; you perhaps call yours, a cobler’s trade; a hundred acres of ploughed land; or a scholar’s garret. Yet line for line and point for point, your dominion is as great as theirs, though without fine names. Build, therefore, your own world.

In other words: onward—ever onward!


January 29, 2015

The Challenge of Our Time

We’re continuing our “money machine” series on the cost of carbon capitalism. Gas gets cheaper, the weather gets warmer, and for our guests the environmental activists Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben, the choice is clear: ...

We’re continuing our “money machine” series on the cost of carbon capitalism. Gas gets cheaper, the weather gets warmer, and for our guests the environmental activists Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben, the choice is clear: change our ways, or reap the whirlwind.

In her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate, Klein is counting on change in the atmosphere as the contradictions intensify between the earth and the economy. After all, she says, no one insures the globe, though it’s too big to fail. No one bails out the vanishing woods and wildlife.

We’re wondering whether and how American capitalism will take to remaking, especially since it’s the geopolitical meek who inherit the earth’s problems. (Check out this Guardian infographic, which shows where historical carbon emissions and rapid development collide to endanger… underdeveloped non-emitters.)

Read our social-media recap of the show on Storify. (One of our goals in 2015 is to add collect thoughts and reactions to our broadcasts, and this is one medium we’ll be experimenting with.)



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What has to happen: the Global Calculator

By Max Larkin.

American people on the left and right answered in common that they’d like the state to make changes to heal the climate. It’s unclear, though, whether and how us Westerners can reset their appetites and expectations to the problem, if push came to shove. (This was Elizabeth Kolbert’s big problem with This Changes Everything). Even in the age of Inhofe’s denialism, the citizenry knows that big change is called for. Still we patc together penny-ante fixes, scaled to what’s called ‘political will’.

What needs to happen? Where do we start? Enter the Global Calculator, a new online tool engineered by the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change and an international team of organizations. It looks like something that you might see on the deck of the Enterprise.

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Get over the learning curve, and you can see the variables, all of them notionally up for debate, that could keep us shy of the famous 2º threshold until 2050 — or push us past it.

You can hack your way to your own personal program using the tool — maybe you believe we all really need air travel, but can handle nuclear energy and favor ‘cozy’ apartments.

But maybe the most interesting feature of the Calculator is the list of “example pathways” to safe emissions. These 2º pathways share a few premises: that world population will grow toward 10 billion by 2050, and that the global economy serving those 10 billion will triple in size.

But a few scenarios stand out:

In the ‘consumer reluctance’ scenario our worst fears are confirmed, and consumers turn out to be unwilling to shift away from carbon-intensive transit, cooking and power. The calculator proves that even if this were the case, we could stay shy of 2º — but it would take much more nuclear power and renewables on the grid, and a makeover of land use and food production.
On the other hand, if Klein is right to be optimistic and we’re waking up to a new kind of citizen activism, we can get to climate health with less nuclear power and little tweaks: eating more chicken and lamb and less lamb and beef, for example. (This news will be taken hard in certain corners of our office.)
Speaking of which, The Vegan Society has the problem sussed — cut the average citizen’s caloric intake to 2,100 per diem (and ditch almost all the meat) and you’re well on your way.
Finally, there’s the World Energy Council’s consumption-driven pathway. The WEC named this revolution in buying the as “Jazz” scenario, compared to a “Symphony” of government-led remaking of industry. They say one isn’t necessarily better than the other, but it does dramatize that what we do in our homes doesn’t “get us to 2º” nearly as easily as structural reforms and laws can.

What can we learn about our own carbon footprints from the Calculator? A few lessons:

1.) Protect the forests and you’ve done a lot.
2.) World governments can save us, but they can kill us, too, by deregulating, digging, and fueling militaries all across the globe.
3.) Tolerate the vegetarians in your life, no matter how preachy they may get, because:
4.) America’s chickens may come home to roost, but it’s beef that will kill us all.

Vonnegut’s “Requiem”

Finally, take a listen to what amounts to Kurt Vonnegut’s literary last words, a kind of sigh over the ravaged planet. Our friend, the actor John Davin (veteran of our Chekhov readings), came by and did a wonderful job bringing the poem — never read by Vonnegut that we could find — to life.

By the Way • October 5, 2014

Report: The People’s Climate March

The march announced itself by force of numbers, and by its feel. No one seemed angry. This is not to say that the marchers had been bought off, or didn't understand the long odds facing them, or even that they aren't angry. But they are taking a clever rhetorical detour around a problem.


