Bill McKibben Curates Festival Albertine 2019

Bill McKibben Curates Festival Albertine 2019

September 17, 2019
Albertine Books, the French Embassy’s Acclaimed Bookshop and Cultural Hub, to Host a Series of Discussions Bringing Our Global Climate and Environmental Crises Down to the Scale of Intimate Discussion

All Events Are Free and Will Be Streamed Live at

“Having followed the issue closely since I wrote my first book about climate change, thirty years ago, I can say that we’re in a remarkable moment, when, after years of languishing, climate concern is suddenly and explosively rising to the top of the political agenda. Maybe, though not certainly, it is rising fast enough that we’ll get real action…After thirty years of standing still, baby steps won’t do us a bit of good, and a misstep may cost us our last chance.”—Bill McKibben, in The New Yorker

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Albertine Books, the singular bookshop and cultural center operated by the French Embassy in New York, today announce celebrated author and environmentalist Bill McKibben as the curator of the sixth annual Festival Albertine, centered on climate chaos, and the race to prevent civilization-scale collapse (November 8-10). McKibben will lead prominent thinkers, politicians, activists, artists, and authors from across the U.S., France, and the francophone world in discussions and debates about environmental justice, what we eat and how we grow it, whether local governments can step into the policymaking void, how we can get people to care about climate change, and more. The weekend-long Festival Albertine 2019 exemplifies Albertine Books’ commitment to intellectual exchange between French-speaking cultures and America.

Festival Albertine 2019 brings the immense, daunting subject of climate change—all too often considered in the abstract, or with defeatism—to the human scale of intimate discussions. While unflinchingly assessing the damage that has already been done and the inevitably escalating consequences, the festival looks productively, and with great urgency, towards necessary modes of prevention and ways that governments—and individuals, especially in the absence of government action—can effect change. France has taken an international leadership role on the issue through undertakings including the Paris Agreement, President Macron’s Make our Planet Great Again initiative, and the country’s efforts to organize an aid package from G7 countries to Brazil to fight wildfires. In the U.S., individuals and institutions have shown what the private sector can do to contribute to solutions.

In 1989, Bill McKibben wrote the groundbreaking The End of Nature, considered the earliest widely published book about climate change and the impact of human dominance on the planet; he has since published over 20 books, written countless articles documenting climate change and decades of changing understanding and slow awakening, and founded, an international movement that seeks to end the age of fossil fuels and create a world of community-led renewable energy.

McKibben says, “Our governments are not built for speed and nimbleness; our societies, unequal and fractured, are filled with people suspicious that change won’t benefit them, and who cling to the familiar. But physics demands we shift our habits and economies, and it has set a strict time limit. And our engineers have increasingly produced the technologies that might allow us to catch up with the pace of climate change if we adopted them en masse. So how do we make that change happen—and what else must change to let us make these adaptations?”

“Global warming is both an immediate threat to our world and to future generations,” says Gaëtan Bruel, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy. “Over the past several years, France has made considerable efforts to promote strong and coordinated sustainable development policies in Europe and the United States, two regions with the greatest ability to address climate change. We hope this event provides audiences both with answers to their most urgent questions and with concrete tools to act now.”

Festival Albertine 2019 will take place at Albertine Books (972 Fifth Avenue). Additional participants and the festival schedule will be announced soon at All events will be streamed live at

For more information, please visit

Festival Albertine 2019 — Lineup of Events

All events are moderated by Bill McKibben. Most events will begin with a short reading by Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA) and other artists.

With Naomi Klein
Friday, November 8, 2019 7pm

We need to understand the particular gravity of this moment in time. The planet has already heated dramatically, and now the effects of that heating are felt on every continent and in every season: France set its new all-time temperature record this summer, in a truly remarkable siege of withering heat. At the same time, as wind and sun grow cheaper to use, the chance for rapid action is greater than ever before. The question is, can we move fast enough? What are the keys to unlocking rapid change? What does it feel like to live amid both despair and hope? How can we change?


