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Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist
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Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  699 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
Bestselling author and environmental activist Bill McKibben recounts the personal and global story of the fight to build and preserve a sustainable planet

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
ebook, 272 pages
Published September 17th 2013 by Times Books
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Rebecca Foster
Some weeks ago I got called an “ecological maniac.” You know what? Damn proud of it, and I’ll bet Bill McKibben would relish the epithet too.

I’ve long known McKibben’s name and work, but never managed to read anything by him until I found this unusual memoir on NetGalley. As the title suggests, the book is based on a dichotomy. McKibben has two personae, as it were: both the globe-trotting environmental campaigner (“oil”), and the local Vermont homebody and writer (“honey” – especially connected
Catherine Siemann
Aug 13, 2013 Catherine Siemann rated it really liked it
I'm a fan of McKibben's works, so I knew I would like this going in. This time, he centers on the local -- a bee keeper in Vermont who is fighting the good fight of localized, non-chemical, ethical production -- and the global -- his own turn to activism on climate change with The frustrating thing is that with his activist hat on, McKibben is mostly speaking and getting arrested -- valuable things to do, but it's clear the major oil companies who are on the other side of this have sadl ...more
Jan 04, 2014 Merrikay rated it it was amazing
Perfect first book of the year!  McKibben, the internationally known environmentalist and winner of the 2013 Gandhi prize has brought two stories together to give us both hope AND a plan for saving the environment. 

With the story of a Vermont beekeeper McKibben gives us hope.  While the rest of the U.S. mourns the deaths and possible end of bees, McKibben's neighbor refuses to give up.  He also refuses to use chemicals to kill the mites that are destroying bee colonies nationally and worldwide.
Jeff Jones
Mar 04, 2015 Jeff Jones rated it it was amazing
Just amazing... McKibben's account of the last couple of years of the environmental/ movement brings home the Urgency of the stand that must be made against the fossil fuel industry. As an aside, I read this just after hearing him speak for the very first time in the Chicago area; he delivered one of the most powerful messages I've ever seen/heard in person. His words, written or spoken, have a way of calling one to action.
Jan 22, 2014 Diane rated it it was amazing
Not so much amazing in itself, although it's very good, very easy to read given the dire topic. More amazing is the effect I find it having on me in wanting to get more serious about working on climate change issues than I have been to date. I particularly admired the way McKibben uses his intelligence to figure out what works in this effort, rather than adopting some familiar activist methods and just sticking with them whether or not they're being effective. Was especially struck at his analys ...more
Aug 06, 2014 Kai rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"we wanted to send the message: There's nothing radical about what we're doing here."

"We're just Americans interested in preserving a country"

"I've never confused dissent with a lack of patriotism"

I read this as part of my ongoing research on KXL. this is the kind of book that I'd give to my parents to try to help them understand what's going on in the world right now. lots of clarity, but at this point mckibben is who he is. his supposed transformation from a nature writer into an "unlikely ac
Sep 23, 2013 Correen rated it really liked it
McKibben shares his experience: its origins, setting up an international activist group, lobbying, campaigns, speaking tours, strategies, prison time, etc. To tell his story, he uses an oil and honey contrast with the honey being his life as a beekeeper and the nature of bees with the oil industry and his attempts to ameliorate big oil's impact on the environment.

The book reads like one that has been primarily dictated and then blended, organized in chapters, and polished. It has a folk
Mar 18, 2015 Donna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a super quick read on global warming and the effects it is having on the environment.....which brings us to the bees and how they are affected. I found the bee information to be pretty interesting. But the author pointed out other problematic effects as well. He also squarely pointed out that the blame lies heavily on politicians and big greedy corporations.

I liked this book. I'm just not a fan of gloom and doom, and this made me feel gloomy because I felt like such a small and insignif
Aug 16, 2013 Megan is currently reading it
At the moment, this is feeling like a good follow-up to Mary Pipher's Greenboat from earlier this year. McKibben's writing is a little breezier than I'd prefer on some topics but he takes the subject of the fight against the Keystone pipeline to the next level, and actively sets out in the book to think about ways that global-level activism can intersect and support a dedication to local living and local economies.
Abigail Gustafson
Jan 30, 2017 Abigail Gustafson rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book and learning about the beginning of, the Keystone Pipeline, and bees. I'd compare this to Gloria Steinam's book "Life on the Road", due to the fact that vignettes are juxtaposed with the story of McKibben's life and the story of the environmental movement. A must-read for anyone interested in activism, combating climate change, and learning about the tremendous influence that the oil and coal industries have on politics and environmental regulations. It's extre ...more
Aug 21, 2015 Kurt rated it really liked it
Bill McKibben made a name for himself as a journalistic writer covering environmental and cultural issues. In Oil And Honey he describes his unlikely transformation into the leader of a very successful activist organization. In parallel with that story is the story of his adoption and promotion of simple agrarian ways of life such as his recent avocation of beekeeping.
Surely the best kept secret in the U.S. today is the wonderful way of life that's possible with full-time farming on a small plac
Dec 30, 2013 Brian rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Evan
(2.5) Hm, not sure I understand the idea behind this book

