Bill McKibben, author, environmentalist and founder of, says a constitutional amendment is needed to neutralize the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that allows unlimited, anonymous campaign contributions from the corporate class.

ASHEVILLE – Following up on the White House demonstrations to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, Bill McKibben, founder of, is already hard at work on the next stage of the movement to rein in reliance on fossil fuels.

On a three-state speaking tour, he is calling for a constitutional amendment to undo the damage the Supreme Court did when it declared corporations as persons and campaign contributions as speech. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent more money last election cycle than the Democratic and Republican national committees combined – and 97 percent of that went to climate deniers, he told an audience in Asheville on Nov. 30. The climate change movement has to figure out how to break “the corporate power dominating our political lives.”

Energy companies with huge reserves in fossil fuels have a long-term financial incentive to keep the current system in place, he said. “Exxon made more money last quarter than any company in the history of money.”

Photograph by Carol Polsgrove

The day after Bill McKibben spoke in Asheville, demonstrators gather downtown to call on banks to invest in solar and wind power instead of fossil fuels. Six of the demonstrators were arrested at the Bank of America, one of the targets of the demonstration.

That, he said, is because Exxon and the other fossil fuel companies don’t have to account for the waste they pour into the atmosphere. What we have to do is curb the “power of the fossil fuel industry to prevent change.”

Taking a page from Occupy Wall Street’s strategy book, proponents of an amendment to strip corporations of personhood will occupy federal courts across the country on Jan. 20, 2012. No Indiana cities are on the list of sites so far, but there’s still time for that – though time is running out on the effort to slow climate change. People across the globe are already suffering devastating floods, storms, fire and drought.

The world’s people know the urgency of action, as is spelled out by a new digest of polling data featured in a Council of Foreign Relations blog on the same day McKibben spoke in Asheville.

In his rundown of what the numbers mean, Stewart M. Patrick, senior fellow and director of the Council’s Program on International Institutions and Global Governance, said, “Publics around the world – including in the United States – believe that global warming is an urgent problem and want their governments to make it a higher priority, by taking vigorous national and multilateral actions to confront it.”

The problem now, worldwide, is how to make governments responsive to the will of the people.

Carol Polsgrove is author of Divided Minds: Intellectuals and the Civil Rights Movement and professor emerita at the Indiana University School of Journalism. She can be reached at

McKibben was one of the original signers of a motion to amend the constitution to abolish corporate personhood.