With Romain Felli, Mark Z. Jacobson and Priscillia Ludosky
Saturday, November 9, 2019

How fast do we need to move—and how fast can we move? These are questions for scientists and engineers, but also social scientists and activists to answer. Almost daily we can get some new assessment from those who study ice caps or monitor sea level rise: it’s melting ‘faster than expected,’ it’s rising ‘past the upper bound of earlier predictions.’ We’re seeing floods and firestorms on a scale that no one predicted even a decade or two ago—the damage that was once foreseen for 2080 or 2150 seems to be occurring already. In the autumn of 2018, the IPCC offered at least a few suggestions on speed: to hit the targets set in Paris, it appears we’ll need to have cut fossil fuel use in half by the end of the next decade. But can we do that? Is it technically possible, and is it politically achievable? How do we avoid the pitfalls that came when, say, the French raised gas prices, helping set off the Yellow Vests protests? Does the Green New Deal offer the broad outline of a new political dispensation that might allow us to move with speed and social cohesion? Science informs the climate crisis—but so does political science. This conversation can’t be postponed because action can’t be postponed.


With Cherri Foytlin, Clément Guerra, Jade Lindgaard, and Bryan Parras
Saturday, November 9, 2019

As national governments fail to move at necessary speed, cities and towns are trying to fill the gap. New York City, the site of this gathering, is a perfect example. In the last few years it has enacted a bold ‘Green New Deal’ pledging to slash emissions from existing buildings. It has begun to work out a ‘congestion pricing’ scheme for automobiles. It has divested its pension holdings from fossil fuels. And it has sued the massive oil companies for their role in creating damages that taxpayers must now address. We’re seeing the same kinds of visionary steps from other civic leaders, including the government of Paris. Activists increasingly rely on local leaders for substantive change, if for no other reason than the power of the fossil fuel industry often does not penetrate to local levels. Is this kind of intervention widespread enough to matter? How can activists work to ensure that local governments treat the poorest and most vulnerable fairly, instead of—for instance—building dikes to protect Wall Street? And how can cities then influence decision makers at national governments and in the fossil fuel industry?


With Raj Patel, Matthew Raiford, and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer
Saturday, November 9, 2019

From the French government’s attempt to increase carbon in the soil, to great chefs working to make their menus responsible, how can this most basic of all human actions help in the climate fight? What we eat—and how we grow it–needs to change. Since agriculture is arguably the planet’s biggest industry, it makes sense that it contributes a mighty slug of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The best guess is that perhaps a fifth of our global warming emissions come from farming, especially the industrial raising of livestock. When cows belch the temperature climbs, but also when rainforest is cut down to make room for pasture. So, what do we do? Some of the answers may be individual—more and more people are choosing to eat less meat or none at all; companies and scientists are suddenly producing meat substitutes that win plaudits from at least some diners. But there are also systematic changes afoot. From the French government’s attempt to increase carbon in the soil, to great chefs working to make their menus responsible, to farmers figuring out how to grow local, diverse, and delicious crops, we are seeing the beginnings of real change. Can it scale fast enough to matter, or is industrial agribusiness simply too dominant to allow us the margin we need?


With Mustafa Santiago Ali, Marie Toussaint, and Malcom Ferdinand
Sunday, November 10, 2019

Climate change (and the new economies required to fight it) hit some groups and regions harder than others—what policies and politics might defuse tension and let progress accelerate? If global warming has one iron law, it’s: those who did the least to cause it suffering first and most. Around the world people in front-line communities—those who live next to refineries, or inhabit low-lying islands, or sinking neighborhoods, those whose reservations are criss-crossed by pipelines, those whose land is salted by rising sea—are taking the lead in this fight. What should happen? Climate reparations? From whom? How can a burden created over centuries by the wealthy countries be resolved? And how do we make sure that the transition to a clean energy future doesn’t disadvantage the same people that paid the price for the old system? Coal miners were badly exploited, for instance; ‘black lung’ killed many of them, and unsafe conditions took the lives of thousands of others. But now they’re out of work, with entire communities drained of jobs. How do we make sure that a ‘just transition’ is more than just words?