By Max Larkin

NEW YORK, NY. — I traveled down to New York for the People’s Climate March, I admit, out of a sense of political curiosity. I care, but like many Americans I’ve found it hard to rate the climate over poverty or prison or the foreign-policy fires that break out from time to time. By chance a friend and I had joined an interfaith brigade, a subsection in the People’s Climate March had assembled on West 58th Street, in the shadow of The Shops at Columbus Circle and CNN HQ. It was around eleven o’clock.

At the front of the crowd, Rabbi Jay Michaelson stood at the stern of an ark-shaped float on the back of a truck, wearing a technicolor tallit. The ark was a new construction; organizers hoped it could be reused in other parades down the line. Right then it held ministers and kids, markers and tape; a few volunteers wore horse masks or had paper unicorn horns strapped to their heads, and signs that read: “We Missed the Boat Last Time,” etc., etc.

Michaelson blew a shofar after speeches and prayers made onstage; he’s newly a rabbi and comes from a career in activism. Even today, he said, he’s “more of a march-in-the-streets rabbi than a pray-in-the-pews rabbi.” He’s also a columnist on environment and politics for the Jewish Daily Forward.

Two days before Michaelson had written that the green movement needed to appeal to the mainstream to be successful. In the fight for gay rights, he had learned about the all-importance of political messaging. He spoke candidly:

It was market-tested to death. When that movement was about gay rights, it was a big loser. It didn’t work, and nobody was motivated. When it turned into ‘love is love’, ‘we just want what everybody else wants: family, love, connection’ — and faith leaders played a big part in that — that message worked. It wasn’t cynical. It’s not that that’s not true. It was true. But which side do you emphasize?

He looked out over the group: “Calling it the ‘People’s Climate March’ — it isn’t exactly a frame that reaches out.”

We paused while some of the Muslim delegation began silently to pray toward Central Park, backed by an inflatable mosque. The crowd — Buddhists with banners, little platoons of hippie Catholics, here and there anti-nuclear T-shirts, crafty, hand-painted signs — was very definitely “progressive”. How would a People’s Climate March look to people who would never think of attending?

Suddenly an organizer tapped me on the shoulder: “We need to get going, so would you—?” The Rabbi and I said a quick goodbye, I hopped off the boat, then we all were off. The ark seemed to drift away on a sea of shoulders.

The march followed the line of the park, passing a ‘climate vigil’ sat in cross-legged meditation on the grass. There was no overwhelming sound; the march had no sergeants. The signs read: “There is No Planet B”, “Don’t Frack With U.S.,” “Ashamed Republican” with an arrow pointing down at the man holding it. Children, long-haired teens, nuns, and expatriates walked unregimented, in drifting formations. An older woman wearing a paper bag as a hat — she had written “Recycle” on it in Sharpie — emerged as a swaggering presence nearby. (One of the amazing things about the movement is the respect it has for its grandmothers.)

We made the turn down Sixth Avenue, and marched into the heart of Manhattan. A family pushed their luggage across the street and through the crowd on a trolley. There was Fox News HQ; a building-side crawl reminded passersby of ISIS. Then we passed the banks, with all-glass facades that made them look all the emptier, the more forbidding.

Nobody threw a brick. A young man, in full Caledonian dress, blew a bagpipe; behind him people danced to a Brazilian drumline. The “Recycle” lady strutted along alone, between banks of public and parochial-school students. Bryant Park was quiet, bracketed by a police cordon. For those present, midtown Manhattan was transformed. Did anyone notice?


The movement’s answers may come from repurposing a history. In 2002 the administration of George W. Bush reintroduced a doctrine of preemptive war, or “anticipatory self-defense.” For obvious reasons that language has fallen into disuse (though we are now fighting a limited preemptive war against the jihadis of ISIS, who pose, it’s said, “no immediate threat” to the American people).

But let’s not let perfectly sound moral thinking be abandoned entirely, when it has only been misapplied. Preemption itself is not evil: in a risk-ridden and high-velocity world, it’s common sense. And finally we may have a problem worthy of its use — and hundreds of thousands of people are marching over it. We might, borrowing a phrase from the philosopher William James, consider the climate movement as the moral equivalent of preemptive war: brigades of clean-energy advocates, barge-stopping kayakers, arborists, aquaculturists, and architects, toiling and thinking and building as if the worst is still avoidable.

In his original essay, James predicted that we might civilize ourselves by putting the “barbarian virtues”, so popular with so many American men, to civic work: in football and Americorps and the Civilian Conservation Corps, where the struggle is against nature and privation, a cordial opponent or our own limits.

