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Ripton's McKibben takes home 'Alternative Nobel Prize'

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Posted on September 29, 2014 |
By Addison Independent



McKibben, Bill '09 Color.jpg
BILL MCKIBBEN

MIDDLEBURY — Noted journalist and climate movement activist Bill McKibben has won the 2014 Right Livelihood Award, which is sometimes referred to as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.”

The Ripton resident is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, co-founder of the 350.org climate change organization and an organizer of some of the largest climate demonstrations in the world. As one of three laureates to win the prize, McKibben will share a cash award of 1.5 million Swedish Krona (approximately $210,000) with human rights activists Asma Jahangir and Basil Fernando.

The Stockholm-based Right Livelihood Award Foundation also announced on Wednesday that whistleblower Edward Snowden and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger received 2014 Right Livelihood Honorary Awards.

The foundation said McKibben won the award “for mobilizing growing popular support in the U.S.A. and around the world for strong action to counter the threat of global climate change.” The awards will be presented at a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament on Dec. 1.

McKibben’s 1989 book “The End of Nature” is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change and has appeared in 24 languages. He is a former staff writer for the New Yorker and a frequent contributor to major publications, including the New York Review of Books, National Geographic and Rolling Stone.

McKibben has been a scholar in residence at Middlebury College since 2001 and is founder, along with several former Middlebury students, of 350.org, the first global grassroots climate change movement. The organization now works in nearly every country in the world on campaigns to reduce fossil fuel usage and promote climate action.

McKibben was an organizer of the People’s Climate March in New York City this past Sunday — the largest climate rally in the history of the United States.

“This is a great honor but clearly it belongs mostly to the people who make up 350.org — it’s them, but above all the hundreds of thousands of volunteers in 191 countries, who have built the first global grassroots movement to deal with the largest crisis civilization has ever faced,” McKibben said in a statement on the Right Livelihood website.

He added that the prize money would fund the work of 350.org and its partner organizations. Some money would be sent immediately to the Pacific Island activists who will blockade Australian coal ports in their traditional canoes next month. The Right Livelihood organization  said the prize money is for ongoing successful work, never for personal use.

“This recognition of our efforts comes at a perfect moment after the remarkable success of the People’s Climate March and as we start the strongest push yet against the fossil fuel industry and the politicians it has purchased,” he added.

McKibben traced the roots of 350.org to Middlebury College.

“Of course 350.org was born at Middlebury, and its initial leaders learned about the world in its halls,” he is quoted as saying in a story on the Middlebury College website. “We’re all immensely grateful to the college for what it has given us, and it is the great pleasure of my life to keep teaching and working here in the mountains of Vermont.”

The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to honor and support those “offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today.” There are now 158 laureates from 65 countries. This year, there were 120 proposed laureates from 53 countries. 

Jamie Henn, a Middlebury alumnus who now works for 350.org, said the award is not McKibbens, but instead belongs to the environmental movement he has helped build.

"The award is recognition not just for 350.org, but for the idea that underpins our work — that everyday people have the power to take on the fossil fuel industry and tackle climate change," Henn said.

Henn added that commendations like this one help raise awareness about what 350.org is, and what the organization is attempting to accomplish.

"As we ramp up the divestment campaign and other efforts, this award puts wind in our turbines," Henn said.

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