McKibben weaves together two unrelated threads: his rise to prominence as a climate activist/organizer (from more humble role as writer), and visiting his friend who is innovating low-tech, high-yield beekeeping.

I kinda liked learning about the bees, but wasn't sure how that wove into narrative about the non-stop touring to speeches and sit-ins. McKibben plays the reluctant activist leader, but this feels really disingenuous. He clearly re
Jeremy Papuga
Nov 03, 2015 Jeremy Papuga rated it liked it
I'm definitely in the minority with my seminar group who dislikes this book. I can't really say why but it just didn't get me excited. Although the honey parts were interesting I just couldn't grasp the connection between those parts and the fight against climate change. I did enjoy some of the metaphors used, like both bees and corporations being simple, only good at one thing, but these metaphors weren't enough to carry the book for me.

The book was about McKibben's rise to activism, but did n
Aug 18, 2015 Debbie rated it liked it
This is the 3rd McKibben book I've listened to, and it's by far my least favorite. There was way too much about McKibben, much of it larded with an irritating "aw shucks, how did li'l ol' me get to be such a great big celebrity" false modesty. I liked the parts devoted to his bee-keeping pal more - mostly because I learned quite a bit about bees and honey.

McKibben is still a good writer, but - like many people who've been successful - he needs a stricter editor. And, as his life has evolved, he
Florence Millo
Sep 23, 2013 Florence Millo rated it really liked it
I especially enjoyed reading this book after having read Eaarth which was so depressing that I was about to slit my wrists. In this book, he gives an account of how he ended up leading to become a real force to be reckoned with in the fight against climate change. The emotional ups and downs and the uncertainty of how to be effective in the political arena and in doing battle with big oil gives him a more human face. I enjoyed very much his interactions with bees and beekeeping. Can't sa ...more
Stuart Malcolm
Jun 09, 2016 Stuart Malcolm rated it it was amazing
A fascinating and important book. Although the juxtaposition of the local (beekeeping) with the global (climate change) was a little bit forced at times, the writing was good enough to overcome this and it generally added to the flow of the narrative. And what a powerful message he delivers about Big Oil and how it will wreck the planet if left unchecked. This was the first book I've read by this author but it makes me want to search out more.
Dec 02, 2016 Maryc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book twining two sides of Bill McKibben's life; home in rural Vermont helping his beekeeper friend, Kirk, and zooming around the country (and globe) to build movements to combat the fossil fueled destruction of our planet, as ambassador for his organization This book takes place during the big Keystone fight and as we battle it's replacement, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), it emphasizes Bill's frequent refrain that environmental wins are only temporary.

It is v
Gaylord Dold
Dec 10, 2013 Gaylord Dold rated it liked it
McKibben, Bill. Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist,
Times Books (Henry Holt and Company), New York, 2013 (272pp. $26)

Independent science confirms that human-caused global warming is real. There is reason to believe that a warming climate could have dire consequences, among which are rising ocean levels, increased human disease, great droughts and even greater storms, the destruction of agricultural productivity, desertification of large parts of North America, Africa and central
LA Ayers
Jan 05, 2017 LA Ayers rated it it was ok
Great message behind the book. I just got a little bored reading it. I did enjoy the Kirk parts of the story quite a bit.
Jenny Lee
Oct 16, 2016 Jenny Lee rated it really liked it
A very timely book to read in light of the ongoing protests against the Dakota Pipeline. Our dependence on oil and the short-sighted greed of oil companies is a ticking time bomb which is devastating indigenous communities in the meantime~~ I truly wonder what our world will be like in the coming decades, especially if we don't embrace some radical new solutions.
Jan 05, 2017 Carol rated it it was amazing
I needed this book right now. McKibben's memoir provides insight on a shift from thinker/writer/introvert to activist/organizer/rebel. Yes, I can use much more information and learning about the extreme threat of climate change ... that's easy to find elsewhere. But this story -- including connection to Kirk and bees -- tells me more about McKibben's grounding, heart, and passion. And that's the fuel that I need to get me into action.
Fourth book for 2016.

