Back in the early 70's when I was a child, there were few movies scarier to me than The Wizard of Oz. Surprisingly, the made-for-TV Horton Hears a Who was one that frightened me more than that wicked green witch with her flying monkeys. Every time it came on, I'd hold my breath until the end, sure that this time the Whos would not yell loud enough to save themselves. Those in charge of their very existence would not hear them. They'd end up boiling in the pot for sure. But of course, each time, the Whos did come through. Little shirker Jo-Jo adds his voice to the chorus of Whos crying, "We're here! We're here!" and the day is saved. I could sleep easy that night, knowing that once again justice (and cold hard facts) had prevailed.
As corny as it might seem, every time I think about the climate crisis the world faces today, I can't help thinking of Seuss's story and how, even with the expert testimony of the majority of scientists who have been trying to warn us of the catastrophic consequences of ignoring the evidence of climate change, many of our world's leaders are unwilling to commit to taking the steps necessary to truly reverse this warming trend in time to make a difference. Why? Because we, their constituents, are not yelling loudly enough. And what should we be yelling? According to Bill McKibben, 350!
What is 350?
350 is the estimated safe level of CO2 (in parts per million) for our atmosphere, a level first announced by Nasa scientist Jim Hanson in 2007 and most recently endorsed by Rajenda Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The problem? We are already at 390, way over the 350 mark that some scientists believe is even too high.
As far as I'm concerned, we are well past arguing for or against human-caused climate change. According to the May 16, 2007 issue of New Scientist, "a recent poll found that 97.4% of active climatologists agree that human activity is warming the planet." What's important now is agreeing on what we need to do to get down to acceptable levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
In a conference call to Bloggers this week, 350.org founder and director Bill McKibben reviewed some of the science and explained that the effects of climate change are occurring much faster than previously expected. And these effects are creating problems in the world now. From the 350.org site:
Glaciers everywhere are melting and disappearing fast—and they are a source of drinking water for hundreds of millions of people.
Mosquitoes, who like a warmer world, are spreading into lots of new places, and bringing malaria and dengue fever with them.
Drought is becoming much more common, making food harder to grow in many places.
Sea levels have begun to rise, and scientists warn that they could go up as much as several meters this century. If that happens, many of the world's cities, island nations, and farmland will be underwater.
The oceans are growing more acidic because of the CO2 they are absorbing, which makes it harder for animals like corals and clams to build and maintain their shells and skeletons.
Coral reefs could start dissolving at an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 450-500 ppm. These impacts are combining to exacerbate conflicts and security issues in already resource-strapped regions.
Why wait before it's too late to act? Why wait until millions of people are without drinking water and have lost their homes? There is suffering in the world now, and to me, it's time to act.
Blog Action Day
Today, October 15, is the annual Blog Action Day, a day during which thousands of bloggers across the globe all write about the same topic. Not surprisingly, this year's topic is Climate Change. No matter what kinds of posts you normally write, please take a minute to sign up at the Blog Action Day web site and write a post about climate change and what it means to you. What changes are you willing to make in your life? What would you like your leaders to do? How does climate change affect you and the people you know? You don't have to be an expert, simply a concerned citizen of the world. The Blog Action Day site suggests the following:
We encourage you to write about climate change in the context of how it relates to the topic of your blog. To help you start thinking, here are a few ideas about how you might connect climate change to things that you might already write about:
- A Technology or Business blog might write about emerging clean tech and how innovative companies might be able to help address the problem of climate change.
- A Health or Lifestyle blog might write about how climate change will affect our children's health and daily living.
- A Nonprofit or Political blog might write about how climate change is deeply connected to many other issues - such as poverty and conflict.
- A Design blog might write about new trends in eco-friendly or sustainable design.
- A Travel blog might write about the places you want to see now before climate change makes them difficult to access or, well, under the sea.
The 350.org web site also contains many resources for bloggers.
International Day of Climate Action
October 24, 2009 is 350.org's International Day of Climate Action. In thousands of actions throughout more than 160 nations, people will be joining together to bring awareness to the number 350 and to urge the world's leaders to commit to lowering our CO2 to that level. According to an email from Al Gore, a few of these actions will include:
On the melting slopes of Mt. Everest, Pemba Dorje Sherpa, who holds the record for the fastest ascent of the world's highest peak, will be spreading banners and signs.
On the dying coral reefs of the Maldives, the government's entire cabinet will don scuba gear and hold an official underwater meeting to pass a 350 resolution to send to the Copenhagen summit.
On the shores of the fast-drying Dead Sea, Israeli activists will form a giant human "3" on their beach, Palestinians a "5" on theirs, and Jordanians a "0" - reminding us we need to unite on this vital issue.
How about closer to home? Here in Berkeley, California, I'll be joining with Green Sangha on October 24 for a moment of silent meditation followed by a visible action at a busy traffic intersection.
In Southern California, blogger Green LA Girl will be joining the Blogger Beach Cleanup at Santa Monica Beach.
Artist blogger Franke James invites other artists to create a work of art for Climate Action Day to bring attention to the issue.
All of these actions are compiled and listed on the 350.org site, where participants are encouraged to upload images of the day's activities. To find an action near you, or to list your own, please visit the 350.org action search page.
And social media geeks should check out Amy Sample Ward's writeup on Social Media for the Climate Change Movement.
Why do we need to act now?
Climate Action Day is scheduled to bring awareness to this issue before the final climate meeting in Copenhagen in late December. According to 350.org:
Late October may well be our best chance to influence the treaty, a chance to make our voices heard before UN negotiators receive final marching orders from their national leadership.
With creative actions happening all over the globe, and photographs of those events appearing online, in the media, and on politicians' desks, we will change what these negotiators think they can achieve right before they make the important decisions of the UN treaty. Right now most of them know the science of 350ppm, but they don't think it is politically possible. On October 24, we are going to show them that not only is it possible, but it is what everyone all over the world is demanding they do.
So, what will you do on October 24? What actions are taking place where you live? Are you willing to get involved on this one day?
Beth Terry writes about finding creative ways to reduce her plastic consumption and plastic waste at Fake Plastic Fish and encourages others to join the fun. We only have one planet. Let's enjoy it instead of cluttering it up with more plastic crap!
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