Last night, Bill McKibben, the founder of and driver of the first global grassroots climate change movement, spoke to more than 200 Tufts community members about the outlook for the environmental movement. The conversation was engaging and a little disheartening, but it was a pleasure to learn from the author, activist and environmentalist about his work and perspectives.

The tone of the conversation was not all together up-lifting. McKibben spoke about his reaction to the recently released IPCC report and acknowledged that we have reason to be scared. He’s not overly hopeful about what the future holds, or about our ability to make it over this hurdle.

As far as practical solutions, he said the individual actions we take may not ultimately achieve that much; the most important thing for an individual to do is be less of an individual. He urged us to join and grow the movement, noting that civil disobedience is one of the few truly effective ways to mobilize action. Civil disobedience was an important part of every 21st century movement that changed the zeitgeist, and that’s what we need to do today.

He emphasized that connecting social justice and climate change is critical: Climate justice isn’t just a way of thinking about this problem, it is what we are going to need to win this fight. We must recognize that the ones who are most affected by climate change, and those who are out in front of the movement, are not the ones who caused the problem – and yet they are the one’s engaged in addressing it.

Divestment was a key message too, recognizing that big business can have big impact. Our investments can be profitable without financing the fossil fuel industry, he explains, and divestment is a way to speak the language that politicians and corporations will understand.

Finally, McKibben urged everyone to stay committed, and take action that can have real impact. Most relevant today? Vote! Make sure our elected leaders represent the interests that are most important to us and to the future of our planet.

McKibben was invited as part of Tufts’ Tisch College Distinguished Speaker Series. He is currently the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College. Previously, McKibben founded, the online mobilization platform that has organized more than 20,000 rallies around the world (in nearly every country!), and which spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline and launched the fossil fuel divestment movement.