With Fabrice Hyber, Lauren Groff, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spookyand Irina Brook
Sunday, November 10, 2019

Literature, music, drama—these are key resources for societies trying to come to grips with new realities. In recent years we’ve seen them begin to grapple with climate change, but that engagement must now grow. The arts have traditionally engaged with what seemed the most dramatic questions: the struggles of one set of human beings with another. That struggle is still underway, of course, but now we’ve added something different: the terrifying drama of people with a suddenly angry natural world. How does this new moment redefine what we think about when we take up brush or pen, camera or keyboard? What is the work of a poet in a world on fire, or an orchestra in a city where the seas are rising? We have enough examples now that we’ve begun to see what this work can look like: in literature, for instance, “Cli Fi” has emerged as a genre of its own, with remarkable storytellers. Can they be connected with the scientists, activists, and engineers to help societies change with the speed required? Is ‘fine art’ on these topics useful, or do we need artists deeply engaged with the social movements now rising? These are questions that suddenly come with high stakes.

About the Curator

Bill McKibben is an author, environmentalist, and activist. In 1988 he wrote The End of Nature, the first book for a common audience about global warming.  He is a co-founder and Senior Advisor at, an international climate campaign that works in 188 countries around the world.

About the Participants

Irina Brook a French and British stage actress, director, and producer. She has directed the Théâtre du Soleil and was appointed Artistic Director of the Théâtre National of Nice in 2014. Brook has produced many plays committed to human rights and environmental causes. In 2015, she created Wake Up!, a festival based on the COP21. She also organized an innovative, day-long marathon (My Body, My Planet) that gave center stage to local players in renewable energy. She is a signatory of “L’Affaire du siècle,” an action in favor of the fight against global warming.

Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA) is an initiative of The Arctic Cycle, a New York-based nonprofit organization, founded in 2015, that uses theatre to foster dialogue about the global climate crisis, create an empowering vision of the future, and inspire people to take action. Operating on the principle that complex problems must be addressed through collaborative efforts, The Arctic Cycle works with artists, scientists, and community and educational partners across geographic borders. Since its creation, CCTA has presented over 200 readings and performances of short climate change plays worldwide to coincide with the United Nations COP meetings.

Malcom Ferdinand is a political scientist and philosopher specialized in world ecological issues with a focus on the global south and the Caribbean region. He is a researcher at the National Scientific Research Center of France (CNRS) and the author of the book Une écologie décoloniale, penser l’écologie depuis le monde caribéen (A decolonial ecology, ecology from the Caribbean world).

Lauren Groff is a two-time National Book Award Finalist, and the New York Times bestselling author of three novels, The Monsters of TempletonArcadia, and Fates and Furies, as well as the celebrated short story collections Florida and Delicate Edible Birds. She has won the PEN/O. Henry Award and has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her work has been featured in The New Yorker, along with several Best American Short Stories anthologies, and she was named one of Granta’s 2017 Best Young American Novelists.

Perrine Hervé-Gruyer is a French activist, permaculture teacher, and organic farmer.  After a career as a high-performance basketball player and as an international lawyer, she became interested in permaculture and eventually turned her garden into an organic farm: la ferme biologique du Bec Hellouin. She created her own school of permaculture. She published Permaculture: Guérir la terre, nourrir les hommes (Permaculture: heal the soil, feed the people) in 2014 and Miraculous Abundance: One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World in 2016.

Fabrice Hyber is a French artist moving between paintings, sculptures, installations, and videos. He works by accumulation, proliferation, or hybridization. In 1994, he created UR (Unlimited Responsibility), an organization building links between artists and the industrial sector. In 2000, he created the web-based Arc de Triomphe, a physical metaphor of a portal of knowledge on the internet: a hundred or so trees encircling the Arc come to complete this idea of ​​representations of knowledge with multiple ramifications. He has published a political manifesto for trees.

