Oil and Honey The Education of an Unlikely Activist

Bill McKibben

Times Books




272 Pages


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Bill McKibben is not a person you'd expect to find handcuffed and behind bars, but that's where he found himself in the summer of 2011 after leading the largest civil disobedience in thirty years, protesting the Keystone XL pipeline in front of the White House.

With the Arctic melting, the Midwest in drought, and Irene scouring the Atlantic, McKibben recognized that action was needed if solutions were to be found. Some of those would come at the local level, where McKibben joins forces with a Vermont beekeeper raising his hives as part of the growing trend toward local food. Other solutions would come from a much larger fight against the fossil-fuel industry as a whole.

Oil and Honey is McKibben’s account of these two necessary and mutually reinforcing sides of the global climate fight—from the center of the maelstrom and from the growing hive of small-scale local answers. With empathy and passion he makes the case for a renewed commitment on both levels, telling the story of raising one year’s honey crop and building a social movement that’s still cresting.


Praise for Oil and Honey

"McKibben has proven to be one of the most accessible voices in the fight for a more sustainable planet. In Oil and Honey, the author extends his approach and message by meshing the global with the personal.… Throughout the book, his most readable yet, McKibben is simultaneously authoritative and conversational."—The Boston Globe

"Bill McKibben these days is something of a rock star."—

"Tracking the emotional and intellectual journey that took McKibben from Vermont to picket lines in Washington, D.C. to town halls, universities, and arenas, the book is a call to action and an inspiring playbook for making change—both locally and globally—in the 21st century."—Publishers Weekly

"Confiding and dramatic . . . In this moving, wryly amusing account set against the heated presidential debate of 2012, McKibben describes his extraordinary world travels and what it took to launch gutsy, creative, and effective protests, and shares invaluable information and such intriguing insights as what bees can teach us about reaching consensus. Galvanizing and inspiring."—Booklist (starred review)

"From the founder of the environmental organization, a chatty, warm memoir of his double life as globe-trotting activist and part-time novice beekeeper…A personal, enjoyably rancor-free account, filled with praise for his colleagues and some pokes at opponents but void of harangues."—Kirkus Reviews

"In this elegant and deeply inspiring book, Bill McKibben has given us something remarkable: a front row seat in the global battle against the fossil companies that are wrecking the planet, and an intimate glimpse into the intensely local life and landscape for which McKibben himself is fighting. This is the balance--between big and small, between rage and love, between resistance and alternatives--that we all must find if we are to transform in time to prevent catastrophe. A gift."--Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine

"Oil and Honey reads like a tell-all from one of America’s most astute eco-political leaders and essential writers. There are organizational secrets on how to launch a political campaign and build a movement, and why spreading local honey on morning toast matters. It is a personal field guide to climate activism with an honest accounting of the personal costs and blessings of engagement. Bill McKibben has penned an inspiring story whose ending is still unfolding."--Terry Tempest Williams, author of When Women Were Birds

"Whatever color you are, the green movement is your movement. I was proud to go to jail with Bill McKibben as a fellow protester against the Keystone XL pipeline. All you have to do is read this book."--Julian Bond

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Two Lives

Here’s a story of two lives lived in response to a crazy time—a time when the Arctic melted and the temperature soared, a time when the planet began to come apart, a time when bee populations suddenly dropped in half. Each story is extreme. They’re not intended as suggestions for how others should live, and I hope the reader won’t feel the need to choose, or reject, either one. Each story is mine, at least in part, for sometimes I think I’ve learned more in the past two years than in all the decades that came before. Some of that education came

Read the full excerpt



  • Bill McKibben interviewed on Democracy Now!

    Bill McKibben discusses 'Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist' on Democracy Now!

  • Bill McKibben interviewed on The Takeaway

    Bill McKibben discusses 'Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist' on The Takeaway.

  • Bill McKibben interviewed on The Brian Lehrer Show.

    Bill McKibben discusses his book 'Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist' on The Brian Lehrer Show.

  • Bill McKibben interviewed on Morning Joe

    Bill McKibben discusses 'Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist' on Morning Joe.



  • Bill McKibben

  • Bill McKibben is the author of more than a dozen books, including The End of Nature, Eaarth, and Deep Economy. He is the founder of the environmental organization and was among the first to warn of the dangers of global warming. He is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize. He lives in Vermont.
  • Bill McKibben Steve Liptay
    Bill McKibben