In 1977 Jimmy Carter pitched the nation on treating our energy dependency as an opportunity to rally and fight a common cause in this nature using this very rhetoric.

But maybe it would be best if the climate movement today proposed a grander kind of struggle. The enemy ought to be, beyond oil and even capitalism, a defect in national, or human, consciousness — the immature American wish to remain outside of history, our tendency to treat every small emergency as a fire to be managed, an opportunity to avoid the big ones.


After turning at one last barricade, the march continued on to Eleventh Avenue where it dried up uneventfully: no speech. It was an evanescent kind of civil action, like weather. It was a dazing kind of day, but by the time I left New York the next morning I was impressed.

The march announced itself by force of numbers, and by its feel. No one seemed angry. This is not to say that the marchers had been bought off, or didn’t understand the long odds facing them, or even that they aren’t angry. But they are taking a clever rhetorical detour around a problem.

I thought of Kurt Vonnegut’s terrifying poem of extinction, “Requiem”.

When the last living thing

has died on account of us,

how poetical it would be

if Earth could say,

in a voice floating up


from the floor

of the Grand Canyon,

”It is done.”

People did not like it here.

If there was a common message to the march, it is this: “We do like it here, don’t we?” (And love is love, isn’t it?)

I hope that the marchers — especially the youngest among them — another generation tempered by war and peace that is bitter and uneven, can help the rest of us relearn our history, relearn that there is history beyond four-year cycles and Long Wars, and that the United States has a lot of making up to do.

We are finding it harder to ignore the consequences of our actions and self-aware, with the medium of the internet and the medium of the atmosphere as instructors. We have the fear of shame that would come from a world whose barrenness testified to our carelessness. And all we will need, in a sense, is prompting: if not from storm and drought, then from such marches as this one in September.

To do this the activists will need to be militant, but un-military — they will need, much of the time, to smile and be peaceable and commonsensical: to remind us how worthy all this is, Chris Hedges be damned.

In a tight huddle toward the end of the walking some twenty-two-year-old finished up a pep talk to others in his group: “Organize, organize, organize!” Everyone around him cheered, and even sighed. It’s the call that Stokely Carmichael made after a long march fifty years ago this summer, and it still sounds like the answer.

Podcast • October 4, 2014

Jeremy Grantham: In a Climate of Risk

Jeremy Grantham is a Boston financier who has found himself in the thick of the fight over climate change for more than twenty years. He’s the founder and chief strategist of Grantham Mayo van Otterloo, or GMO, which manages ...

Jeremy Grantham is a Boston financier who has found himself in the thick of the fight over climate change for more than twenty years. He’s the founder and chief strategist of Grantham Mayo van Otterloo, or GMO, which manages $112 billion in assets.

When we spoke to him in his Rowes Wharf office, overlooking Boston Harbor, Grantham calls himself a “scatterbrained” investor working with a third-rate education. If, after raising the alarm loudly and very early about the catastrophic market bubbles of 1999 and 2008, he’s become one of America’s most prominent financial strategists, it’s a tribute to natural patience and a conservatism that he chalks up to a Yorkshire childhood and a Quaker grandfather. But Grantham’s also glad to carry weight in the world of feverish investment. His quarterly letters have become must-reads, offering a warier look, going deeper into the future, than one usually finds on Wall Street. (His latest is here.)

Grantham discovered the fragility and beauty of the natural world on family trips into old and ravaged forests of the Amazon basin and Borneo. Now his family foundation is engaged in a farsighted effort to fight climate-skeptical “propaganda” with propaganda of its own: funding change-now messages from groups like Bill McKibben’s 350.org, Greenpeace, and the World Wildlife Fund. It’s the “race of our lives”, he wrote: against short-term psychology and an entrenched fossil-fuel economy. Grantham is troubled by the long odds, but still he’s trying to draw money and mass attention to an existential risk — before it’s too late to do anything about it. Call it the biggest short.

Photo credit: Remco Bohle.

September 30, 2014

Hacking Climate Change

Can we hack our way toward solutions for climate change? While governments dither, Congress negates and the world warms, how about deploying private finance, atmospheric chemistry and every kind of ingenuity to tackle the problem that’s too big to solve?

Can we hack our way toward solutions for climate change? While governments dither, Congress negates and the world warms, how about deploying private finance, atmospheric chemistry and every kind of ingenuity to tackle the problem that’s too big to solve?

Political and economic change has been slow in coming for lots of reasons. ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, and Shell alone spend tens of millions of dollars per year lobbying to protect oil and gas concerns and to question the climate consensus.  The fault may lie, as Naomi Klein claims in her big new book, with a capitalist economy that favors short-term, non-disruptive fixes and that runs on fossil fuels.  But it may also lie in our brains: we might be hardwired to ignore complicated, slow-moving, author-less threats — and to choose problems like ISIS instead.

