The group that revived a slumbering environmental movement by focusing on big targets was flying high. It was no longer just a plucky collection of friends from a Vermont college and their luminary founder, Bill McKibben. It was a global force. The $800,000 retreat at a five-star luxury resort in Killarney, Ireland in March 2019 proved it.
The rise for 350.org had been meteoric. The crash would be, too.
In the early 2010s, 350.org was the environmental movement’s driving force. Led by McKibben, a famed environmentalist and best-selling author, its spectacle-worthy, guerrilla-style protests over causes, including blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, captured the public’s imagination. It brought younger, more diverse activists into the green tent. Starting out with eight founding members in 2008, it had grown to 165 full-time employees — not including its many contractors — when staff traveled to Ireland that March.
It was at the Killarney retreat that May Boeve, the executive director and one of 350.org’s founders, announced that she’d hiked the organization’s annual budget to $25 million. She told staff to dream big. She revealed plans for nearly 130 new hires to make a splash at global climate strikes that September — part of an envisioned revamp to improve the organization’s diversity and equity. Everyone there was elated.