Campus News

Environmentalist Bill McKibben headlines Buffalo Humanities Festival

Protesters hold signs at Peoples Climate March, which backed action on climate change, in Washington DC on April 29, 2017.

Protesters hold signs at the Peoples Climate March on April 29 in Washington, D.C.


Published September 8, 2017

“McKibben recognized very early on that we need to take the environmental fight to the streets.”
David Castillo, professor and director
Humanities Institute

Bill McKibben, author of the groundbreaking book “The End of Nature,” which helped establish him as a leading voice on the global threat of climate change, will be the keynote speaker for the Buffalo Humanities Festival, being held Sept. 28-30 at various locations in Western New York.

Organized annually by the UB Humanities Institute (HI), one of the most important entities supporting the humanities in Western New York, this year’s festival is presented in partnership with Canisius College, Niagara University, SUNY Buffalo State and Humanities New York.

McKibben, the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, will deliver his lecture, “The Desperate Climate Fight: Ordinary People in an Extraordinary Moment,” at 8 p.m. Sept. 29 at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Published in 1989, “The End of Nature,” which has been translated into more than 20 languages, stands today as the first book for general readers on the dangers of climate change.

“McKibben recognized very early on that we need to take the environmental fight to the streets,” says David Castillo, professor of Romance languages and literatures and HI director. “And he’s just the one to do that. McKibben is the kind of person who can speak to the general public and get us fired up to acknowledge the moment in which we’re living and the importance of fighting against the forces of climate change denialism.”

“McKibben is an inspiring example of someone who is simultaneously an extraordinary humanities scholar and an extraordinary activist,” adds Kari Winter, professor of transnational studies and HI executive director. “He’s not just describing the world; he’s trying to change the world for the better.”

“The End of Nature,” in fact, is McKibben’s call for a new, sustainable relationship with the natural world.

General admission tickets for McKibben’s talk are $20 for the public and $15 for students. There is a separate VIP reception with McKibben in the AK Café. The VIP reception is included with the purchase of a VIP Full Festival Pass, which is $60 for the public and $40 for students.

In addition to McKibben’s keynote, the three-day festival features environmentally themed talks, music, performances, community debates and other activities that focus on issues of local, regional and national environmental justice and economic sustainability.

A complete festival schedule, including additional ticket information, is available online.

In 2014, McKibben received the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the “alternative Nobel.” The author of more than a dozen books, he is the founder of, the first planet-wide, grassroots, climate change movement.

McKibben’s broad environmental vision is rooted deeply in place and his writing represents the importance of sustainable thinking that inhabits both local and global spaces.

“I see a stark difference in two visions of the future,” says Winter. “President Trump recently said if people in Western New York are struggling financially, they should move to another state. McKibben says if we want to survive the coming era, the most important thing to do is to become part of a strong community.

“McKibben speaks directly to us, people rooted in our communities and committed to their improvement,” she says. “His beautifully crafted and lucid message is specifically for the people of Western New York who want to organize their lives in ways that are most likely to produce a good future.”

The festival begins at 6 p.m. Sept. 28 with a discussion organized by Humanities New York in the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium, titled “Turning the Tide: Communicating Climate Science.” Participants include Jacqui Patterson, director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program; Jason Briner, associate professor in UB’s Department of Geology; and others. Ryan McPherson, UB’s chief sustainability officer, will serve as moderator.

The full festival day on Sept. 30 will be held in Rockwell Hall on the SUNY Buffalo State campus. The day begins at 10:30 a.m. with visiting artist Deke Weaver’s performance of “BEAR and the Unreliable Bestiary,” an exploration of what he calls “stories from our precarious moment in natural history.”

There will be multiple sessions, talks and panels throughout the day on Saturday. Lunch by West Side Bazaar is included with tickets purchased before Sept. 25.

The festival concludes with music from the 12/8 Path Band and a reception with beer from Community Beer Works.