BUFFALO, N.Y. — Bill McKibben, author of a groundbreaking
book on global warming and founder of the global grassroots climate
action campaign 350.org, will
deliver the 2013 commencement address for UB’s School of
Architecture and Planning on Friday.
The commencement ceremony will begin at 5 p.m. May 10 in the
Center for the Arts, North Campus. McKibben will speak shortly
after graduating students enter in a procession.
A leading American environmentalist and author, McKibben has
written a dozen books about the environment on topics such as human
population growth, the environmental consequences of the growth
economy and how we can live more lightly on earth. In his first
book, “End of Nature” (1989), McKibben makes an
impassioned plea for radical change in how we relate to nature. It
is regarded as one of the first books on global warming written for
a general audience and has been printed in more than 20
In 2007, McKibben was lead organizer of Step It Up, a
coordinated series of 2,000 rallies at iconic locations across the
United States, including melting glaciers in Alaska, the levees of
New Orleans and endangered coral reefs in Key West. That movement,
which called upon the U.S. Congress to cut carbon emissions by 80
percent by 2050, was the foundation for 350.org, a global
grassroots movement to address the climate crisis.
350.org refers to the atmospheric threshold of 350 parts per
million (ppm) of CO2 that scientists say is the safe limit for
humanity (the current level is 392 ppm, according to 350.org). It
operates through online campaigns, grassroots organizing and mass
public actions led largely by volunteer youth organizers in over
“We are honored to bring to our graduates, faculty and
community one of the most influential environmental thinkers and
activists in the U.S. if not the world,” says Robert G.
Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.
“It’s a fitting send off as our graduates begin their
futures as architects and planners who will need to shape our world
in ways that are beautiful, healthy and sustainable.”
In 2009, 350.org coordinated 5,200 simultaneous rallies and
demonstrations in 181 counties in what CNN called the ‘most
widespread day of political action in the planet’s
history.’ McKibben and 350.org have organized a relentless
political campaign to stop the proposed Keystone XL tar sands
pipeline, an oil conduit that would stretch 2,000 miles from Canada
through America’s heartland.
As part of commencement weekend, McKibben will engage faculty
members in the School of Architecture and Planning in an open
discussion on elements of the school’s diverse portfolio of
sustainability research. Featured work will include research on
regional food systems planning by Samina Raja, PhD, associate
professor of urban and regional planning, and efforts on climate
action planning by Himanshu Grover, PhD, assistant professor of
urban and regional planning. Raja and Grover are currently applying
their research to a federally-funded initiative to build a
sustainable development roadmap for Buffalo Niagara. That effort,
One Region Forward, which is being led by the UB Regional Institute
and Urban Design Project, will also be a subject of discussion with
However, McKibben’s connection to UB and the School of
Architecture and Planning goes beyond a shared commitment to
sustainability, to a personal level.
Subhashni Raj, a Fulbright Scholar from Fiji who will receive
her Master of Urban Planning on Friday, has been involved with
350.org since 2009. As a volunteer, she organized demonstrations in
Copenhagen in front of the United Nations Climate Talks. Before
coming to UB, she helped lead 350 Pacific, a 350.org hub that works
with Pacific Island nations, and worked to train young
environmental leaders across the Pacific Islands.
Raj, who will introduce McKibben at commencement, says her
passion for climate action began with McKibben and 350.org.
“He is the inspiration behind my climate activism. He is
the reason I am here at UB. It is very fitting that he be there
when I graduate. It is my life coming full circle,” says Raj,
who will enter the school’s PhD program in urban and regional
planning in the fall to advance her research on food systems and
climate action planning.
Shibley will also present McKibben with the annual Dean’s
Medal, in recognition of McKibben’s lifetime achievements in
advancing sustainable development across the globe. The highest
honor bestowed by the School of Architecture and Planning, the
Dean’s Medal is awarded to individuals in recognition of
extraordinary service or accomplishment in planning, architecture
or environmental design. The award recognizes the powerful roles
these and allied fields play in supporting the ability for all to
live life well on an increasingly urbanized planet.
Previous winners include architect, futurist and author R.
Buckminster Fuller; John P. Eberhard, the school’s founding
dean; and Barbara Campagna, chief architect for the National Trust
for Historic Preservation and a 1984 graduate of the School of
Architecture and Planning.
UB Provost Charles F. Zukoski will present degrees to the 216
graduate and undergraduate conferees from the Department of
Architecture and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.
Commencement for the School of Architecture and Planning is open
to the public. Special seating is available in the balcony area for
guests who will be attending the ceremony that are not directly
connected to the graduates. Please visit http://ap.buffalo.edu for more