Mark Z. Jacobson is Director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. He develops models for understanding large-scale air pollution and climate problems and roadmaps for solving them through 100% clean, renewable energy systems worldwide.

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author of No LogoThe Shock Doctrine, This Changes Everything, and No is Not Enough. She is Senior Correspondent for The Intercept, a Puffin Writing Fellow at Type Media Center, and is the inaugural Gloria Steinem Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University. Her most recent book is On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal (Sept 2019).

Jade Lindgaard is a journalist and author. She writes, reports, and investigates on climate, environmental justice, nuclear energy, infrastructure projects, and the movements fighting them. Lindgaard has published several books, including Eloge des mauvaises herbes. Ce que nous devons la ZAD (Liens qui libèrent, 2018); Je crise climatique. La planète, ma chaudière et moi (La Découverte 2014) and The impostor. BHL in wonderland (Verso, 2011).

Priscillia Ludosky is the author of the online petition on that denounced the incremental increase of fuel taxes and the lack of transparency regarding the energy transition. Signed by 1,250,000 people, it gave rise to the yellow vest movement.

Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky is a composer, multimedia artist and writer whose work immerses audiences in a blend of genres, global culture, and environmental and social issues. Miller’s work has appeared in the Whitney Biennial; The Venice Biennial for Architecture; The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and the Miami/Art Basel fair. He has collaborated with a vast array of recording artists, ranging from Metallica to Chuck D; Steve Reich to Yoko Ono. Miller is the 2017-2018 recipient of the The Hewlett 50 Arts Commission Award. Latest album releases include Phantom Dancehall and the blockchain The Invisible Hand.

Raj Patel is a writer, academic and activist. He is a Research Professor at the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent book, co-authored with Jason W Moore, is A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, (US Press).

Bryan Parras is a Houston resident and environmental justice advocate with Texas Environmental Advocacy Service (T.E.J.A.S.). He has worked tirelessly to improve the health and safety of residents living in the shadows of Houston’s oil refineries, particularly the residents of Manchester, one of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods and where Valero plans to refine much of the tar sand oil shipped through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Bryan is also a Gulf Coast Fund Managing Advisor.

Matthew Raiford, a graduate of the New York Culinary Institute of America, returned to the farm in 2011 to create an authentic farm-to-fork experience in the tradition of his Gullah-Geechee heritage. He is a certified ecological horticulturalist and has served as associate professor of culinary arts at the College of Coastal Georgia. In 2015, he, and food alchemist Jovan Sage, opened The Farmer and the Larder restaurant. A frequent presenter at food and wine festivals, Matthew Raiford has appeared in Southern Living, Paprika Southern, and Savannah magazines.

Mustafa Santiago Ali is a co-host of Hip Hop Caucus’ “Think 100% – The Coolest Show on Climate Change” and former Senior Vice President of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization for the Hip Hop Caucus. Ali is renowned as a National Speaker, Trainer and Facilitator specializing in social justice issues focused on revitalizing our most vulnerable communities. He has worked with over 500 domestic and international communities to secure environmental, health and economic justice. Ali previously worked at the EPA where he served as the Assistant Associate Administrator for Environmental Justice and Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization. Ali joined the National Wildlife Federation as Vice President in February 2019.

Marie Toussaint is a French jurist and environmental activist elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 2019. She is the co-founder of the NGO “Notre Affaire à tous” which defends a right to climate justice, and is the initiator and one of the architects of the climate justice campaign “L’Affaire du siècle” which is suing the state for its inaction in the fight against global warming, which  collected 2 million signatures in less than a week.

About Festival Albertine

Inaugurated in 2014 in the newly opened Albertine Books, Festival Albertine has quickly become a vital summit for discourse between leading French-speaking and American thinkers and has cemented Albertine Books’ reputation as New York City’s hub for timely French-American intellectual exchange. Author, journalist and cultural critic Greil Marcus curated the 2014 festival, which featured “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, filmmaker Olivier Assayas, author Mary Gaitskill, graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi, Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash and Fields Medal-winning mathematician Cédric Villani.