In this quick easy read McKibben tells two narratives, one how he set-up the highly successful global environmental activist group, and in the other his ongoing relationship to a neighbouring beekeeper in Vermont.

So this the book is literally structured around the old environmental adage of "thinking local and acting global". How well this works is partly a matter of taste. Personally I liked his forays back into beekeeping as these seemed like the most real and pas
Sep 07, 2013 Joan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all adults who care about their world
I get the feeling that while McKibben wrote the book to describe the climate change fight against the oil and coal companies that he and several students started, he also was writing to make clear to himself what has happened to his life and how is he taking it. He is really a writer, not an activist, but he has become an activist. While he wasn't entirely comfortable with the change, he seems to have accepted his part in the movement as a leader. (full disclosure: I have heard Bill speak at two ...more
Chris Demer
Jun 14, 2016 Chris Demer rated it really liked it
Although I had a bit of trouble getting into this book, I am really glad I persisted. It is a (mostly) upbeat memoir of Bill McKibben, a college professor turned environmental activist. The story is biographical, only in the sense that is covers a few years of his activism, specifically against the Keystone Pipeline, and generally against big oil and fossil fuels.
Following his travels, organizing, exploits, speeches, arrests, etc, was interesting and entertaining and brings me back to the days
Richard Thompson
Two parallel stories: McKibben helping an apiarist in Vermont set up a permanent home for his beekeeping operation and learning lots about small scale agriculture and bees in particular; and McKibben deciding that he had to move beyond writing about environmental issues — and global warning in particular — to social activism aimed at focusing public and governmental attention of the crisis our unbridled consumption of fossil fuels has created, and to take on the fossil fuel Goliath by creating a ...more
Jenny Esots
Dec 20, 2013 Jenny Esots rated it it was amazing
Oil and Honey by Bill McKibben

A treatise on living in a global warming world and the rallying cry against fossil fuel.
This is a surprisingly human account of the campaign to put climate change squarely on the agenda. Bill McKibben is a journalist and writer and he writes in a flowing conversational style.
So you feel like you are with him on that campaign trail. You are on the bus that crosses the country, attending rallies, going to give talks and speeches with the media and all manner of people
Mar 03, 2014 Chris rated it liked it
A short, swift memoir of his accidental rise from writer to fulltime activist with and their battle against climate change and specifically Big Oil. I’ve read McKibben before and am onboard with his view and direction. I’m curious as to why he wrote this book. My guess is to explain how 350 came to be, to further strengthen its mission and mandate in the light of attacks from the climate deniers. And its fine for that, McKibben comes across as, in his words, “an unlikely activist,” motiv ...more
Jan 12, 2014 Kimba rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Kimba by: "The Progressive" Magazine
In January 2012, wrapped up in layers of clothing as surprising freezing temperatures and ice brought the Dallas Metroplex to a grinding halt, I decided to search for a more “natural” existence, accepting a position living and working in Yellowstone National Park. Two months later, awaiting my departure to Wyoming, Texas was already sweltering in the upper 90’s. I ended up spending most of the next 20 months living in a bubble that is the Yellowstone way of life. All I knew is that I had escaped ...more
This is a short, thoughtful book by the indefatigable Bill McKibben, one of my favorite writers and one of my favorite people on planet Earth. Oil and Honey has an interesting structure: half the book is about McKibben's work starting and leading, the largest and most successful grassroots organization in the world. The other half of the book is about a small bee farm in Vermont where McKibben helps out. The two issues are connected by the realities of global climate change, and McKibben ...more
Nov 26, 2013 Nicola rated it liked it
Bill McKibben describes himself as an ‘accidental activist’ and, indeed, in Oil and Honey, it’s clear that his first passion lies in writing. Charting a year in the life of McKibben and his anti-oil movement, Honey is simply beautifully written.

The resulting memoir-cum-treatise may lack structure as a book, but every argument, every explanation, every triumph and setback that it contains is powerfully, even artfully expressed. And, gosh, you’ll almost feel like you’re there with McKibben
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Bill McKibben is the author of Eaarth, The End of Nature, Deep Economy, Enough, Fight Global Warming Now, The Bill McKibben Reader, and numerous other books. He is the founder of the environmental organizations Step It Up and, and was among the first to warn of the dangers of global warming. In 2010 The Boston Globe called him "probably the nation's leading environmentalist," and Time maga ...more
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“We already have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as any scientist thinks is safe to burn.” 1 likes
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