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The new MLK?

Decades ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these poignant and solemn words about an end to social injustices: “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. How long? Not long.” Dr. King used the phrase more than once; a notion the civil rights leader borrowed from 19th century abolitionist minister Theodore Parker.

Now the terminology has been morphed again, this time by Bill McKibben, a global warming guru and frequent guest speaker at universities across the nation, where he is often billed as an “environmental superstar” and invited to promulgate his extreme views to packed lecture halls.

McKibben pretty much equates environmentalism with the American Civil Rights movement — but he adds the Civil Rights movement had it better in a way, people took it more seriously, according to an account of a recent talk he gave.

In an appearance at Swarthmore College, McKibben channeled Dr. King and told a roomful of students that “the arc of the universe is short and it bends towards heat.”

“But maybe it’ll come out OK,” McKibben added.

McKibben also told students: “ ‘If you were a betting person, you would probably bet against [our movement].’ He thinks the Civil Rights movement may have had greater reason to believe they would achieve their goals than the environmental movement,” according to the account of the speech.

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The speech took place last spring, but McKibben is no stranger to campus lectures. His website notes he has spoken at about a dozen campuses so far this year, and that’s not counting commencement addresses.

And if you’re wondering about his stance on the future of planet Earth, here’s a snippet, taken from his personal website:

“Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no human has ever seen. … We can’t simply keep stacking boulders against the change that’s coming on every front; we’ll need to figure out what parts of our lives and our ideologies we must abandon so that we can protect the core of our societies and civilizations.”

This is fodder for what passes as a mainstream guest science lecture at many of today’s universities. Or wait, is this religious studies?

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