October 24th: We're ALL Invited!

[This is a column written for my local, small town newspaper in eastern Ontario, Canada.]

Well-known figures Dr. James Hansen, Vandana Shiva, David Suzuki, Bill McKibben, George Monbiot, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bianca Jagger all have something in common besides the fact that their names are recognized around the world.

All are keen supporters of a new initiative called 350.org, whose “mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis -- to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.”

This group is planning to encourage lots of “noise” all over the globe on October 24th – and they want all of us to take part.

This December, the United Nations will be in Copenhagen for two weeks of meetings aimed at creating a new global treaty for fighting climate change. The targets they come up with may not be ambitious enough, given the new awareness that climate change is advancing more quickly than previously thought.

From the 350 group’s Web site: “The Arctic is sending us perhaps the clearest message that climate change is occurring much more rapidly than scientists previously thought. In the summer of 2007, sea ice was roughly 39% below the summer average for 1979-2000, a loss of area equal to nearly five United Kingdoms. Many scientists now believe the Arctic will be completely ice free in the summertime between 2011 and 2015, some 80 years ahead of what scientists had predicted just a few years ago. Propelled by the news of these accelerating impacts, some of the world’s leading climate scientists have now revised the highest safe level of CO2 to 350 parts per million. That’s the…safety zone for planet earth. As James Hansen of America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the first scientist to warn about global warming more than two decades ago, wrote recently, ‘If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm.’”

The 350 group has come together globally to raise awareness among citizens, but most particularly to gain the attention of politicians. Citizen awareness is often considerably ahead of that of the politicians who create the policies we “regular folks” then must live with.

The 350 plan: “In order to unite the public, media, and our political leaders behind the 350 goal, we’re harnessing the power of the internet to coordinate a planetary day of action on October 24, 2009.  We hope to have actions at hundreds of iconic places around the world - from the Taj Mahal to the Great Barrier Reef to your community - and a clear message to world leaders: the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis.  If an international grassroots movement holds our leaders accountable to the latest climate science, we can start the global transformation we so desperately need.”

According to Canadian organizer Aiden of the group planning “100,000 on the Hill,” (yes, Parliament Hill in Ottawa), there are already more than 1000 events planned in 50 countries.

So, we have lots of options! We can plan an event (or events) in our own communities – or we can fill up a busload (or two!) and be part of the 100,000 people crowd at Parliament Hill in Ottawa [Ontario, Canada], letting our politicians know that Canadians do want to take action on climate change. (Contact aiden@100000onthehill.com for more information on that initiative.)

There is a wealth of information on the 350.org Web site, from an invitation and short YouTubes you can circulate to friends, family, neighbours and colleagues – to scientific materials and inspirational ideas for fun activities to plan for October 24th.

I saw the phrase “Talk – Action = Zero” used in an ad recently, and that really spoke to me. It’s true, isn’t it?

As the 350.org site says: “Will this thing work? Will world leaders listen? Only if we’re loud enough.”

We need to be sure our voices are heard!


Accompanying Quotation: “Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” – Mahatma Gandhi