Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth, Deep Economy, The End of Nature, Enough and founder of 350.orgBill McKibben - Author. Educator. Environmentalist.

The Flag, the Cross, and the Station WagonThe Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon

A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened

Bill McKibben—award-winning author, activist, educator—is fiercely curious.

“I’m curious about what went so suddenly sour with American patriotism, American faith, and American prosperity.”

Like so many of us, McKibben grew up believing—knowing—that the United States was the greatest country on earth. As a teenager, he cheerfully led American Revolution tours in Lexington, Massachusetts. He sang “Kumbaya” at church. And with the remarkable rise of suburbia, he assumed that all Americans would share in the wealth.

But fifty years later, he finds himself in an increasingly doubtful nation strained by bleak racial and economic inequality, on a planet whose future is in peril.

And he is curious: What the hell happened?

In this revelatory cri de coeur, McKibben digs deep into our history (and his own well-meaning but not all-seeing past) and into the latest scholarship on race and inequality in America, on the rise of the religious right, and on our environmental crisis to explain how we got to this point. He finds that he is not without hope. And he wonders if any of that trinity of his youth—the flag, the cross, the station wagon—could, or should, be reclaimed in the fight for a fairer future.

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What Others Have Said About The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon

“If we survive the interlocking plagues of climate change, right-wing authoritarianism, and savage inequality, future generations will utter the name of the New England moral visionary and activist McKibben with the reverence we speak of Emerson, Thoreau, and Garrison. This sparkling little diamond of a book illuminates the all-American boyhood and education of a radical Christian environmentalist in love with a broken world that, frankly speaking, may or may not exist at all a century from now. May McKibben's golden pen continue to flow swiftly and conquer—with both love and reason—the dangerous enemies of human civilization.”

“Plainspoken, direct, conversational, and inspiring, Bill McKibben offers us generous insight into who he is and how he has been shaped by his middle-class upbringing in the suburbs. We see through inner and outer choices, struggles, and influences, why one of the world's most effective and humble leaders in the climate justice movement committed himself to an activist's life on behalf of a warming planet. The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon is more than a memoir, it is a bow to the power of social justice movements and a smart and savvy historical reflection on what has brought us to this crucible moment of climate collapse. Bill McKibben is an every-day hero who continues to show us not only what is possible, but necessary to our survival, the survival of our democracy, and all life in the places we call home.”

“What went wrong with America in the 1970s? In this searching book, Bill McKibben wrestles with a generation that lost its way, and why, and how to find the way back.”

“Bill McKibben has written a great American memoir, using the prism of his own life to reflect on the most important dynamics in our society. Bill McKibben’s writing is poignant, engrossing and revealing. His message is a clarion call for a generation to understand what happened to their American Dream, and to fight for our common future.”

“Bill McKibben is such a heroic and consequential leader in the fight for the climate on behalf of all humankind, it's easy to lose sight of his humanity. As usual, this book is a thoughtful critique of wrong turns America has taken, but this time refreshingly and revealingly intertwined with his personal story. As a fellow former suburban boy who has also tried hard to figure out ‘what the hell happened,’ The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon was like listening to a wise old pal preach.”

“The prolific writer and activist finds some of the causes of our societal meltdown in the idyllic suburbs of his youth. . . . McKibben capably picks apart long-ago history to find present themes.”

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