Plum Village Monastics in Conversation with Bill McKibben

Along with countless forms of social activity, the COVID-19 pandemic has understandably slowed down climate activism. Yet in this wide-ranging conversation with monastics from Plum Village, author and activist Bill McKibben points to a critical lesson of the pandemic and its relevance to the climate movement. Reliable information, science, and social solidarity (the willingness to change behavior on a massive scale in the interest of mutual care): together these save lives. As we ready ourselves for mass mobilizations at some point down the road and create new forms of online activism in the meantime, we have more to build on than ever. While young people have demonstrated their ability to ignite us with their urgency, indigenous and other faith communities are increasingly willing to offer a vision of the future centered not on humans, but on ecological wholeness in which humans thrive. Together, these are inspiring a new breadth and depth to our movement.

Selected Quotes

The root unfairness of climate change that’s so deep and so real … it’s that those who did the least to cause it, feel its effects first and hardest.

On all the problems that we face, social solidarity is going to be the most important thing that we have.

One of the reasons that we build movements … is to allow people to see that there is a plausible chance that they have some agency to make big change.

At this point in time, the most important and most heartening thing an individual can do, is to be a little bit less of an individual, come together with others in movements large enough to make a difference.


Plum Village is a global community of mindfulness practice centres offering retreats and teachings on engaged Buddhism and the art of mindful living, founded by Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh.

Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist who in 2014 was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel.’ His 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’s gone on to write a dozen more books. He is a founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, which has organized twenty thousand rallies around the world in every country save North Korea, spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement.

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