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Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,153 ratings  ·  187 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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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
Aug 06, 2014 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
Alice Lippart
Really loved the parts about bees and beekeeping, but the rest was honestly just kind of boring.
Jan 04, 2014 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.
Catherine Siemann
Aug 13, 2013 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
Jeff Jones
Mar 04, 2015 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. ...more
Sep 23, 2013 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 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
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eco
I dislike activism. Even if it's in support of causes I want to see succeed, activism is deeply intertwined with conflict and politics, not to mention the public eye and crowds, and those things bother me. Well, that's the point, as well as the value offered, in Oil and Honey. Bill McKibben explains how someone who enjoys wandering in the Vermont woods goes from being a writer to an educator to an activist.

Some takeaways:

-What does game theory offer here? I ask b/c I think people dislike the gam
Aug 16, 2013 rated it liked 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. ...more
Aug 21, 2015 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
Jan 22, 2014 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
Dec 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As with his last two books (and others, undoubtedly) this is an essential book for anyone that doesn't want to stick his or her head in the sand regarding global warming. It's an impassioned account of McKibben's transformation into a relatively full time activist, which he parallels with the life of a beekeeper friend who lives independent of the techie social media that consumes McKibben's activist hours. Given that he's been warning us all about global warming since 1989, McKibben would certa ...more
Jeremy Papuga
Nov 03, 2015 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
Florence Millo
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environment
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
Aug 18, 2015 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
Stuart Malcolm
Jun 09, 2016 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. ...more
Monique Stevens
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Bravo! I learned so much. Thank you for raising my awareness of what's at stake. ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Serious issue. We have to protect our planet and keep it safe and we are doing a horrible job.
May 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: w_nf_all, w_nf_envir
363.70092 MCK

Summary: it is a kind of memoir about keystone pipeline fight(global warming deniers backed by oil companies, like Koch brother, Exxon, Chevron, and also U.S Chamber of Commerce which take huge money from oil industry) and rise of fossil fuel divestment movement, along with story Kirk Webster (his honey sell to, his new way of raising untreated bees, without chemicals, possible new way living in small farms. As he said in a magazine called Small Farmer's Jou
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing

This is the first time I have read McKibben and to tell the truth two chapters into the book I was almost ready to put the book down and move on.

He starts out about writing about Kirk who is a bee farmer who he befriends and eventually goes into business with. He then moves to his own story of moving away from being a solitary writer to becoming an activist in opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline. I was finding it hard to see how these two story lines were going to successfully intersect even
Gaylord Dold
Dec 10, 2013 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
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animal, non-fiction
3.5 stars. Overall, a very interesting and thought-provoking read, but it did drag on at points.
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
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
America has half as many farmers as prisoners. Half.

This is one of the startling facts I learned while listening to Bill McKibben's Oil and Honey. 

I didn't know too much about this book before I picked it out. I knew it was about the environment and that I had been meaning to read it for a few years. It takes place over several years, but begins just about the time that I was starting university. I majored in environmental studies/science, so it was particularly interesting to me to review major
Dec 02, 2016 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
Sep 07, 2013 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 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
Jenny Esots
Dec 20, 2013 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 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
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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
“If you want honey you need a hive of bees. But if you were trying to decide if making honey was a good idea, bees would be the last creatures to ask.” 1 likes
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