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McKibben Does Providence

Environmental activist Bill McKibben was the driving force behind the remarkable campaign that forced President Obama to delay approval of the Keystone pipeline, which would funnel oil pulled from the tar sands of Canada down to the Gulf Coast.

But McKibben, in an appearance at the Netroots Nation conference in Providence this summer, said the Keystone case was unique, in some ways: President Obama, alone, had the power to delay construction, dampening the influence of the powerful fossil fuels lobby.

Next up, he said, in the fight against climate change was a direct confrontation with that lobby.

Well, after the election, McKibben and his 350.org launched the beginnings of that direct assualt: a national "Do the Math" tour designed to spark a popular movement. He's been appearing before sold-out crowds across the country, mixing in video from the likes of Desmond Tutu and Van Jones.

The push has helped to inspire a divest-from-coal campaign at college campuses across the country. Brown University students are making a push of their own (Brown does not publicly disclose its investments, but activists are asking the university to pull any investments in the 15 "filthiest" coal companies and publicly declare the divestiture). And the tour landed at the Providence school last night, with McKibben appearing before some 500 people at Salomon Auditorium.

"None of you could be in a more important place than you are right now," he said, speaking of the importance of big institutions like Brown divesting from coal.

It will, as McKibben told me in a telephone interview, be an extraordinarily difficult fight. And the divestiture tour has attracted some criticism from others concerned about climate change. But it's begun. And it's built some momentum.

I'll have the full Q&A with McKibben in this week's Phoenix. But for now, this video:

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