But there’s change in the wind. More than 300,000 people marched down 6th Avenue in New York to encourage world leaders to do something. Everyone from the Rockefellers to the World Council of Churches are divesting from fossil fuels (though Harvard President Drew Faust has declined). If we’re coming to realize that climate change is the ultimate big-tent issue, what kind of solutions should we be proposing? What’s the agenda of the new environmental movement?

We’re staying positive and summoning all hands on deck: scientists and engineers, activists and capitalists, pastors and atheists. What will it take to tackle carbon?

Podcast • May 6, 2010

Bill McKibben: Coming into View, Another Eaarth

“That picture… a beautiful blue-white marble floating through the black empty void of space… is as out of date as my high school yearbook photo. It’s kind of the reverse of my high school yearbook ...

3134273868_06fdc0a0a2“That picture… a beautiful blue-white marble floating through the black empty void of space… is as out of date as my high school yearbook photo. It’s kind of the reverse of my high school yearbook photo. I have more white up top; the earth has less. It’s a very different place.”

Bill McKibben in conversation is counting a few of the ways that earth has changed since Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman on his fourth turn around the moon in December 1968 tilted his craft and saw the earth rising, “the most beautiful, heart-catching sight of my life,” Borman said. “It was the only thing in space that had any color to it. Everything else was simply black or white. But not the earth.” Bill McKibben has a revised spelling for a changed place in his new book: Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet:

Pretty much name a physical feature of the planet. Take the great boreal forests that dominate the northern hemisphere across, say, North America. We’ve lost now tens of millions of acres of pine trees. You get up in a plane and, horizon to horizon, there’s not a living tree because the pine bark beetle that had always been there… no longer has those cold winter temperatures to contend with. Last winter was the warmest winter ever recorded in Canada, and hence the beetles are spreading almost literally like wildfire, and in their wake comes actual wildfire as those dead trees burn. When they burn they put a whole new plume of carbon into the atmosphere.

Forest fire season across the west which used to be confined to warmest driest months of the year, three or four months of the year, now stretches from March to whenever snow finally falls in the fall. The number of fires goes up just astonishingly.

The great storms that circulate across the stormy bands around the middles of the earth are more powerful than they’ve ever been because of course they draw their power from the heat in the first few meters of the earth’s surface. So we see astonishing storms, Katrina being one example but by no means the only one.

Last summer the chain of typhoons that marched across Asia was a sight to behold. One stalled for three days over the mountains of Taiwan and before it was gone there were villages there that had received nine and a half feet of rain. Needless to say those villages are no longer there.

Those kind of things are happening on a new earth.

Bill McKibben wrote the first popular warning about climate change, The End of Nature, 21 years ago. These days he spends relatively less of his boundless energy writing than he does organizing a global grassroots mission, 350.org, to bring the carbon content in the atmosphere back down to a sustainable 350 parts per million. In key dimensions Bill McKibben and 350.org are mirror opposites of Tom Friedman and Hot, Flat and Crowded. The Friedman drumbeat is for a competitive corporate super-tech and, of course, super-profitable American-led greening of a global economy. It sounds to McKibben like “butch environmentalism.”

Look, it’s a nice fantasy that we would just keep the machine going as it’s going, but rip out the internal combustion engine and toss in a solar panel. And on we would fly. I don’t think it’s a realistic one. I think among other things it just completely ignores the physical difference between fuels. Fossil fuel was the most important thing about modernity. It’s what modernity was. It describes why we live the way we live. It’s dense, rich in BTUs, concentrated in a few places, easy to get at and easy to transport…

That’s not the world we’re moving into. The kind of energy we can afford to use, sun and wind and such, is very different. It’s omnipresent but it’s diffuse. It’s dispersed. The logic that goes with it is almost exactly the opposite logic.

We need a farmers’ market in electrons, and a farmers’ market in food… We need to figure out how to spread out and become stable and resilient, and part of that’s being smaller.

What’s the most important phrase of the last three years? If you ask me, it’s got to be, “too big to fail.” It wasn’t just our banks that were too big to fail. Much worse than that is our food system and our energy system. If they go, then we’re in much deeper trouble. They’re just as centralized, just as deeply linked and just as shaky as the banks ever were. And that’s why it’s encouraging that we’re at least beginning to think about how we might build those things down.

Bill McKibben in conversation with Chris Lydon in Boston, April 30, 2010.