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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

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  921 ratings  ·  154 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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Aug 16, 2013 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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Dec 30, 2013 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 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 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 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
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.
Robert S
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
― President Theodore Roosevelt

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people."
― President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Prima Seadiva
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Audiobook, reader decent.
Interesting read. I read The End of Nature and enjoyed that.
I really enjoyed the bee keeping sections having known a couple small time beekeepers. I once had the experience of a swarm descending into my yard. It was like a living blizzard. They were not aggressive. The bees finally landed on a large rhododendron branch and formed a basketball size cluster around the queen. A beekeeper I called came over, set a hive out with a bit of sugar water, cut the branch, laid it
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is great. How can it not be, it's Bill McKibben. He is so down to earth & has done so much w/ bringing climate crisis issues to the forefront. Reading about how much bees impact our food which most people don't really know about is inspiring. The bee colony collapse was eye opening when it was happening so reading about his friends who own apiaries & the hard work it is just shows the concern he has for so many things. I thought it was amusing that he mentions Bob Massie who is ...more
Kiri Kayrooz
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bill McKibben is a very engaging writer and this book follows his work over a period of about 3 years as he fought to halt the controversial Keystone Pipeline project in North America and to encourage the global divestment of funds from fossil fuels. In between his crusade, McKibben recounts life at home and what he learns from friend, Kirk Webster, about bee-keeping. McKibben weaves the two stories together, applying insights from Webster's small sustainable farm to global threats to the enviro ...more
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
Ajay Palekar
Nov 26, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a memoir and excellently written story about the world of activism, environmentalism, and the deeply troubling trends of our time.

I enjoyed the sections learning about, the keystone XL pipeline protests, among other environmental activism. There were great stories, deep insights, and powerful words.

The other sections focused on bee-horticulture? Were skippable and felt out of place to me. I just wasn't interested and wasn't sure how it related.

I don't really agree completely wi
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've never read a book by Bill McKibben before. Never heard him speak, even. But I'm glad to have read this book, and I'd recommend it.

It's about the right length. It's very well written. It's a little loose in structure, but in way that's more liberating than frustrating - it keeps it fresh.

Overall, though, there's a sense that - unlike other books hovering around the topic of Climate Change - there's no preaching and opinions aren't rammed down your throat.

Best of all, though, the first half i
Aug 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoy McKibben's writing style, his storytelling. It's cool to see how he transformed into a leader in the climate change movement. I did hope that in his books, he would talk more about how our young generation can actually fix the problems he talks about, eve though i know this books was more of a story as opposed to a "how to" book. I definitely enjoyed the forth and back between the different stories and plots.
Suzanne Anderson
Inspiring and informative

I read this book because it was recommended as a good place to start in understanding the fight against global warming. It was said to be entertaining and it was. I enjoyed the education it gave me about bees and about politics and activism. Very glad I read and now my book club will meet and talk about this one!
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
პატივს ვცემ ამ გამოცემას და ეს წიგნიც იმათთაგანია, რომელიც კიდევ ერთხელ შეგვახსენებს, რომ "ეს პლანეტა ერთადერთი ადგილია, რომლისთვისაც ჩვენ, ყველანი, აბორიგენ მოსახლეობას წარმოვადგენთ".
ავტორი მუდმივი მოძრაობის პარალელურად ჩვეულებრივი ფერმერის "საშუალო გზაზე" გვიყვება, რომელიც აღწერილია ბუდას სწავლებაში და რომელზეც საუბრობს წმ. თომა: "სასუფეველი შენ ირგვლივაა, მაგრამ შენ ვერ ხედავ მას".
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author moves back and forth recounting his experience of leading the protest against the Keystone pipeline and the health of honey bees in Vermont. Most people wouldn't realize there was any correlation but the health of our planet rests on both. This is a very important topic that I wish more people were concerned with.
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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
“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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