Festival Albertine 2015 enlisted innovators including National Book Award-winner Judith Thurman, Performa founding director RoseLee Goldberg, author Adam Gopnik, Ethiopian-American novelist Dinaw Mengestu and The New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly to curate a variety of discussions. Participants included The New Yorker editor David Remnick, graphic novelist Phoebe Gloeckner, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author Margo Jefferson, and author Katie Roiphe, who were joined by French-speaking voices including Mauritania-born film director Abderrahmane Sissako, Algerian novelist Kamel Daoud and cartoonist and film director Riad Sattouf.

In 2016, Ta-Nehisi Coates, journalist and author of the National Book Award-winning Between the World and Me, curated the festival, focusing on questions of labels and categories. After the presidency of Barack Obama, after the 2005 riots, after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, Coates asked participants including Davis Simon, Benjamin Millepied, Claudia Rankine and Benjamin Stora to discuss what our national, social and cultural labels mean today.

Feminist writers and activists Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan curated last year’s festival, not only exploring the obstacles confronting women, but also daring “to dream of change and of a legitimate equality between women and men.” The vital exchange of ideas between leading thinkers and artists in the U.S. and France included best-selling author of Difficult Women and Bad Feminist Roxane Gay; the “feminist masked avengers” Guerrilla Girls; American pro-choice activist and president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund Cecile Richards; award-winning film director and screenwriter Houda Benyamina; Act Up activist and co-founder of the radical feminist action group La Barbe, Marie de Cenival; and others. Last year, Masha Gessen, whose work focuses on themes including Russian and American politics, dictatorships, autocracy, and L.G.B.T. rights, explored the theme “Reimagining Democracy,” to bring together thinkers, authors, and artists from both sides of the Atlantic to analyze the mechanics of our democracies and focus on ways to renew and strengthen them.

About the Cultural Services of the French Embassy

The Cultural Services of the French Embassy promotes the best of French arts, literature, cinema, digital innovation, language, and higher education across the US. Based in New York City, Washington D.C., and eight other cities across the country, the Cultural Services brings artists, authors, intellectuals and innovators to cities nationwide. It also builds partnerships between French and American artists, institutions and universities on both sides of the Atlantic. In New York, through its bookshop Albertine, it fosters French-American exchange around literature and the arts.

About Albertine Books

Described by the New York Times as a “sumptuous, swaddled nest where book lovers can roost,” Albertine, the French Embassy’s reading room and bookshop, is a haven dedicated to bringing to life French-American intellectual exchange. It holds over 14,000 titles from 30 French-speaking countries, both in French and in English translation. Albertine offers the most comprehensive selection of French-language books and English translations in the United States.

Housed within the historic Payne Whitney Mansion, headquarters of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York, the bookshop and cultural space provide unprecedented access to a previously private mansion featuring a stunning new design by one of France’s most celebrated modern architects, Jacques Garcia.

Since Albertine opened in September 2014, the Embassy has welcomed thousands of visitors eager to explore French literature and culture. It has become a veritable must-see destination in New York City. Albertine also provides a venue for cross-cultural programming all year long, with discussions exploring culture through both a contemporary and global lens. Every month, French, Francophone, and American writers, as well as artists, illustrators, scholars and entrepreneurs are invited to discuss various topics.

Funding Credits / Acknowledgments

Festival Albertine is presented in partnership with The Recanati-Kaplan Foundation, the family of Susannah Hunnewell, Van Cleef & Arpels, Air France, Institut français, Chantecaille, and Green Mountain Energy. Generous support is provided by Carnegie Corporation of New York, Champagne Pommery and InterContinental New York Barclay.

Press contact: Blake Zidell at Blake Zidell & Associates: 718.643.9052,