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To Avert Climate Change Disaster, Connecting the Dots Must Go Viral

As of 8:30 a.m. EST this morning, 10,000 Facebook folks had already “liked” the new 350.org “Connect the Dots” campaign, which encourages people around the world to connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather.Vermonters 'connecting the dots' at the site of a covered bridge that was washed away during Hurricane Irene (350.org)

That's a good number of "likes." But what we really need is for the concept to go viral, the way the Kony 2012 campaign did a few weeks back.

It will require the attention of millions of people, particularly those in the driver’s seat of climate change—that’s you and me, my fellow Americans—to turn this global heating juggernaut around.

Lately I can’t seem to stop asking myself why it is that so few people I know are willing to focus their attention on the crucial issues of our time: climate change, the chemical poisoning of our environment, the steadily accelerating wave towards what scientists call “the sixth great extinction event on Earth.”

I often feel like Cassandra of Troy, who was able to see disaster in the future of her beloved community, but was under a curse, imposed by the god Apollo, of never being believed or listened to.

It’s not so much that people don’t believe what’s coming (although we certainly have our share of climate change deniers in the U.S.)—it’s that they just don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to know.

Maybe this is simply the animal in us coming out. Like my peaceful dog, who sleeps by my side without any thought or concern for the future, we humans focus on the immediate tasks at hand—making a living, bringing up children, keeping the house clean, exercising, shopping, planning birthday parties, you name it—and we get so wrapped up in all that busyness that we are able to blot out the daily dying screams of millions of birds and animals, the rip and tear of millions of acres of forest going down before the chain saw and bulldozer, the sobbing of millions of children who go to bed hungry every night, the ever-increasing militarization of our world civilization, and the sinking knowledge that those in control of all those weapons and surveillance systems do not stand for good.

Sometimes I really envy my friends and neighbors who are able to cheerfully ignore what’s going on in the background, and focus on making the best of each day they’re given.

Sometimes I think that’s what I should be doing too.

Why torment myself with the constant awareness of spiraling crisis, especially if I can’t do anything about it anyway?

But there’s the rub. I do have something to offer to the fight to connect the dots and raise the necessary momentum to push Americans, potentially the most powerfully, innovative, can-do people on earth, off their couches and out into the trenches of turning this crisis around.

I have my voice, which thanks to the internet can be amplified around the world and swelled into a great chorus that cannot be ignored.

Over the last few years, I have made a study of change agents—otherwise known as activists. I know full well that every single one began as I am beginning, just sitting with the burning knowledge that things are not right, and that change is possible.

The great Bill McKibben began his climate change work in his classroom, working with a group of tech-savvy college students who realized that the Web could be used to raise awareness about the necessity of keeping carbon emissions to under 350 ppm in order to head off extreme and irrevocable climate change.

In 2007, Bill and his students launched the first iteration of 350.org, the Step it Up campaign and were off and running, using the incredible tools of social media to connect people, places and events all over the world.

This is the thing. We have the ability, as never before, to see the Earth as a whole system; to understand that every creature and community on the planet is vital to the functioning of the whole and has a right to a peaceful, prosperous life.

We as humans have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, and we know full well that the damage we are causing with our reckless, destructive, indifferent ways is wrong.

We need people from all over the world, but especially Americans and Europeans, who have been responsible for so much of the damage, to come down on the side of right, on the side of life, on the side of justice.

Yes, it’s going to mean making lifestyle changes.

Yes, it’s going to take some focused attention on the local, national and international levels.

But if we do nothing—if we continue in our unconcerned merry ways, too busy and distracted to get involved—then we will wake up one morning facing some much more severe lifestyle changes.

One morning it will be us waking up to a howling tornado flattening our town, or a raging flood sweeping away our Main Street, or an oil slick blackening our local beach, or a spike in food prices that makes even the basics no longer affordable.

It’s time to connect the dots, people, and pay attention. Add your voice to mine, and let’s go viral with a campaign for a sustainable planetary future that cannot be ignored.