Written for Root Issues in the Barrie Examiner, published under the title "Climate crisis movement gaining strength".
During the 2010 municipal elections in which I am running for school board trustee, guest authors Ruth Blaicher and Karen Fox are taking over my column.
350. It’s just a number, but according to activist Bill McKibben and climate scientist James Hansen it may be the most important number you will ever know.
350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO2) is what is believed to be the safe level of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, or the damage we are already seeing from global warming will accelerate. The problem is, we are already past it. Atmospheric CO2 is now at 390 ppm and raising at 2 ppm per year. Paleoclimate data indicates that life as we experience it developed and thrived in times of much lower carbon dioxide levels, around 280 ppm, and we need to head back in that direction. Now!
The troublemaker in all of this is our huge reliance on fossil fuels to drive our way of life: the burning of coal, oil and gas which releases CO2 into the atmosphere. In the summer of 2007 with the rapid melt of Arctic ice, it became clear that we had already crossed serious thresholds. Other signs point in the same direction – a spike in methane emissions, the melt of high altitude glacier systems and the rapid and unexpected acidification of seawater. James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Space Centre has determined “350 ppm is the upper level of CO2 in the atmosphere if we wish to have a planet similar to the one on which civilization developed, and to which life on earth adapted.” Serious Stuff!
This is a global problem needing global solutions. Governments, businesses, citizens all must understand the nature of this crisis and pull together to not only halt the increase of carbon in the atmosphere but reverse it. Big Stuff!
Enter 350.org. Using the number 350 as a symbol to raise awareness and a rallying cry to call all citizens of the planet to action, Bill McKibben, James Hansen and a team of colleagues founded the movement called 350.org. Through their website and social media they are working hard to organize in a new way – everywhere at once. In October last year they coordinated 5,200 simultaneous rallies and demonstrations in 181 countries, what CNN called “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history”. This year on October 10, 2010 or “10/10/10” as they call it, there will be a “global work party”. Thousands of projects will take place such as putting up solar panels, digging community gardens and even an enterprising Canadian family hosting a “carbon neutral Thanksgiving”. The intent is to send a strong message to our leaders: “if we can get to work, so can you”.
To view this incredible program or even better, to register your own initiative go to the website.